Monday, 23 July 2012

Marmalade Ice Cream

Marmalade Ice Cream

Thanks to end-of-term madness, I didn't have a chance to blog about last Wednesday, when only yards from my home at 8 o'clock at night I was offered free champagne and a cone of marmalade ice cream. Not bad for a school night.

I was just nipping out to Sainsbury's for a pint of milk and ran straight into the opening party for Ruby Violet, an artisan ice cream shop that the entire neighbourhood has been waiting to see open ever since the renovations began some weeks ago. We have all been peering hopefully into the dusty interior ever since, wondering when the ice cream was coming. But at last it was finished; there was fake grass on the pavement, neon signs over the counter and free ice creams being dispensed from a fabulous 1968 Austin van parked outside. I chose, of course, Classic Seville Orange Marmalade Ice Cream in a handmade cone and it was rather good. Especially with champagne. And more especially because it was free.

The next day after school there was a queue out of the door, with wide-eyed four-year-olds literally hopping up and down with excitement as they waited their turn, so I had to go back later to score a tub of the Salted Caramel flavour, which I fed the next day to three delighted children, much to G's horror. (At £3.50 for a small tub, I understand why, but we must train their budding palates to reject the concoctions of vegetable oil and artificial flavourings that too often passes for ice cream while we have the chance.) It went down very well.

So if you are strolling down Fortess Road in NW5 any time soon, do drop in and try the marmalade ice cream. And the Salted Caramel. You can't miss it; just look for the permanently parked ice cream van, which, as a bonus, acts as an ongoing taunt to the local traffic wardens who can't believe that it's allowed to park there all the time. But if they ever try to ticket it in full view of the customers, I predict a riot.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Experimental Marmalade

Experimental Marmalade

Quite a long time ago (where does the time go?) I had a plan to try a different way of making marmalade that would:
a) use up some frozen Sevilles
b) use less sugar, and
c) avoid over-boiling it into a caramel syrup.

I quite like my marmalade syrup, but it's not how it's supposed to be. So having gathered together some advice on sneaky ways to make it set more easily, I had another go.

The theory was that if I added more setting agents and took out anything that stopped it from setting, it would work beautifully. Setting agents included a grated cooking apple and an extra lemon; the anti-setters were too much water and, strangely, sugar. I have learned from various sources that sugar, in fact, can stop your marmalade from setting; which is kind of odd, as every recipe I look at uses an alarming amount of sugar, at least twice the weight of the oranges. So it was going to take a bit of nerve to abandon the traditional proportions. Especially as I was down to my last batch of Sevilles for the year.

Still, nothing ventured, so I took my frozen Sevilles, kindly delivered by Ocado back in February, out of the freezer and left them in the pan overnight to defrost. Next day I measured out 3.5 pints of water, added two lemons and boiled it all together.

Then something strange happened. When I lifted the lid to check the softness of the oranges, the water had virtually disappeared. Weird. Was it incompetence? Sabotage? Naughty fairies? No idea. Spooky.

I had planned to take Dan Lepard's advice and measure the cooking water so that I had the same volume of water as weight of oranges. I had started with 1.045kg oranges, so I measured what was left of the cooking water and added fresh water until it came to 1.045 litres. I then cut up the oranges in the usual way (see Recipes), added the peel and pulp and set the pan over a low heat.

Normally this would require 2kg sugar, so I cut it down to 1.5kg; I added this and a grated cooking apple to the mixture and boiled it till it set. Despite the water-measuring method, I clearly had far too little mixture. And, oh boy, did it set. It was absolutely packed with peel and only made five jars of quite solid marmalade, whereas it should have made eight or 10.

So, technically speaking, a complete failure - not least because it tasted exactly the same as before, just with a lot more peel. Sigh. Back to the drawing board.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Paddington Beer

Paddington Beer?

After my post about labels, a friend sent me this pic and said ‘Now there’s a label for you!’ Indeed. And there’s a concept. Not sure which fazed me the most: beer as a breakfast drink or the troubling sight of Paddington promoting alcohol.

On further investigation, it turned out that the key ingredients of the beer were toast and marmalade. 

Question: Who the hell would think of putting marmalade into beer? 
Answer: A New Zealander. Of course. Silly me.

So I emailed the Mussel Inn with a few questions, which basically added up to ‘What the…??’ and a very nice bloke called Andrew emailed back in some detail, as a result of which I learned quite a bit about the brewing process as well as about marmalade in New Zealand (it’s usually made with grapefruit). His reply went like this:

‘The beer was made specially for the 2012 MarchFest beer festival in Nelson where we had to make a previously never-made-before beer using secret ingredients and the punters had to try and guess them.

‘All of the Mussel Inn beers have an animal theme, so Paddington Bear fitted in well. I have had a hankering to produce a breakfast beer for a while now, and marmalade on toast – two ingredients that could easily be applied to beer – were the perfect combination from both directions.

'Grapefruit is a very common flavour found in certain hop varieties, such as Cascade, commonly used in American double IPAs. I thought, well if it's grapefruit you want, why not use grapefruit (which is most commonly used in marmalade in NZ)? In reality, we ended up using a blend of grapefruit marmalade and tangelo peel in the prototype beer, which was very pleasing, and then in the official brew we used eight litres of cheap, sweet orange marmalade and a couple of jars of the real deal – made from Seville oranges – cooked up by the grandma of one of our staff members.'

He went on to describe how they toasted five loaves of white sliced bread before adding them to the marmalade mixture, along with malted wort and hops. 'At the end, the slices of toast were reduced to a weird spongy rubbery texture, which I assume was pretty much pure gluten - the starch having been extracted.' 

He was pleased to report that the beer sold out on the day and the winner of the 'guess the ingredients' competition chose the Paddington Bear beer as his prize – the prize being 72 bottles of any of the beers featured.

I completely love Andrew’s devotion to his craft and his use of willing grandmothers to provide authentic ingredients. I’m also delighted that, even so far from marmalade’s spiritual home, a New Zealander knows about Paddington Bear and that proper marmalade is made with Sevilles.

I’m a little worried about his long-held hankering to create a breakfast beer, but I guess if anyone can do a solid day’s work after beer for breakfast, it’s a Kiwi. Andrew – we salute you.