Sticky delight

I made marmalade this week end enveloping the flat in an delicious orange scented perfume.  I’m not overly keen on bitter-orange marmalade, but my beloved adores it. So, once a year, while Seville oranges are plentiful, I make up a large batch. I had bought locally grown oranges from the market. We live, after all, in citrus heaven.

Menton's Annual Citrus Festival

Seville oranges have little or no juice, they’re basically peel, pith and pips. Despite that, I juice all the oranges and extract the pith and pips to leave the peel which I reduce to a bejewelled Euskaltel rubble in my mixer. There’s just too much to cut it up by hand and I much prefer flecks, to great wodges, of peel. To the meagre amount of juice already extracted, I add the juice of enough sweet oranges to make up a litre. The brick coloured peel is gently simmered in the juice, to which I have added a litre of water, until soft. It takes around 90mins.

Meanwhile, the pips and pith are boiled gently with the juice of 4 lemons, pulped and then sieved to extract the syrupy pectin. This is stirred into the warm peel with an amount of jam sugar, equal to the weight of the peel, and left overnight for the sugar to dissolve.

The following day, I split it into 5 separate batches.  I add 3 tablespoons of liqueur of choice to each batch and then slowly bring the ingredients to the boil for 3 minutes, test that it’s reached setting point, pour it into sterilised jars and top them with circles of waxed paper. Once cooled, I put on the tops and label the jars. Some are intended for club members. Our Directeur Sportif is particularly fond of my marmalade. Others are handed out as part of “gift baskets” and a large number will be consumed by my beloved.

Last year the club Treasurer gave me many kilos of oranges and I made so much that I’ve still got a couple of jars in my preserves fridge. My beloved won’t eat last year’s now that this year’s is available, so what to do with the remainder? What about marmalade cake?

I whipped up a basic sponge cake adding marmalade and a bit of rum. I dislike using citrus juices in cakes, preferring to use a similarly or complimentary flavoured liqueur. After baking, I soakedthe cake in an orange and rum flavoured syrup. Let it cool and took it along for my discerning group of tasters: my English class. They gave it the thumbs up but I felt it would be improved with the addition of some rum-soaked raisins and a touch of honey, for delicious, moist marmalade cakes for the Gentlemen on 20 March.

This year I’m hoping to have baked enough cakes that we don’t have to buy any from the supermarket. The freezer is already bulging with my stock of banana cake, pain d’epice, chestnut and almond cake, date slice  and vanilla sponge. Since budgets are tight, inevitably most clubs buy the cheapest cakes, full of trans fats, E numbers and goodness knows what else. As we’re not catering for large numbers (only around 150), I should be able to produce enough to satisfy their hunger after a 21km time-trial.

Last year, we followed the instructions of the previous management and provided just an apero for our guests and winners after the prize giving. This was a colossal mistake as the riders devoured most of these nibbles. Indeed, it wouldn’t have been enough except someone was kind enough to order some pizzas. We’re not making the same mistake this year. There’ll be a table of my cakes, dried and fresh fruit and chocolate for the riders plus the apero for guests and winners.