Sticky to my elbows

 

Part of the fatigue management programme (see last posting) is about doing something each day just for fun and pleasure.

This week, it has been candied peel for the sous chef who has been making panettone, that tall Italian brioche-like bread.  Of course, being a man, he has to have all the right accoutrements down to the fancy cardboard case for the final rise and baking – with bamboo skewers inserted so that the edifice can be suspended upside down when it cools (avoids the soft creation collapsing).

Anyway, he wanted proper candied peel and, with Seville orange season upon us, I obliged and now have a stock for fruit cakes, Christmas puddings and gifts.

The actual work of this recipe is dead easy, doesn’t take much time but is spread out over about a week.  The really messy bit is taking the peel off the parchment paper, rolling in caster sugar and storing in boxes.  Even with several hand-washes, I was sticky everywhere and the floor needed a good mop through.  But the result was worth it all.

 

3 lb Seville oranges (or any citrus fruit)

1500g granulated sugar

Caster sugar for storing.

 

Cut the fruit in half and squeeze out all the juice.    I have a whizzy electric “lemon squeezer” which makes this very easy.  I used the juice in marmalade.

Remove any remnants of the flesh, pips etc. from the fruit halves.

Place the fruit halves in a pan, covered with water (weighed down with a plate if necessary).  Don’t use more water than needed.

Simmer for 1-2 hours until the peel is soft but not falling apart.

Add 500g sugar and stir gently over a low heat so that it dissolves without breaking up the peel.  Once dissolved, boil rapidly for 30 minutes.  Leave the peel in the syrup for 24 hours.

Repeat the addition of 500g sugar, dissolving, boiling, standing.

Repeat again.  By this time, the cold syrup should have reached the consistency of thick honey.

Gently warm the peel and syrup – just enough so that you can remove the peel from the syrup.

Place the drained peel on baking trays lined with parchment paper and place in the oven on the very lowest heat for 6 hours to dry as much as possible.  Leave in the oven until completely cool.

Put caster sugar into a bowl and roll each piece of peel in the sugar before placing in an airtight storage box, interleaving layers with parchment paper.  Add any remaining caster sugar to the layers to keep the peel separate.

I’ve stored peel like this for at least 12 months.

 

The remaining orange-flavoured sugar syrup and the caster sugar from the boxes can be used in puddings, baking, pannetone and next year’s marmalade.  Nothing wasted!

Good simple food makes isolation more bearable

Being quarantined at home  gives me more time to cook.  I’ve been inspired to share this recipe by Orly, one of the semi-finalists for the 2020 Holman prize for blind ambition being run by San Francisco’s LightHouse organisation.  It might just cheer you up!

The ingredients aren’t too difficult to find and the result is delicious:

chicken with tarragon and lemon.

3 onions peeled and diced

5 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 knob butter

10 (1kg) chicken thighs, skinned

1 large glass dry white wine

Zest of one lemon

2 chicken stock cubes

1 tablespoon fresh French tarragon leaves, chopped

3 heaped teaspoons cornflour

Juice of half a lemon

Salt and pepper to taste.

 

Sauté the onions and garlic.

Place the chicken thighs in the pan and cover with the wine, a mug of water, add the lemon zest, stock cubes, tarragon leaves and bring to a very gentle simmer.

Cook for two hours on the smallest gas ring, on a heat defuser, on the lowest setting on an electric ring or in the oven on a very low temperature.

Remove the chicken thighs.

Slake the cornflour with a little water and whisk into the juices in the pan until thickened.  Add the lemon juice and season to taste.

Pour over the chicken.

My tips:

Accompanied by some green vegetables and rice or potato, this is enough for 10 portions and freezes well to make dishes for the future when you want something  without slogging in the kitchen.  Just de-frost in the fridge overnight and then heat in the microwave on a low/medium power.

Dried tarragon will also work well but use about a heaped teaspoonful.

 

Wrens know how to organise.

The volume climbed at the WRNS 100 centenary lunch party while it took minimum effort to put together a great chicken dish to feed the crowd– see how we did it (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMp_N573JSA).

Jo, my old naval colleague, took our week in Virginia Beach, USA, by the scruff of the neck and shook it until every minute was completely occupied.  She produced a programme with military precision having co-opted a corps of collaborative cooks all ready to create their culinary magic on camera.

During one short week we managed to pack in four different sorts of bread, soup, three different fish dishes, party chicken, two desserts and the most peculiar “overnight casserole” that turned out to be a strange savoury bread-and-butter pudding!  Amidst all of this, we caught a glimpse of Virginia Beach and the huge naval base at Norfolk, managed another lunch party and a great Mexican welcome dinner.  It took all my stamina to keep up with the tight schedule but it was superb to meet so many other enthusiastic cooks.  But there was no stopping Jo: she kept teaching her Pilates classes, taking her exercise sessions and even managed to pack in a country music concert – I just tried to catch up on sleep!

Penny