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!