Madeira, port and sherry – all delightfully robust examples of wine fortified by matured, beautifully structured brandy. Small pours are all that is required to enjoy such aperitifs or digestifs, who resoundingly boast bold and explosive flavours – all the while supported silently by the strength and complexity of their custodian – brandy.
We each have our own internal fortitude (hopefully yours is not reliant on brandy). Unlike the liqueurs, often the things that give us our internal strength are entirely external to us – family, friends or the patterns of nature. To wake and see the sun lifting the chill from the garden, a sleepy rosy-cheeked child rising from his bed or even a genial wave from a neighbour, has a core-settling effect – the day is motion. And when all is as such, there is every reason to place your foot forward, roll up your sleeves and grasp hold of another new day unlike any other that was.
I’m not sure that marmalade has the good fortune we share. So to be sure that this batch was able to embrace it’s personal journey, I slipped some brandy into the pan at the final stage.
1.5kg oranges (blood or Seville if you can get them, otherwise any)
1.5 kg sugar
4 tbsp brandy
1 pkt Jamsetta (optional)
Put the oranges and 2.25 litres of water in a large preserving pan, cover and simmer for 50-60 minutes until the fruit is very soft.
Remove from heat, lift out the fruit, and cool.
Measure the liquid and if required add extra water until you have 1.7 litres. Stir in the sugar.
Halve the oranges, scoop out the flesh and pips. Tie these in some muslin cloth or similar.
Chop the peel coarsely. Add to the pan with the muslin bag.
Stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and cook at a full rolling boil for 10 minutes or until the marmalade has reached setting point. (If you are having any issues with setting, now is the time to stir through the Jamsetta).
Cool for 10 minutes. Stir in the brandy.
Pour into sterilised jars and seal.
Postscript: The brandy worked wonders on the marmalade’s character and on toast in the morning, it has certainly strengthened mine.
‘The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.’ I’m sure we all relate on a weekly, if not daily, basis to this translation of a line from Robert Burns’ immortal work. And so it was here, when the day’s to do list was shredded – not by the gnawing of rodent teeth, but rather a domestic chain of events leaving little time for the planned bake. In a circumstance such as this, with afternoon tea far closer than the horizon, a shortcut is the only option. Today’s shortcut presented as an ‘all-in-and-process’ orange cake.
For some inexplicable reason, if we opt for a shortcut our perception of the outcome is often one of below par. When we follow a quicker alternate route rather than the long and (regularly convoluted) well-trod path through a task, some deeply imbedded inner wiring seems to illuminate the mental ‘inferior’ warning symbol. Put simply, a shortcut often triggers self-reproach.
Whether it be a quick wipe across the bathroom rather than the usual deep clean, vegemite rather than multi-ingredient salad in the school lunch sandwich or a pony-tail rather than the full blow-dry, shortcuts are essential to daily living. While it is very rewarding to see a task through its entirety with the theme song ‘A job worth doing is worth doing well’, playing in the background, it is equally satisfying to address priorities. And sometimes there are more important events in life than clean bathrooms, nutritional sandwiches, hairstyles and labour-intensive cakes.
1 orange (any size)
180g melted butter
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups SR Flour
juice from a second orange and icing sugar
Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees celsius and grease a loaf tin.
Place roughly chopped orange in food processor and blend until finely processed.
Add the remaining ingredients and process briefly (approx. 30 seconds until mixture is smooth).
Spoon batter into tin and bake for 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Make up a generous portion of icing (icing sugar and orange juice) and pour over the cooled cake.
Postscript: and incredibly, this shortcut cake is well above par.
We load our crispers enthusiastically as the week opens with good intention, virtuous feelings of nurturing and nutritional piety – and abundance of fruit. By mid-week, health promises and resolutions lay broken like pie crust and the crispers are still groaning. As you stare down the barrel of the coming week-end, with fruit in quantities far too excessive to clear out into unsuspecting lunchboxes, it’s time for fruit salad.
And this week, we did just that. An assembly of refrigerator pickings gathered on the chopping board. After the halcyon days of summer stone fruit, what now remained was a fairly pedestrian selection. However, once the ‘pedestrians’ were chopped and a few early winter newcomers were included, we had quite a sunny bowl before us. Topped with a delicious orange syrup, helpings disappeared in record time.
As a result, the crispers were cleared, nutritional equilibrium was restored and children retired to their beds on bowls of fruit rather than ice-cream. I’d say some self-righteousness was in order.
But before I topple off the edge of this moral high ground, here is how to produce the lovely, sweet orange syrup that covered it all…..
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 tsp vanilla essence
finely grated rind of one orange
juice of one orange
Place all of the ingredients into a medium saucepan, and mix together.
Place over medium heat and stir until sugar has dissolved and the mixture comes to the boil.
Reduce heat and simmer for approximately 15-20 minutes or until the liquid has become syrupy.
Chill well before pouring over large serving bowl of fruit salad.
Postscript: As we prepare to undergo the next season of Masterchef where no doubt we shall be encrusted, caramelised, deglazed and trussed, at least we know that performing the ‘chop, mix and pour’ trilogy will have us savouring fresh produce at its simplest and best.