A Pillow Book

I wanted a blog to reflect my life and, as with most people, I do and am many things, decided to create a Pillow Book. It will have thoughts, ideas, observations and little snippets of my day to day life. So, thank you Empress Consort Teishi....... I bow to you and your great work and hope, in some small way, mine might be great too.

Sunday, 24 March 2013


"Marmalade in the morning has the same effect on taste buds as a cold shower has on the body" Jeanine Larmouth

Marmalade is a very adult thing. As a child I used to have a spoonful of my Grannie's Roses Lime Marmalade,the one that she favoured. It was bright green and very sweet, and not really very marmalade like at all, as I  now know.  I loved breakfast at Gran's house, she would lay the table the night before. Grapenuts, uncut white bread or a small Hovis loaf, that she would slice wafer thin with the bread on its end, using a straight  bladed knife that my dad would sharpen for her. Never have I  seen anyone slice bread in this way, or so evenly. In fact I don't think she ever bought a sliced loaf in her life, I wish now I had asked her why she did it this way, but as a child you just take things for granted and question little. Side plates,Lurpak butter and warm milk on the cereal. Granny had a system for milk, the creamy top in one small jug, just for cereal, the rest in another jug for tea. Radio 4 on for the news, fully dressed never in nightwear, a ceremonial start to the day. And always, always the green marmalade. It was, I am sure, a secret pleasure for her to buy a jar.  She had spent her lifetime making do and mending, sharing what little she had with siblings then her own children. I now wonder why she liked it, she had very adult tastes, dark chocolate, ginger, fruitcake, oh and brandy in her bedtime milk..... since then, whenever I see the distinctively shaped jars and the vivid green, I am taken back to her breakfast table.

Over the years I have grown to love marmalade, along with good coffee and olives. It is now my Sunday morning ritual to make coffee and have homemade marmalade on toast. I have been making it for years, friends will call and tell me when the Seville oranges are in stock locally. I have tried many methods and many recipes, all producing a wide variety of colours and tastes, on occasions going badly wrong, one year's unctuous thick product finding its way into the bin, sadly.  Dark and strong for cold winter days bright and vibrant amber for summer mornings when I might venture into the garden and feel the warmth of the sun and listen to the birds. Marmalade is not suitable for quick weekday breakfasts, it takes time to prepare, time to slice peel and boil away, time to linger is only right, the flavours are intense and should be savoured.

 This year I chose a Nigel Slater recipe, with lemon and ginger as fine additions to the oranges. It worked well, the recipe is a keeper. I implore you to have a go at making some, you can choose the thickness of the peel and what flavours to add, a little whisky, a little spice. All work well and you can experiment to your hearts delight. A tip I have learned, don't use sugar with pectin, marmalade should be soft not jelly like. Oh and never squeeze the bag with the pips in, otherwise you will have a clouded amber that hides the glistening bright orange slivers of peel. 

Bought marmalade? Oh dear, I call that very feeble.” 
― Julian FellowesGosford Park: The Shooting Script

Orange, lemon and ginger marmalade

Makes about 4 x 500ml jars
Seville oranges 1 kg
lemons 4
granulated sugar 2 kg
fresh ginger 100g
Using a small sharp knife score the skin of each orange and lemon deeply into four from top to bottom. Remove the peel, it should come away easily in four pieces, then slice into thin strips. My preference is for pieces no thicker than a matchstick, but the texture of marmalade is a very personal thing.
Squeeze the juice, with your hands, into a bowl then place the pulp and pips into a muslin bag. Pour 2 litres of cold water into the juice. Push the bag of pulp, and the shredded peel, into the juice and leave overnight. (Their pectin will help the marmalade to set.)
The next day, tip into a large stainless-steel pan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat, add the ginger, peeled and cut into shreds, then, keeping the liquid at a jolly simmer leave to cook for about 50-60 minutes until the peel is translucent. Remove the bag of pips and pulp and leave until it is cool enough to handle.
Add the sugar to the juice and bring to the boil, squeeze all the juice from the muslin bag into the pan. As the liquid boils, scrape every bit of froth that appears on the surface. This is crucial for a clear finish. Boil hard for 15 minutes then start testing for set. Remove a tablespoon of the jam, put it on a cold plate or saucer and put it in the fridge for a few minutes. If a thick skin forms on the surface it is ready. If not, then keep boiling and retest.
Ladle into sterilised jars and label.

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