I thought I liked oranges, until I married a man who eats several a day. He’s a real connoisseur. Winter or summer, rain or shine, we now get through about thirty of the things a week. Maybe it’s the lack of sun in England – it makes us crave something round, cheerful and yellow. I’m not heavily into interactive food (I even get my prawns pre-shelled) but I like juicy fruit. At this time of year, clementines are in season. Their whole skin pops off in one go, and there’s little worry about pips. That suits me, but if I want to be sure of eating any myself, I have to sneak bags of seedless clementines into the house. Hiding my secret supply from the two legged citrus termite is tricky, as I buy so many. I have to hide them in all sorts of nooks and crannies. That’s ok, as long as I don’t forget them. One Spring I found a bag of half a dozen mummified fruits rattling around under the stairs, all as hard as marbles!
A lot of my secret hoard goes into easy and delicious Clementine cake. Goodness knows how many calories there are in it, so it’s best kept as a treat. The original recipe comes from Nigella Lawson, and once you’ve tried it, you’ll be hooked.
4-5 clementines (totalling about 15 ounces)
9 ounces sugar
10 ounces ground almonds
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
Scrub clementines, put them in a pan with some cold water, cover and boil for 2 hours. Drain, discarding the cooking liquid. When cool, cut each fruit in half and remove any pips. Then pulp everything – skin, pith, flesh, the lot – either in a processor or by hand.
Preheat the oven to gas mark 5/190 degrees C. Butter and line a 21cm Springform tin.
Beat the eggs. Add the sugar, almonds and baking powder. Stir in the orange pulp, pour everything into the tin and bake for about an hour. Check after 40 minutes – if it’s getting too brown, cover it with tinfoil or greaseproof paper. The cake is done when a skewer comes out clean. Leave it to cool in its tin, on a rack. It’s delicious!
I’ve tried dozens of citrus recipes but I’ve never yet managed to make a really good Seville marmalade. I try every year during the short bitter-orange season, but I can never trust the evidence of my own eyes. The mixture always seems to start setting too quickly, compared to the other jams and jellies I make. Giving the marmalade ‘just a bit more boiling to make certain’ soon turns it dark and chewy. It’s still edible, but the finished preserve loses that transparent sparkle. This year I’ve invested in a sugar thermometer, so the result shouldn’t be in doubt. There can be no excuses!
Now all I have to do is hide the remaining few pots of last February’s over boiled marmalade before beginning this year’s batch!