Skip to Content

Cupboard love: marmalade

Ed Smith explores the essential components of his kitchen cupboard. This time: marmalade


Image: Regula Ysewijn

Every January, I tell myself I’m going to marmalade (verb) some Seville oranges. Truth is, with the exception of one year when I spent a day at catering college doing exactly that, I always reach February and there are no jars of homemade marmalade in the house. And not because I’ve eaten them already.

It’s a shame. I’d love to set aside the time to turn a box or two of oranges, rind and all, into that bittersweet confection and, in doing so, capture an uber-seasonal ingredient for the rest of the year, while briefly transforming my home into a fragrant, zesty perfumery. Life just gets in the way, doesn’t it?

Fortunately, the Market is blessed with a number of traders who’ve done the timely peeling, chopping, simmering, straining and setting on our behalf. The fantastic Rosebud Preserves stall offers a number of different marmalades, from classic Seville to one made from lemons and ginger.

Which brings us neatly on to an important question: what makes a marmalade different from a jam? It seems there’s no tight or universally agreed definition, though as a general rule we can say marmalades are made from citrus fruits and utilise both the flesh and the peel of the fruit. Also, some people claim they don’t like marmalade. This, respectfully, is madness.

A good, traditional, chunky Seville orange marmalade is one of those essential, non-negotiable store cupboard staples. A kitchen without a sticky-to-the-touch, half-full jar of the stuff is as bereft as one without mustards, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, honey, Marmite and raspberry jam. In common with those ingredients, marmalade has multiple uses, sometimes as the star player, sometimes as a vital but barely noticed support act.

It can and should be slathered on bread, toast, crumpets, tea cakes or muffins. (Incidentally, I think it’s one of the few things that can rescue cold toast, particularly in a B&B environment). Some are loud advocates of cheese and marmalade sandwiches. I’m kind of with them – soft white cheese or strong farmhouse cheddar work well, as do stilton and marmalade toasties – but I also think that if marmalade sandwiches were better with the addition of cheese, then Paddington would have made them like that.

Marmalade should be considered an ‘ingredient’, too. Here is a complex seasoning that can in an instant add layers and layers to a dish. There’s already been enough alchemy in the making of the marmalade, so very little else needs to be done to further elevate it or its new partner. The bitter and zesty citrus notes pair well with pork, chicken, duck and vegetables like carrots, parsnips and green beans – you’ll see recipes in which a teaspoon of marmalade is included as the key part of a glaze for baked hams, bacon, chipolatas, carrots or parsnips, or as a sharpener for a stew or gravy. There’s an excellent Nigel Slater recipe, where he adds three tablespoons of marmalade to the stock of a duck and turnip casserole. Yes please. And another one where six tablespoons are mixed with a little bit of mustard before being pasted over chicken legs and thighs and roasted. Super-simple, but finger-licking good.

Marmalade is something you need to keep in the cupboard for emergency baking purposes. This is a flavour that manages to be both adult and child-like when used in steamed puddings, bread and butter puddings, sponges, citrus-almond-polenta cakes, scones, buns, fluffy pancakes, muffins, madeleines or shortbread slices. It works as the key flavour in basic, buttery concoctions (like Nigella’s marmalade pudding cake, which is basically just a sponge, but the marmalade oozes out at the edges when cooked); as a way of making cocoa and chocolate desserts that little bit more interesting (think fondants and brownies); or as the sugary embellishment for things like baked pears, apples or apricots. I like marmalade swirled through dairy, too, added to the cream or yoghurt that you might serve next to any of the aforementioned baked treats, or mixed with fresh orange and spooned on top of a posset. Or, best of all, rippled through brown bread ice cream.

And so, I’ve been in something of a dilemma trying to decide what recipe to recommend to you alongside this piece. Where to begin? Savoury or sweet? Classic or ‘twisted’. Supporting act or hero ingredient? Ultimately, I felt that for all of its 21st century possibilities, an ‘old school’ recipe held most appeal: a marmalade roly-poly. Doughy, suety, fantastic with custard. Traditional yes, predictable perhaps, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

Marmalade roly-poly

Combine 220g self-raising flour, 80g shredded suet, 1 tbsp golden caster sugar and the finely grated zest of 1 orange in a large mixing bowl. Pour in 140ml fridge-cold water, then stir with a spoon or knife until the mix comes together as a sticky dough. Pat into a ball, cover, then refrigerate for 30 mins.

Heat the oven to 180C and put a tray of water at the bottom to provide some steam. Generously flour a board or your kitchen surface and roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 25cm x 20cm, and a touch over 1cm thick. Spread all but 1 tbsp of a 225g jar marmalade over the dough, then – rolling from the longer side – carefully roll into a sausage, using a little bit of water to wet the final edge and stick things together.

Carefully transfer onto a non-stick tray or dish lined with well-buttered baking parchment and cook for 45-50 mins, by which time the roll will be puffy and just a little crusty on top. It will have flattened a bit, too, but don’t worry. Mix the remaining marmalade with 2 tbsp warm water and paint over the top of the roll. Cut into thick slices and serve with custard.