Sunday, 11 November 2007

Ostensible disaster

One of the few good things about where my work is located is that it is within walking distance of South Melbourne Market. On Wednesday, I noticed that one of the stalls had apricots for $2.99 a kilo. Not great apricots, but they don't have to be.

On Friday, I duly bought some. (And some surprisingly good strawberries for $1.29, and a massive slab of Greek honey and walnut cake for $2.50. I love the market!)

Today, I attempted to turn them into jam. I followed the recipe in Delia Smith's Summer Collection by and large, though I substantially reduced the sugar. I let it get to boiling point this afternoon, wandered off, came back, noticed it was close to setting point, wandered off, came back...

Hmm. Slight burning smell.

Yes, it had caught on the bottom of the pan, and the previously beautiful, golden mixture was now the colour of Frank Cooper's Vintage Oxford Marmalade. Grumbling, I decanted it into jars, feeling pretty grumpy with myself.

Then I, and my mother, tasted it. And you know what? It was pretty good. It had caramelised, essentially, and had all sorts of interesting treacley, toffee-ish undertones. Absolutely nothing like the apricot jam that gets me drooling (Bonne Maman - the best, by far), but in its own right interesting.

I was reminded, too, of Maggie Beer's Burnt Fig Jam - or at least the idea of it.

Also accomplished today: off the cuff (i.e., no recipe, just whim) cinnamon biscuits which turned out a million times better than previous (with-recipe) attempts, and Nigel Slater's Beetroot Seed Cake.

The batter was the most extraordinary colour, not surprisingly. Again, I fiddled a bit with it because of the pantry limitations: so instead of muscovado I used raw sugar; instead of sunflower oil I used half-rice bran, half-walnut (and less than the stipulated amount); instead of beetroot I used one beetroot and 2/3rds of a carrot; instead of a mixture of seeds I used just linseeds; instead of half a tsp of cinnamon I used a tablespoon (recipes ALWAYS underestimate the cinnamon quantum)...

The lemon/orange flower water & poppyseed icing was surprisingly effective.

It turned out pretty well. I've been informed that I can make it again, which is always a good sign.