Tag Archives: Seville Oranges

Seizing the Day and Lucky Lentils

I’d be lying if I said that 2016 has got off to a great start; it’s one of those strange situations when Pete, Imi and I are doing fine but other people I truly care about just aren’t. There’s that wierd conflict between feeling sad and helpless in the face of other people’s tragedies and, realising how fragile life can be, seizing the day.

12565568_517857278397199_6466019848023937389_nChildren are so great at living in the now. I adore this picture of Imi in Bath last weekend. She skips, she sings and can’t resist a bollard- she’ll leap frog it or do a high kick and, whilst I don’t quite have her flexibility (or the flamingo legs to go with it), I can only hope to soak up some of her innocent joie de vivre.

Luck plays such a huge role in our lives; our destinies do seem to change at the role of a dice and so I’m going back to those lucky lentils that the Italians dive into every New Year. I’m just starting my year again and every one of those tiny seeds is going to bring us all good fortune. Superstition apart, lentils are genuinely capable of bringing prosperity and fine health; eating legumes is incredibly economical and they’re so very good for you.

I always prepare food that I like to eat rather than counting calories or assessing nutrients, if it happens to be packed with goodness, well, that’s a bonus. Lentils are loaded with fibre (keeping you feeling full, helping to regulate blood sugar levels and of course, keeping you regular). They provide valuable protein as long as you throw some grains into your diet along the way (it doesn’t have to be at the same meal) and cost a fraction of the price of meat. Consider all the calcium, iron, folate, zinc and potassium they bring with them and yes, we could give them that irritatingly clichéd title of a ……….SUPERFOOD!

There are a few lentil recipes for you to explore on my blog already, just give them a click.
How about?
Simple lentil salad

Quince, Bath Blue and lentil salad

Rhubarb and lentil curry

There are obviously dozens more to discover and enjoy in my book PULSE (how’s that for some shameless self-promotion?)

January’s been pretty full-on writing for all sorts magazines, blogs and campaigns, spreading the word about The International Year of Pulses (hence the “quiet” January on my own site), including Meat Free Mondays, Coeliacs Uk, The World Wildlife Fund and Borough Market.Jenny Chandler in Borough Market, photograph by Simon Rawles

I’m going to share the Borough Market lentil recipe that I created for their blog (I know that it’s a marketing faux-pas to send your readers elsewhere but hey, I’m generous like that and it’s a great place to go for ideas and a good read.  I love working for them; the monthly demonstrations are an excuse to explore, shop, eat and work in one of the world’s finest food markets.

Here’s a chance to use seasonal Seville oranges (be quick – they’re not around for much longer) if you really don’t require more marmalade. Imi and her Brownie friends got so excited last year that we over produced and still have a mountain to munch through. You can use sweeter oranges for the lentils too but you may require a bit of lemon juice to sharpen things up.

Tangy orange lentils

I’m using the little brown Spanish Pardina lentils because they seem an appropriate match for Seville oranges but any small, firm lentil will do.

Serves 4

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 carrots, finely diced
1-2 chillies, finely chopped (optional)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small sprig of of rosemary, leaves very finely chopped
250 g/9 oz Spanish Pardina lentils, or another tiny hold-together variety
Juice of 1-2 Seville oranges and zest to taste
1 tbsp grainy mustard
1 large handful of parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp Crème fraîche  or extra virgin olive oil

Take a large pan and fry the onion and carrots in the olive oil until soft.

Stir in the chillies, garlic and rosemary and continue to cook until the garlic just starts to colour.

Add the lentils, the juice of one orange, a good pinch of zest and enough water or stock to cover them by a couple of inches/5 cm. Cook until juicy and tender ( about 20-25 minutes), do keep an eye as you may need to top up the water.

Drain the lentils if necessary and then add the mustard, parsley, salt and pepper and enough of the remaining orange juice to balance the lentils. The crème fraîche or extra virgin olive oil are up to you, the creamier version is great with ham, lean pork chops, or just served as a salad with piles of watercress whilst the extra virgin olive oil works better with rich belly pork or duck.


One or Two Lentil Facts 

Legumes can keep you feeling full for an extra 2 to 4 hours, meaning that you’re less likely to be foraging in the biscuit tin.

Lentils are not just a cheaper source of protein than meat, gram for gram they have higher levels of protein than beef (as long as you also consume grains which contribute the missing essential amino acid). If you’re a resolute carnivore try adding lentils to stews, curries or cottage pie to eek out the meat. Better for you, better for the planet.

Red lentils are actually hulled and split brown lentils. So, since their protective skin has gone they collapse easily making them fabulous for dal or any creamy soup. They contain much less fibre (as that’s mainly found in the skin) and so are easier on the digestion making them ideal for baby food. Just cook up a pan-full in some stock until soft and mushy and add to different vegetable purées. 

Paddington and Marmalade Days

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“Every home should have a marmalade day”  Paddington, the movie 2014

It’s taken me a while to fall back in love with Paddington Bear. I adored the books as a child but then, as a teenager, I was a given a toy Paddington as a present by a local farmer/admirer. He’d spotted me in the church choir (social highlight of the weekend in 1970’s rural Worcestershire) and decided to make a move. Although I was rather too old to be excited about a huge, stuffed bear with a duffle coat and red welly boots, I was also appalled to be the subject of someone who seemed twice my age’s attention. My tweeded suitor also presented me with a multiple choice questionnaire with reasons why I would, or would not, like to go out on a dinner date – I couldn’t bring myself to fill it in. The entire episode was a hideous embarrassment, the Family Service was never quite the same, and in my eyes Paddington’s reputation was sullied for decades.

A couple of weeks ago we went to see the film of Paddington – it was an absolute delight, so much so that I’ve dug out my 1960’s paperbacks and managed to put all the teenage angst behind me. I saw some Seville oranges in Reg The Veg up the road and thought that Imi, fired up with Paddington’s enthusiasm for the sticky stuff, would be up for making some marmalade.

I wrote a piece for Borough Market last year, as a “marmalade virgin”. I’d always been put off making any myself by all the mystique that seemed to surround the stuff so I decided to try out the simplest method around, which came from Fiona Beckett. I’ve tinkered with the recipe a little and, although I’m quite sure my marmalade wouldn’t sweep the board at the W.I. show, it tastes wonderful to me and is a great thing to make with kids.

Opinions are divided when it comes to marmalade methods, infact it’s almost better not to ask for advice since everyone will have the “very best” recipe. Purists seem to swear by slicing the fruit and leaving it to soak overnight which apparently gives a more delicate, crystal-clear result than the quicker, boil-the-fruit-whole approach. I went for the latter, it may not be perfect but certainly knocks the socks off anything I’ve bourght in the supermarket.

Experienced jam makers can jump the list of handy hints below, but as a novice I needed to go back to basics, and you may too.

  • Unless you already own a preserving pan, or are planning on opening a B&B I’d just stick to making the marmalade in a heavy stock pot or better still, if you happen to have one, the base of a pressure cooker.
  • You need a piece of muslin in which to tie up the pips and pulp (they are rich in pectin which sets the jam) No muslin, well (and I know that this sounds rather unappetising but it’s very convenient!) a NEW pop sock will do nicely, just give it a rinse before using.
  • A couple of plates in your freezer or fridge will help you when testing “the set” of your marmalade.
  • To sterilise jars you can place them in an oven at 130 °C for 1/2 an hour or wash with cold water and zap, whilst damp, for 40 seconds in the microwave. The jars must be hot when you pour the hot marmalade into them, otherwise they could shatter.
  • If your lids do not fit tightly then use a cellophane cover. A seal is important otherwise your precious marmalade could go mouldy. It’s advisable to cover the surface of the marmalade with a disc of waxed paper too, if you are keeping the marmalade for any length of time.
  • A jam funnel is a blessing, enabling you to ladle in the marmalade quickly and saving on time wiping sticky jars later. Otherwise just use a jug, but go carefully.

 Simple Seville Orange Marmalade

This makes about 6 average-size jars of marmalade, but it’s wise to have a couple of spares at the ready just in case you need them. Smaller, attractively shaped jars make great little gifts too.

I kg Seville oranges
1 unwaxed lemon
1.75 kg granulated sugar (no need for preserving sugar)

Wash the oranges and lemon well and then put them in your pan and cover with water. I weighed down the fruit with a casserole lid to stop it bobbing above the surface. Cover with a lid and then boil for 1-2 hours until the peel feels soft and can be easily pierced with a fork. Meanwhile enjoy the ambrosial citrus scent wafting around your kitchen.

Remove the fruit from the water and allow to cool. Measure the liquid left in your pan, you will need about 1.25 litres. If you have too much you can reduce it by boiling, too little – just add a splash of water.

Now for the fun, it’s time to prepare the fruit. This is the moment to get the kids involved, as many hands do make light work. You will probably end up with a rather coarse -cut result but hey this is the home-spun approach.

Quarter the oranges and lemon. Take a spoon and scrape the pith, flesh and seeds into a large sieve set over a bowl.

Slice the peel into coarse or fine shreds, the choice is yours (it wasn’t mine as a a couple of  impatient 8 year olds will always mean thick slices). Put the peel into the pan with the measured cooking water.

Take a rubber spatula and squash as much juice as you can from the pulp in the sieve and tip this into the marmalade pan. Put the remaining pips and pulp into a muslin square and tie up (or take the pop sock approach) and then dangle this down into your pan too. The pith and pips contain masses of pectin which will set the marmalade later.

Bring the pan up to the boil and then remove your bag, or sock, and give it a squeeze to release as much of the valuable pectin as possible.

Tip in the sugar and place the pot back on a low flame. Once the sugar has dissolved you can up the heat and bring the marmalade to a rolling boil. Watch it carefully you don’t want it bubble over. Give it a stir and skim the froth from the surface from time to time (or you will have cloudy marmalade)

Now you’re on the home straight. Your marmalade will take about 25 – 45 minutes at a fast boil to reach setting consistancy (there are so many variables- the heat, the width of your pan, the amount of pectin, so I can’t be precise). Test the setting consistancy after 25 minutes by spooning some hot marmalade straight onto one of your plates from the freezer, allow it to cool for a couple of minutes. Now push the marmalade with your fingertip, if it’s ready it will form a wrinkly skin as you do so. If not, continue to boil and check at 5 minute intervals.

Once the marmalade’s ready leave to cool for 15 minutes, skim off any last foam and ladle into the hot jars. Cover with waxed disks if using, and seal with lids or cellophane at once.


It’s win, win all the way. Imi and her friend Eleanor not only loved the marmalade making they also earned a few more points for their all-important Brownie hobby badge and we’ve got a cupboard filled with marmalade which I intend to make ice-cream with aswell as eat on toast.

It’s also always wise to buy a few extra Seville oranges as they make a pretty damn good addition to a Gin and Tonic……talking of which, it is almost 6 o’clock.