Sunday, January 21, 2007

QUOTE OF THE DAY: " I got the blues thinking of the future, so I left off and made some marmalade. It's amazing how it cheers one up to shred oranges and scrub the floor. "
D.H. Lawrence


READING:
The Second Wife by Elizabeth Buchan is the story of Minty Lloyd, second wife of Nathan Lloyd, and mother of five-year old twin boys. Minty is an intelligent ambitious young woman who worked in magazine/news publishing. Her immediate boss, Rose, and she had been close friends until she embarked on a passionate affair with Rose's husband, culminating in him leaving his wife and marrying Minty.Before the marriage Rose is fired by the company and Minty takes over her job. She has been the ultimate bitch having stolen both her friend's job and husband. Relationships between Minty and her adult step-children are fraught to say the least as she is regarded, with justification as a home-wrecker.

Following the birth of the twins she works part-time, and wishes to work full time, but her husband is against it. She becomes slightly obsessed that he now regrets marrying her, and imagines

he is having an "affair" with his ex-wife. It begins to dawn on her that marriage is a complicated business, and when Nathan dies suddenly of a heart attack she is forced to come to terms with her past behaviour, and with the realities of being a parent. Ironically the person she is most able to share her loss and grief with is her former friend Rose, Nathan's first wife. A light, undemanding read with some nice touches about corporate life and the role of women today, as well as some sharply perceptive insights into marriage, divorce and jealousy.


RANTING:

In our society a handshake does many different things; it can seal an agreement, show respect, welcome a stranger, greet a friend or acquaintance, and convey congratulations. From the highest to the lowest in society the handshake is a commonplace. The Queen probably shakes more hands than anyone else in the country, with the Prime Minister and other members of the Royal Family following closely behind her in the handshaking stakes. But we all do it, all the
time.

One of the proudest days of my life was seeing my daughter get her Masters degree, dignified with a handshake from the Chancellor of her University. Years earlier, I saw my husband being given an award for bravery with an accompanying handshake. When I am introduced to someone I expect to shake their hand in greeting, it is expected, courteous behaviour, and not to do so would be rude.

So what on earth did the young woman who has just joined the British Police think she was doing by her refusal to shake hands with the Metropolitan Commissioner of Police (in effect her boss) during the official passing out ceremony. She refused to do so, saying that as a Muslim she could not shake hands or kiss any man other than her husband or members of her immediate family.

What the f***?? She wasn’t being asked to give him a full snog, she wasn’t even being asked to give him a peck on the cheek, she wasn’t expected to exchange mwah, mwah air kisses. She was just expected to behave like her fellow constables and give a quick formal handshake during an official ceremony. A handshake, in our society, carries no sexual connotations whatsoever.

We are being told by Muslim leaders that we need to understand and approve her behaviour in the context of Muslim culture, and Commissioner Blair is being criticised by them for “failing to understand the Muslim religion.” I think these leaders should be told, politely, that we do understand the Muslim religion, but that in this country there are certain cultural norms that must be met, and in certain situations a handshake is one of them.

We are being told that she would lay hands on a man during an arrest if it were necessary, and even that she would be prepared to give mouth to mouth resuscitation in a life-or-death situation. But are we SURE? Would she put a comforting arm round a young (or old) man who had lost a family member in a car accident?, would she take the hand of a man who was mentally ill, and lead him towards the car taking him to hospital? We should be sure of what our police would or wouldn’t do – like the old saw about the Man on the Clapham Omnibus – we need to be totally confident in our police .
I, for one, am not sure how she would behave in an emergency - so sad to say, I think the police force should ask her to leave their ranks forthwith.

RECIPE:

Every January I make marmalade, enough to last the household for a year, and with a few extra jars to give away. Although marmalade can be made with any citrus fruit, I think the best marmalade is made with Seville Oranges - these are bitter oranges which have a very short season and are only available here in January/February. Marmalade making is much easier than people suppose, and is very satisfying. When I survey the shiny labelled jars full of golden orange I have a real sense of connection to women in the past who did not have supermarkets and convenience stores, and had to make their own preserves or do without.

NOTES ON MARMALADE AND JAM MAKING

Firstly, make sure you have plenty of jam jars, waxed preserving discs etc, and beg, borrow or buy a heavy bottomed jam pan. Even a largish saucepan will not really be big enough as the mixture boils up very high.

It will be easier to pot your marmalade if you have a jam funnel – if you don’t have one but are likely to make jams and jellies in the future it is worth buying one. Any good kitchen supply shop will stock them, and you can buy them on-line too.

The sugar you use does NOT have to be preserving sugar, but it should be cane sugar not sugar made from sugar beets. I have found that cane sugar gives a clear gel to the marmalade or jam whereas beet sugar can give a cloudy gel. In the UK cane sugar is supplied by Tate & Lyle, whereas all the sugar supplied by Silver Spoon is made from sugar beet.

Sugar dissolves more quickly if it is warm, for that reason I often put the measured amount of sugar into a very low oven for 10 minutes before adding it to the liquid.

A simple method of testing whether a jam or marmalade has reached setting point is to place a few small saucers into the fridge to chill. When you think the marmalade has boiled long enough to be ready to set, switch off the heat, take a teaspoon of the liquid and pour it onto a chilled saucer and return it to the fridge for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes take it out and gently push at the gel in the saucer, if it wrinkles up then you have reached setting point and can pot up. If the gel is still liquid, put the jam pan back on to boil for a further 5-10 minutes, and then do the test again.

Do not put hot marmalade or jam into cold glass jars, they will shatter. Make sure the jars are clean and dry and then warm them in a low oven whilst you are boiling the marmalade.

MY BEST MARMALADE

This makes about 10 jars

1.4 Kg Seville oranges
2.75 Kg granulated sugar
2.25l water

Plus

300ml water

Wash all grime and dirt off the oranges, scrub if necessary, and remove the green calyx from the stalk end. Place the cleaned fruit into the jam pan and cover with 2.25 litres cold water. Cover the pan as tightly as possible with aluminium foil to stop evaporation, and bring to the boil. Simmer very gently for 1½ to 2½ hours until the fruit is very soft, remove from the heat. [At this point you can leave the fruit in the liquid overnight or for up to 24 hours.]

Using a slotted spoon, remove the fruit from the liquid in the pan, and place on a chopping board; cut in half and remove the pips and any obvious pieces of membrane into a small saucepan. With a sharp knife cut the peel into fine pieces and put back into the pan with the liquid. Cover the pips and fruit pulp in the small saucepan with 300ml water and bring to the boil, simmer for 15 minutes and then carefully strain the liquid into the jam pan pressing the juice through with a wooden spoon and discard the pips and membranes.

Put the jam pan over low heat, and when the contents are warm, add the sugar. Stir gently until the sugar is all dissolved.

Then boil fiercely for 15 -20 minutes. Test for a set. If the marmalade has reached setting point let it rest, off the heat, for about 10 minutes before potting it up in the clean warm jars. Seal the top of each jar with a waxed disc whilst the marmalade is still hot.

You can easily vary the type of marmalade by varying the citrus you use, as long as the weight ratios remain the same. For Three Fruit Marmalade use a mixture of Seville oranges, lemons and grapefruit; For a lighter sweeter marmalade use half quantities of Seville oranges and ordinary sweet oranges.

For something extra special you can add 2-3 tablespoons of whiskey or Cointreau to marmalade after it has reached setting point, and stir in before potting up.


1 comment:

bloglily said...

thanks for this wonderful recipe. Our meyer lemon bushes are full of fruit and it's time to do something with all those lemons! This seems perfect.