Monday, 18 January 2010

Lady Marmalade

So ahead of my first ever foray into selling my wares at the Underground Farmers' Market on 28 March, this weekend I have mostly been making marmalade. I really enjoyed making my own jams and chutneys with a glut of plums last year, but marmalade was much more labour intensive, particularly as my food processor couldn't manage to shred the orange shells, so several kilos were done by hand, improving my knife skills vastly along the way. I also now have stronger hands than I've ever had, having squeezed and pummelled a muslin bag full of orange pith and pips to within an inch of its life to get all of the natural pectin out and into the marmalade…arm wrestle, anyone?

I wanted to try my hand at making my own marmalade, as I was amazed how many ingredients are used in mass-produced versions, whilst my own has used just three ingredients – Seville oranges, water and sugar (plus some of my husband's 10 year old Talisker single malt for the whisky version). I've just used ordinary granulated sugar rather than jam sugar with added pectin, and no other gelling agents or odd preservatives that you find in the supermarket. I've always thought adding preservatives to a preserve was a rather odd idea – surely the clue is in the name? Anyway, the first jars of Kitchen Confidential marmalade should last for about a year unopened, and a month or so in the fridge once you do crack into it. I'm hoping it won't be around for that long though – the results taste pretty good if I do say so myself, and I think it's quite a grown-up marmalade that's not too sweet and has just the right amount of shred (some fine and some slightly thicker depending on at what stage I was in the shredding process).

Halfway through the process...

I do hope some of you can come along to the market and give it a try. As we get closer to the date I'll be practising some of my other creations that I'm hoping to take along with me, hopefully including some marmalade bread and butter pudding for people to take away. I've also noticed that 'This is me (part one)' could do with the addition of part two soon, so I'll be trying to update this a bit more regularly from now on. I'm trying to work out the balance between not boring people with the minutiae of my efforts, whilst not taking so long between posts that people forget who I am. Let me know if you want more or less, or, like Baby Bear's porridge, you think it's just right.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

This is me (part one)

So, here it is. My first ever post on my shiny new blog. Where should I begin? I'm hoping that this will become a record of the trials and tribulations (and hopefully successes) of my attempts this year to make some pocket money from my love of food, and try my hand making food people might want to buy from my north London kitchen. I'm keen to get feedback from people on my food and my writing, so please add your comments or email me: My ideas are still very much only half formed, so my focus may change along the way, but stay tuned folks – I'm hoping that it will be a fun journey…

Who am I? Well I'd like to think that I'm not a 'foodie'. I dislike the term as it often implies some kind of food snobbery: "Dahhhling, you really must get hold of this exquisite olive oil hand pressed by mice in the prettiest little village in Tuscany. It's £300 a bottle (hand blown glass of course), but it tastes so much better than the stuff you get from those common supermarkets." But I do like good quality, fresh ingredients, and in the last couple of years have taken a few tentative steps towards growing my own, more on that another time. I've also been lucky enough to eat in some fabulous restaurants, including the legendary Fat Duck and Alexis Gauthier's Rousillon in Belgravia. I've eaten equally good, if somewhat less refined, meals at bistros in the back streets of Montmartre, burritos in San Francisco that are just about rivalled by one of my cheap eat staples, Wahaca in Covent Garden, and almost unidentifiable but mostly delicious food in a monastery in Japan. Recently I've tried a new eating experience and have visited a couple of London's secret restaurants in people's homes. Nuno Mendes' 'Loft' was an incredible experience, and Ms Marmite Lover's New Year's Eve feast was a real treat.

Tea time at a Mount Koyasan monastery in Japan

I'm not sure what all of the above information makes me, other than someone who loves good, ethically produced food, no matter where it comes from – my husband is now used to my requests for "happy eggs from happy hens" when we do the shopping, and I'd much rather buy an organic chicken and use it to feed us for a week, rather than eat a different cheap meat every day. I like small producers such as 'The Giggly Pig' who are a weekly fixture at our local farmers' market, and I was given a supply of Willie's Chocolate (as opposed to chocolate shaped willies) for Christmas which has so far made a wonderful chocolate cake, and I'm looking forward to trying some more in some savoury recipes.

Alexandra Palace farmers' market - great after a Sunday morning swim

What will I be doing in this little venture? Probably making the food that you wished you had time for, but can't squeeze in when life gets that little bit too busy. I'm going to start off with soups, stews, and maybe a few ready meals at local farmers' markets and anywhere else I can get them distributed. I also started making my own pickles and preserves last year from the glut of tomatoes and plums in the garden, so I'm going to try my hand at marmalade (if I can find anywhere that sells Seville oranges), and later on in the year, following rave reviews from the family at last year's attempts, perhaps home made Christmas puds, cranberry sauce and other seasonal trimmings.

But I've got a long way to go yet – first stop getting registered with the local council, and figuring out all of the red tape I need to comply with to get going. It could take a while, but please bear with me, and I'll try and make it all sound entertaining.