Monday, 21 February 2011

Marmalade, Valentine ’s Day and Happy Birthday to Jack!

I am feeling very tired today after a busy week working extra hours for the  uni, and submitting the dratted essay that finally went in by electronic submission at 1230 on Tuesday night. I’m afraid Valentine’s Day passed in a bit of a blur, although himself presented me with a beautiful bouquet of eucalyptus and proteus and deep orange daisies.  Just rubbing the leaves transported me back to the smell of the early morning bush when the gum trees exude the heady scent of eucalyptus oils.  I worked at the Excel centre promoting the School of health and Social Care on the university stand but had time to speak to my son Jack who was celebrating his birthday.  It is bad enough reaching the grand old age of 29 yourself but when your son gets there it really is a sobering realisation of your own mortality! 



The week started well with a trip to the 3pm Sunday performance of The Comedy of Errors in Greenwich. It was a brilliant performance and very funny.  I love being able to go to a theatre so close to home, easy to get to, and tickets much cheaper than the West End.  There are only about 60 seats so we were able to sit in the front row which meant we had a fantastic view of all the action.  I am now looking forward to   catching ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ the Catford theatre next month.

This trip was a present from my neighbour for helping make her marmalade.  She had fallen in the January snow and sprained her wrist so badly she is still recovering. Marmalade is probably the worst preserve to tackle under those circumstances and there is so much chopping involved.  Seville oranges are really bitter and totally unsuitable to eat raw. The season is very short, just the four weeks of January so there is always a mad scramble by all the marmalade making nerds like me!  The oranges come from Spain and their entire crop is exported to the UK!  The origins of this delicacy surrounded in myth and mystery.  One version is that a Scottish housewife invented it when confronted with a huge quantity these unpalatable fruits brought back by her ship’s captain husband.  Another is that the word comes from the Spanish (Mar = sea and malade =illness) and it was used as a cure for sea sickness. It first came as a sort of solid jelly slab a bit like the wonderful Spanish quince jelly served with cheese.

There are lots of great recipes on the internet and I can promise you that once you have tried the home made stuff you will always find the shop variety very disappointing.  I added whisky to the batch I made two years ago but this year I decided to try something different.  I have had a very large bottle of Bundaberg rum – (a Queensland classic!) sitting unopened from my last trip to Oz.  As neither of us likes the stuff, I added quite a large quantity to the hot marmalade before bottling it. All the alcohol evaporated leaving just a wonderful rich taste perfect for our morning toast! 

My next challenge is to try and locate unpickled silverskin onions.  Himself is such a fusspot about his and I have just about perfected my piccalilli recipe to his satisfaction  apart from the onion part.  It seems that all the supplies of silverskins go to the big manufacturers so I am left with having to use chopped up shallots or normal onions which just isn’t the same.  So the hunt is on!!

….meanwhile I must get on with some college work. My next piece is a 3000 ‘clinical concepts’ essay due in three weeks time – no rest for the wicked!

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