Tuesday February 12th 2008, 9:43 am

Seville oranges about to be poached

It wasn’t that straightforward finding Seville oranges this year and as the season is only for a few weeks straddling January and February I had to seek them out. I managed to order some in specially from the organic deli, which fortunately is very close by. When I went to the one and only greengrocers in the nearest town it had sadly closed down a week before. So Tesco has managed to put another independent out of business and another business that thought it was enough to just sell produce without the help of recipe cards and a loyalty points scheme has learnt the hard way.
Thankfully I now have some beautiful Seville oranges to cheer me up. Last year I made two lots of marmalade using different techniques to prepare the orange peel. For the first batch I pared and chopped all the peel at the beginning which takes ages but is a ritual with some therapeutic value, at least for the first half an hour or so until the novelty wears off. For the second batch I poached the oranges in my wonderful cast iron pot in the Rayburn for three hours then scooped out the innards and chopped the peel. I think the second method is the easiest and now definitely the one I prefer.

poached Seville oranges

Some of the marmalade I made was beautifully glowing and orange, like looking through stained glass windows when holding the jars up to the light, the rest was slow cooked for several hours in the Rayburn till it ended up deep, dark, rich and caramelised. Both were lovely so I’d be hard pressed to choose which kind I prefer so am now making both types again this year. Find my recipe here.

scooping the flesh out of poached Seville oranges

Seville oranges have such a strong character that they can withstand long cooking and still retain their own distinctive personality. You have to respect a fruit like that. It is worth putting some in the freezer so they’ll be available out of season for keeping the marmalade stock replenished, for making orange curd as well as for rustling up an impromptu bitter orange tart when called for. Just wash and dry the fruits, pack into plastic bags and seal before freezing.

Wednesday January 23rd 2008, 1:38 pm

A British Comice pear

I’ve never had much time for pears and have always managed to pass them by in the supermarket even when I have been perusing the apples in the niche beside them. It is always great when you discover a passion for something that has just never occurred to you before and in the autumn me and pears fell in love.
A few miles up the road from my house, for five or six weeks in the autumn, a sign appears by the roadside to let it be known that plums, apples and pears are for sale if you care to pull in. I now know to pull in pretty sharpish or else before you know it the sign disappears and you are left thinking, I really did mean to…. next year I really will.
Anyhow, this time I called in to buy plums but there were several varieties of pears on offer as well and I bought some. Of course the big turn-off with pears is that you have to buy them in an unripe state then wait to catch them at just the right moment as they ripen. In this instance, the age old trick played on new apprentices sent to the store room to ask for a ‘long wait’ serves a purpose. I have read that pears need to ripen at home for 3 – 4 days. It has taken me more like 3 – 4 weeks to ripen comice pears so they are just right.
In my quest for pear recipes I have found a custard pear pudding recipe that ticks all the boxes. I now have no excuse to ever waste any fruit again and this pudding is so great it is dangerous (for anyone who has problems with portion control). Here it is.
I’ve also made chocolate and pear jam, my own concoction based on a preserve my neighbours brought back from France for me as a present. When I have perfected the recipe I will post it here, it just needs a bit of tweaking first but is almost there. Believe me, it is perfect on warm croissants for breakfast.
I am not generally a fan of stickers on fruit but have to admit a liking for the Union Jack on British pears, which can still be found in the supermarkets and should be around until the end of February – March time. The shop at the side of the road wont be putting out the sign again until next September.

Pear Custard Pudding