But at this time of year they are pretty important. This is the marmalade-making season, when Seville oranges are briefly available and at their best.
I use a recipe from Jocasta Innes ‘The Country Kitchen’ (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979), which explains the various ways of preparing the thick, hard skin of oranges and establishes the principle of cooking everything slowly until the sugar goes in and quickly afterwards.
Innes also tells us how a preserve of oranges came to be created in the town of Dundee in the last years of the 19th century. Thus:
‘A certain John Keiller, grocer, was wondering whether he had not acted a bit rashly in buying up a shipload of Seville oranges on the cheap. Fortunately, it occurred to his wife that by cooking them up according to her mother’s recipe for quince marmalet (from the Portuguese ‘marmelo’, or quince) the best part of the cargo might be preserved. She experimented. The results were so gratifying that news of Mrs Keiller’s orange preserve or marmalade soon spread. Thus the Keillers made their name and fortune, Seville oranges found their noblest use and marmalade became permanently associated with Scotland and citrus fruit.’
Two of our favourite cakes are also made from (sweeter) oranges; navel oranges for the first cake and, unusually, boiled clementines for the second.
St. Clement’s Cake
This began its life as Nigel Slater’s recipe for demerara lemon cake (in The Kitchen Diaries 2005). I substituted olive oil for the butter and used equal proportions of light rye and ground almonds instead of wholemeal flour. It evolved further into St Clement’s cake when I had only one lemon but plenty of oranges. This version stays wonderfully moist and has pieces of juicy fruit peel dispersed throughout the cake. Sliced thinly, it makes a lovely tea time cake. A thicker piece, served with cream or crème fraîche and an extra spoonful of the syrup, serves as a glamorous pudding.
For the cake:
olive oil 160g
raw cane sugar 200g
light rye flour 90g
ground almonds 90g
baking powder half a tsp
half a large lemon and half a large orange
large eggs 4
For the topping and syrup:
half a lemon and half an orange, plus the juice from 1 lemon or 1 orange
raw cane sugar or honey 6 tablespoons
water 6 tablespoons
Use a large rectangular loaf tin or a round 10" cake tin and line it with with baking parchment unless it is truly non-stick.
Topping and syrup: Slice the lemon and orange very thinly, removing the pips, and cut the slices so that the pieces are no more than 2cm. Put them in a saucepan with the extra juice, sugar and water. Bring to the boil and keep boiling for 5 minutes or more, until the fruit pieces are sticky and the liquid has become syrup. Scoop out all but a few of the fruit pieces; reserve them to place on top of the cake before baking.
Cake: Weigh the flour and ground almonds and mix them together with the baking powder. Grate the zest of the orange and the lemon and add them to the flour mixture.
Beat together the sugar and eggs in a food mixer until well blended. Keep blending, more slowly if you can, while you stream in the olive oil. The idea is to keep some of the air trapped while you add the oil, but don’t worry if it drops back.
Use a large metal spoon to fold the almond and flour mixture into the oil, sugar and egg mixture. Scoop the mixture into the loaf tin and lay the reserved pieces of fruit (from the syrup) over the top of the cake. Some will stay on the top and brown and others will sink into the mixture.
Bake for around 1 hour at 150˚C, until risen and golden. Insert a metal skewer. If it comes out clean, the cake is done. When it has cooled, spike the top of the cake with a metal skewer and pour two tablespoons of the syrup, and the remaining fruit pieces, over the top of it. Keep any remaining syrup to pour over later servings.
Nigella’s Clementine Cake
This clementine cake, from Unwrapped: Green & Black’s Chocolate Recipes, is a new addition to the menu on breadmaking courses and it’s a big hit, so here to stay. One for the gluten-free and dairy-free repertoire.
Don’t be tempted to serve this cake warm. Once it has cooled the texture becomes moist and the flavours of the almonds and oranges have taken hold. It is best served the day after it is made.
Clementines with their skins on 4 or 5 weighing 375g
large eggs 6
ground almonds 250g
baking powder heaped teaspoon
good quality dark chocolate 100g (Orange or Cardamom from The Chocolate Tree are perfect for this)
Put the clementines in a saucepan, cover with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for about 2 hours. Drain and set aside to cool. The cut each Clementine in half and remove the pips. Then pulp everything – skins, pith and the fruit in a food processor.
Preheat the oven to 190º/375ºF/gas mark 5. Line a 20cm (8in)* springform cake tin with greaseproof paper.
Beat the eggs. Add the sugar, almonds and baking powder. Mix well, add the pulped clementines, then stir together. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 1 hour or until a skewer comes out clean. Cover the cake with foil or greaseproof paper after about 40 minutes to prevent the top from burning. Remove from the oven and grate the chocolate over the top of the cake while still in the tin. Leave to cool completely. Remove from the tin and store in an airtight container.
That Chocolate Beetroot Cake
The original version of this comes from Annette Gibbons’ Home Grown in Cumbria (Zymurgy publishing 2005), a guide to some of the best growers and producers in Cumbria, along with recipes that do their produce justice.
Annette describes herself as a ‘professional cook, not a chef’ and health is an important consideration in her recipes.
Predictably, I’ve adapted this to use organic olive oil rather than sunflower oil. A mixture of light rye flour with baking powder and ground almonds replaces the self-raising flour. Save time and effort by roasting the beetroot, whole or halved. Simply scrub them well, cut off the knobbliest part of the top and base and leave the skin on; it will simply lift off when the beetroot has been roasted in some good olive or vegetable oil.
cocoa powder 65g
half-and-half light rye flour and ground almonds, with a pinch of salt 275g
and baking powder 10g
caster sugar 220g
olive oil 300ml
vanilla extract 1 teaspoon
medium sized eggs, beaten 3
cooked beetroot, grated 250g
Sift the cocoa powder, flour, salt, baking powder, ground almonds and sugar together.
Whisk the olive oil, vanilla essence and eggs together until they thicken. It may take five minutes or more of whisking to emulsify and begin to look like mayonnaise.
Add the beetroot and mix well with the dry ingredients. It will turn a vivid purple colour.
Pour into two prepared 7” sandwich tins or one deep tin.
Bake in a preheated oven at 190C (gas mark 5 or 375 F).
Sandwich cakes will take about 35 minutes and deeper cakes longer.
dark chocolate 150g
double cream 150ml
Double these quantities if you want to cover the top as well as filling the cake. Use the best ingredients you can get hold of. Montezuma’s 73% cocoa dark couverture is my favourite chocolate for baking.
Warm the cream in a saucepan until it is almost boiling. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate, stirring it while it melts. Whisk the mixture until it becomes glossy. (A mixer will do this in a minute or two.) Use the ganache to sandwich the two cakes and (if you wish) to cover the top. For a special occasion, I sometimes decorate this cake with little beetroots, made from marzipan and coloured with the beetroot juice.
The Bread Matters’ Zucchini Loaf
This zuchini loaf was devised by Andrew to make something delicious from the glut of courgettes we often have in the summer.
Each loaf (raised with baking powder, it is really a cake) takes only 150g of courgette, so it won't use all the excess produce - or sneak much courgette into the diet of resistant family members.
We always use the small (400g) Bread Matters loaf tins for what is now the zucchini or green-tomato loaf. The equivalent of a ‘one pound’ loaf tin, it is deeper and narrower than anything you’re likely to find in the home-baking section of a cookshop. This high-sided shape makes it ideal for baking a perfectly-formed Borodinsky, seeded rye or wholemeal tin as well as turning out a bold, well-risen cake.
Most vegetable gardeners have a story about over-production. My favourite comes from a baking friend Angus who told us that, in the part of rural Canada he comes from, the only time his neighbours ever lock their cars is during the zuchini glut. They never worry that anyone will steal belongings from their parked car or pickup, but they won’t run the risk of finding a generous truck-load of courgettes stowed in it when they return.
In 2012 we produced a vast number of green tomatoes and substituted some very successfully, for the zuchini. Whichever moist green vegetable you choose, the cake will be delicious on its own, good with cheese and freeze well.
to make two 660g loaves (which fit perfectly into 400g loaf tins)
Olive Oil 200
Raw Cane Sugar 400
Courgette (grated) 600
Flour (Light Rye) 600
Baking Powder 25
Cardamom (ground) 45
Beat the egg and sugar together until slightly fluffy. Then drizzle in the oil allowing the mixture to absorb some before adding more. The mix will be fairly liquid but should be smooth and a little aerated. Add the grated courgette and stir briefly. Sift together the dry ingredients and add them to the mix. Finally, add the raisins and walnuts and mix until everything is well-distributed.
Deposit into greased and floured baking tins (or non-stick ones). The mix should come between half way and two-thirds of the way up the sides of the tin. Put immediately into an oven pre-heated to about 190 °C/375°F. Baking will take about 30 minutes. If the top is taking too much colour before the middle of the loaf is done (as tested with a skewer), cover it with a sheet of silicone paper or similar.
The recipe includes salt because, unlike most baking fats (butter, margarine etc) oil doesn’t come with added salt. You can, of course, leave it out but you may feel that the flavour of the finished loaf ‘lacks something’.