Sunday, 18 January 2009

The Heather Mills Memorial Sideboard


A rather astonishing thing happened this morning. Looking around for further storage space, forgotten empty cupboards etc, in which to store the increasing flotsam, I came across a sideboard lugged home from a skip by several children. It lurks in a corner of what is laughingly known as a 'dining room' but which is in fact a bicycle nursery and coat store, and exudes a faded 1920s charm; art deco in intent, but not in execution, mirrored, lacking one leg and as it turned out, housing the 2007 batch of homemade marmalade.
Coincidentally, I had just run out of marmalade, but I now remembered why the 2007 had been confined to the cupboard in the first place. A slight trouble translating kgs back into lbs, not enough sugar as a result and a serious lack of application by the youngest child charged with chopping the orange peel, had meant that it hadn't set and each jar contained runny jelly at the bottom and a layer of gigantic chunks of peel at the top. It was too depressing to eat.
Needs must where the devil drives, however. It was breakfast time and here was a stack of cheap marmalade not requiring a trip to the local Tesco. We tried it and it was strangely delicious - matured into a rich and burnished brown, though still runny, jelly, the pavement-slab sized chunks softened enough to chew and exuding the kind of taste that you look for in vain in commercial marmalade. Bliss.
Further rummaging produced the recipe from which it had been made (it takes two days, so do it over a weekend)

Seville orange marmalade
a recipe invented by a matriarchal orange grower whose orange groves lie just outside Seville
Makes about six 240g/half pound pots

750g/1.5lbs bitter seville oranges
4 pints of water
juice of one lemon
granulated or preserving sugar
6 (or more) pots with lids, sterilised

Wash the fruit and cut in half and squeeze the juice into a large bowl. Reserve all the pips from the oranges and tie them up in a muslim bag. Cut the peel into thin shreds and add to the bowl of juice with the water, the bag of pips and the lemon juice. Soak the whole lot for 24-48 hours to tenderise.
Once soaked, put it all (including the bag of pips) into a large pan and bring up to boiling point. Cook for 1-1.5 hours until the peel is soft. remove the bag of pips, squeezing it gently.
Take the pan off the heat and measure out the contents into a large bowl using a measuring jug. For every pint of liquid add 480g/1lb sugar. Stir until dissolved. Pour the mixture back into the pan and bring back to the boil. Boil rapidly until setting point is reached (setting point is when a little marmalade, spooned onto a cold plate and left to cool, wrinkles when you tip the plate). Pour the marmalade into the jars, seal and leave to cool


Garbage soup, or hangover soup

olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
3 potatoes, chopped into chunks
3/4 carrots, chopped into chunks
whatever other veg you have lying around, peeled and chopped as necessary
herbs, whichever you have to hand
a dash of sherry if you are feeling rich
stock (or water if you are feeling especially poor)

Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onions and fry til translucent. Add the garlic, fry for another 5 mins or so and then add the potatoes, carrots and any other veg (setting aside any green veg, eg cabbage or courgettes, that take less time to cook). Fry for a while in the oil, turning the veg occasionally. When the mixture is begining to stick and turn brown, add the sherry (if using). Cook furiously for a couple of minutes, then pour in the stock or water (add about a pint to start with and top up as needed). Once the potatoes and carrots are soft, add the rest of the veg. Cover and cook for as long as you want. Season to taste and serve to any hungover people getting in the way in your kitchen.


Fish Pie

At half past two on a Saturday afternoon, fish pie seemed like an inspired idea for supper, epecially as the resident man of the house had evinced a desire to cook it. 'What about the white sauce?' I say. 'What about it? he replies. 'Fishpie doesn't have white sauce.' 'Have we got enough eggs?' I persevere. 'Eggs' he shrieks. 'I'm not making bloody breakfast. I am making a pie with fish in it.' 'Prawns?' I suggest. 'Not that kind of fish' he says snootily.
As I say, it seemed like a good idea.
Evening arrived and the resident man had disappeared on some ploy of his own, all thoughts of fish evaporated, replaced by an urgent desire to find out where the poet Rimbaud had lived in South London ('Yes, he bloody did, in Tulse Hill as it happens and I need to know for my book...')

There are many ways of making fish pie but this is the one I used on this occasion because it happens in stages and I foolishly imagined the cook might return in time to put together the finished project. If you don't have a helpful nearby fishmonger, Sainsburys do a fish pie mix on their fresh fish counter

serves 6

1lb (or more) fish pie mix, or a mix of any white fish, smoked fish, salmon, monk fish etc
a few prawns
3 eggs, hardboiled and sliced
4 or 5 large potatoes, boiled and mashed

For the sauce
to make 600ml, or expand as necessary
45g butter
45g plain flour
600ml milk
bay leaf
salt and pepper

To make the sauce: Melt the butter in a pan, stir in the flour to form a roux and add the milk, a little at a time, stirring constantly, until the sauce is smooth and silky (don't stop stirring whatever you do, as it will go into intractable lumps and never recover), adding milk as you want. When the sauce starts to bubble, it's done. Take it off the heat and leave to cool, when it will thicken up slightly.
Preheat the oven to 180c. Put the fish into another pan, add milk to cover and heat over a medium heat. When the fish is beginning to be cooked, flake the larger pieces and remove from pan and stir (and as much of the cooking milk as you want) into the sauce. Add the sliced boiled eggs and some chopped parsley and stir slightly (don't break up the fish too much). Season totate. Put the mixture into an oven proof casserole and spread on the mashed potato. Cook in the oven until the sauce is bubbling up underneath and the potato is turning a crispy brown. Peas go very well with this.

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