January has all the potential to be a sullen, dour month.
The result of Christmas excess combined with grey, wet skies and tax returns could dampen the spirits.
But in the food world a couple of sparkling arrivals will brighten up the dullest day.
Seville oranges are now available in green grocers and perfect for making marmalade. Making this orange confection seems to have gone out of fashion in recent times but what would gladden the heart more than the aroma from a vat of bubbling, rich citrus in sugar?
There’s work involved in making any jam and marmalade is at the high maintenance end of the spectrum. Oranges are boiled, the pith and pulp mixed into the boiling liquor with sugar, strained and boiled with the peel that’s been cut into fine slices. It takes a while but you’ll have jars that resemble a fiery, deep sunset. There’s nothing as fulfilling as spreading jam or marmalade that you’ve made onto hot buttered toast. I’ve included a basic recipe for marmalade. You could pep it up by adding spices like cardamom and ginger or a toot of whiskey or gin but it’s entirely up to you. It can also be used as an ingredient in many dishes. A couple of tablespoons will add a delicious zing to roast pork or duck gravy.
At this time of year you want food that comforts the soul and nothing does that better than soft, sticky ribs.
My other recipe, using the marmalade, is for bacon ribs with a marmalade and whiskey glaze.
Soft salty bacon with a coating of rich spicy orange. Serve with some buttered cabbage and plenty of spuds to brighten up a week day dinner.
You won’t get bacon ribs in the supermarket but any good butcher will be able to get them for you with a bit of notice.
Another arrival to the January food scene mightn’t come from the exotic climes of southern Spain but is exciting nonetheless.
Forced rhubarb from Yorkshire is arriving in the shops now.
It’s beautiful, delicate pink stems look and taste divine. Its one of life’s blessings that a Yorkshire grower decided to place a bucket on early rhubarb shoots and trick them into coming up months earlier than they should.
The resulting perfectly pert, ruby stems would brighten the darkest heart.
There’s an area in the county of Yorkshire known as the rhubarb triangle, that straddles the towns of Wakefield, Morley and Rothwell.
Nowadays, with growing demand, the bucket has been replaced with dark or candlelit sheds, within this area, where the rhubarb grows prolifically.
This treasure isn’t around for long. You can buy forced rhubarb from a Dutch hot house, all year round but it doesn’t quite have the same mystique and charm.
Serendipitously rhubarb and new season oranges are the perfect match.
I’ve paired them in my other recipe this week with a yoghurt and orange mousse. Clandeboye yoghurt is produced on the Clandeboye estate, outside Bangor from Jersey cow milk. It’s creamy and tangy as good yoghurt should be and the perfect foil for the sweetened rhubarb. Serve with some shortcake for a light dessert.
Make the most of these treasures – they’re only here for a short time.