Bergamot marmalade

Like Ida in the film, Love Is All You Need, lemons are my favourite fruit and like her, I really can’t imagine the world without them either.  (This film, along with A Good Year, is one of my guilty pleasures and both are perfect for this time of year when the days are short and dank and the nights are long and chilly).  Let’s face it, lemons are so useful.  Equally at home in savoury or sweet dishes and even in the odd cocktail (G&T anyone?).  Or there is the healthier option – add a squeeze of lemon juice to a cup of hot water for a great way to start the day.

One of my Christmas presents was this fabulous book by Helena Attlee.

The land where lemons grow by Helena Attlee

The land where lemons grow by Helena Attlee

Part history, part travelogue, part horticultural guide, this book covers the history of citrus fruits in Italy. Written in a gentle, conversational style you will find yourself effortlessly learning about all things citrus whilst longing to pack your bags for a holiday in the sun.

I had been reading the chapter on bergamot and wishing for smell-a-vision. The next day I came across these gems in the supermarket. Yes, these golden orbs  are real bergamot fruits from Italy.  Bergamot is the outcome of a natural cross between a lemon and a sour orange and the best are grown in Calabria.

Bergamot oranges fruit

Bergamot fruits

Bergamot can be used in many ways.  The essential oil is a staple in the perfumery industry and is also used to flavour Earl Grey tea, giving it that distinctive scent.  Of course Bergamot fruits can be used in cooking however I chose to make marmalade with mine.  A quick search of the internet found a number of bloggers who had shared recipes for bergamot marmalade .

David Leibovitz has a recipe for bergamot marmalade.  He includes some handy tips such as “don’t use a food processor, as that will make the marmalade muddy”.  Advice that I ignored entirely (sorry, David) and he is quite right.  Using a food processor does result in muddy marmalade (I had no choice having cut my strips a little too thick).  But who cares?  It still tastes great.

Giulia Scarpaleggia writing as Jul’s Kitchen also has a recipe for bergamot marmalade, based on David’s recipe, along with more information about Helena’s book.

However it was Victoria’s recipe from Bois de Jasmine that I used. Victoria is a trained perfume specialist which is how I first came across her blog – searching for information about a particular perfume.

I followed Victoria’s recipe faithfully although I didn’t bother blanching the fruits first.  I was also saved the trouble of putting the seeds into a muslin bag as there was not one seed in my fruits (is that normal?) and I used the food processor.  Next time I’ll take the time to chop the rinds more finely before cooking.

Bergamot marmalade

Bergamot marmalade

The citrus flavour really livens up a piece of delicious sour dough bread toast.  However it is quite unlike any other citrus marmalade having what some have described as a floral or incense-like aroma.  To me, it smells of heaven and tastes divine.  It is sunshine in a jar and the perfect antidote to the grey, cold weather of mid-January.  Definitely banishes those winter blues and will have you dreaming of sun-drenched beaches on the Amalfi coast.

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Chocolate crackles! Yum-my!

Any fellow Australians out there will immediately recognise chocolate crackles.  They are a staple birthday party treat, along with fairy bread, mini sausage rolls and frog in a pond (not as awful as it sounds – this was a chocolate frog in green jelly).

Chocolate crackles

Chocolate crackles

Chocolate crackles are quick to make and can be made well in advance.  Because there is no baking involved, chocolate crackles are also a great, easy recipe to make with small children.

Here is the original recipe from the Kellogg’s website:

Ingredients

250gm Copha
4 cups rice bubbles/krispies/pops
1 cup icing sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup desiccated coconut

Mix rice bubbles, icing sugar, cocoa and coconut in a large bowl.
Gently melt the Copha, let it cool slightly and stir into the other ingredients.
Spoon mixture into paper patty pans and refrigerate until set.
Makes 24.

Having promised to make chocolate crackles for a recent event, I was horrified to find that Copha (solidified coconut oil) is unique to Australia and doesn’t have an equivalent in the UK.  What to do?

Thankfully I found another recipe (from Green Gourmet Giraffe, which she got from The Sydney Morning Herald) that uses chocolate instead.  Phew!  Here is the alternative recipe.  I’ve added in weight measures for the dry ingredients as Australian cup measures are slightly larger than UK or American ones.

Ingredients

200gm milk chocolate
100gm dark chocolate (I used one that was 54% cocoa)
3 cups (90gm) rice krispies/pops
1 cup (80gm) unsweetened desiccated coconut

Mix rice and coconut in a bowl.
Melt the chocolates together – I did this in a bowl over a pan of simmering water however it could be done in a microwave.
Pour the melted chocolate over the dry ingredients and mix well.
Spoon mixture into paper patty pans and refrigerate until set.
Makes 16.

Now that half-term is coming up, this would be a good recipe to have up your sleeve if the kids get bored, or if you need a quick make for school fetes or parties.

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Raspberry and almond friands

If you are looking for a simple but delicious tea time treat, then you really should try friands.  These dainty individual cakes are made from butter, egg whites, almond meal and icing sugar.  Originally from France, I’ve been told they are now very popular in Australia and New Zealand.
 
Raspberry and almond friands

Raspberry and almond friands

You’ll find the recipe I used in the latest edition of the free Waitrose late summer harvest recipe booklet and it is also on their website.  
 
The recipe calls for 4 medium egg whites.  If you don’t want your kitchen cluttered up with left over egg yolks, then you could try using liquid egg whites which are readily available in the fridge section of most supermarkets.  Not sure how much egg white is equivalent to 4 medium egg whites?  I didn’t know either so I weighed the egg whites as I made the cakes and can reveal that they were 140 grams (always good to know). 
 
The only change I made to the recipe was to substitute raspberries for the plums.  It would also work well using other soft fruits, lemon or even chocolate.  Really, you could be as creative as you like.  
 
Friand, according to my French-English dictionary, means “fond of”.  Once you have tasted one of these lovely, light as air cakes, you will be fond of them too.  Enjoy!

Chocolate rose cupcakes

Mmmm chocolate.  There is something about the smell of chocolate that is just so delicious.  Today, whilst it was pouring rain outside, I spent my time in a warm kitchen making chocolate cupcakes. What a life!
Chocolate and roses just seem to go together so I decorated  my cupcakes with glossy chocolate ganache (hint – always make extra to have with toast later – it is delicious!) and hand made fondant roses.  Usually I colour my own fondant however this time I used a ready coloured one from Renshaw called fuchsia pink.  Don’t you think the strong colour looks great against the dark chocolate? 
 
If you haven’t made ganache before you really should give it a try.  This is the recipe that I use and this amount should be enough to decorate 12 cupcakes.
 
100gm dark cooking chocolate
100ml of double cream
 
Break the chocolate into small pieces and put it in a heat proof bowl.
Heat the cream in a saucepan until small bubbles appear on the edges but don’t let it boil.
Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let it stand for a couple of minutes.  
Stir the mixture until it is lovely and glossy.
Spread the ganache over your cupcakes using the back of spoon.
Any left over ganache can be stored in the fridge for your toast the next day.  Enjoy!

Burnt butter biscuits

Burnt butter biscuits.  Sounds as though something went terribly wrong in the kitchen, doesn’t it?  Not so.  These are lovely, buttery biscuits just perfect with a cup of coffee and a good book on rainy afternoons.  

The recipe was given to me by my sister and I have been intending to make these biscuits for a while.   Looks like today is the day.  My niece (of the red quilt) made a batch for their local agricultural show.  I’m very pleased and proud to say that she won a prize.  Not sure which one, however these biscuits are so delicious, I’m sure it must have been first prize.


Here is the recipe – in old money but pretty easy to convert the amounts to metric if you prefer.

Burnt butter biscuits – makes at least 2 dozen
1/4 pound butter
1/4 pound sugar
1 egg (I used a medium egg)
5 ounces of self raising flour
Melt the butter in a saucepan until it turns nut brown in colour.  Don’t let it get too dark or it will taste bitter.  That would not be good.
Cool slightly (you want it to be cool enough that you can touch the sides of the pan) and then beat in the sugar.   
Add the egg,  mix well and then add the flour.
Stir until combined.

Roll into balls about the size of a walnut and flatten them slightly on the baking tray.  Leave some room between them as they spread when baking.
Pop half a glace cherry (my favourite!) or piece of blanched almond on top of each biscuit.
Bake in a moderate oven (180C or 160C for fan ovens) for 10-12 minutes or until light golden brown.   
Allow to cool on a wire rack and store in a tin.
Don’t have a tin?  Not a problem.  These biscuits will be gone long before you need worry about a tin! 

Enjoy!

ANZAC biscuits

Today is ANZAC Day and, feeling a little nostalgic for home, I made a batch of ANZAC biscuits. These are lovely, chewy, sweet, buttery biscuits with a bit of crunch that are just perfect with a cup of tea.  They are so delicious it is very hard to stop at just one.

But don’t just take my word for it, why not have a go at making some yourself?  They are super easy and very quick to make.  Here is the recipe that I use, taken from an old CSR golden syrup tin. Enjoy!

ANZAC Biscuits – makes about 36 biscuits

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup plain flour
1 cup soft brown sugar (lightly packed)
3/4 cup desiccated coconut
125 gm butter
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
3 tablespoons boiling water

Combine the oats, flour, sugar and coconut in a large bowl.  Melt the butter and golden syrup in a small saucepan.  Add the bicarbonate to the boiling water and then add this to the butter syrup mixture.  Pour the foamy butter mixture into the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.  Place walnut-sized balls of the mixture onto a baking tray, about 5 cm apart to allow for spreading.  Bake at 150C for about 15 minutes or until golden, but do keep an eye on them as they burn easily.  Allow to cool on the tray for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.  They will keep in an air-tight container for about 3 weeks – if they last that long.