This afternoon, my friend Léonce and I made marmalade.
When Malcolm and I were in England over Christmas and New Year, battling with the Infamous Snow, one of the big questions was – ‘Will we be able to get Seville oranges before we have to leave?’, because the French don’t usually sell them.
Well, I DID manage to buy them in the UK, and now we’re back……..they were in Lavelanet market last week at 2.50 euros a kilo. What are Seville oranges doing on Lavelanet market? I’d love to know. The French, when they make marmalade at all, tend to use ordinary oranges, and they don’t seem to have any particular tradition of using this wonderfully bitter fruit.
But my oranges travelled from Spain to Harrogate in England, and then all the way back to southern France where yesterday, we transformed them into bright jewelled pots of marmalade.
‘So’, said Léonce as she diligently chopped orange skin after orange skin into long strips, ‘we’re not going to soak the peel? We’re using it as it is?’ Her only experiences with this fruit have involved long soakings and several changes of water to eliminate nearly all the bitterness.
Smelling the strong citrussy odours as the marmalade cooked convinced her. She’s getting a different idea about the English and their cooking now. We sat down afterwards for a Nice Cup of Tea and a buttered slice of malt loaf (Soreen’s of course. Why make the stuff when theirs is so good?) and she remembered how much she’s enjoyed making – and eating – all our traditional English Christmas baking.
Our walking group’s come to look forward to some good old British baking treats too: gingernuts, melting moments, drenched lemon cake, flapjacks (although perhaps flapjacks aren’t British at all? But we HAVE adopted them, and the French don’t have them). And they all say, slightly surprised ‘So you British CAN cook. These are great! Can I have the recipe?’