Finally, a Friday night in. I know this sounds rather selfish, given that there are probably lots of people who’d love to have a Friday night out but still. With wet hair wrapped in a towel and a face-pack somewhere or other, I am enjoying the empty flat, a gifted scented candle from Molton Brown and requisite mug of Earl Grey. In a little while I’ll shuffle off but I did want to put up this before I went.
First off, cake! It may not look like much but I am ridiculously proud of it. Friends have won awards for campaigning, investigative journalism, others are fantastically clever at numbers, archiving digital histories or advising governments and the UN on socio-economic policy … but this, dears, is pure art, courtesy a piping bag from Lakeland.
The piping bag was bought by mistake over Christmas and, unable to be returned, (trod on the box, lost the slip), it has been waiting to be used ever since. Normally I don’t have time for fiddly baking and recipes must adapt or die but on this occasion Nigella’s Devil’s Food Cake and a bit of pink icing made it into the office. It was actually eaten. A word of warning: it is very difficult not to get carried away with a piping bag, whatever its application, I imagine.
And, in a continuation of the rather accidental pink theme, ‘Three-fruit Marmalade with Kettle’…
Coming from South Africa, it feels a bit peculiar to be making marmalade at this time of year, instead of June or July. I have a couple of my mother’s old jars bearing sticky labels marked ‘July 2010’ or similar but, whatever the date, it is immensely satisfying to hover above a cauldron of orange peel and watch it bubble away on a grey day. Certainly fills the house with a wonderful, citrus fragrance, which I am sure goes some way to keeping the ghouls and the beasties away.
My grandmother, a home economics teacher in her day, was a great marmalade maker and she must have taught dozens of people the trick in her 97 years, not least Mavis Slatsha, my aunt’s very dear and beloved housekeeper, who passed away a little ago. Granny’s ratios of sugar to cooked fruit are now passed on to me from my mother and perhaps, one day, I’ll be able to share them with family, too.
When I go away somewhere, I like to buy a jar of local preserve or honey, keeping on the labels for as long as I can as a reminder of a special time. EU regulations facilitate this greatly although the jar in front once contained special honey from Suffolk. This year, an audit revealed an embarrassment of jars; far, far to many for marmalade, so perhaps something with elderflower or raspberries in the spring…