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Sunshine & Lollipops in Winter

January. Short drab days and long cloudy nights. Not even a twinkling star to cheer one through the darkness. My Prairie girl soul takes offence to so much grey; it aches for the sea-blue skies and blinding sun on snowdrifts.

My best remedy for what seems to be a seasonal malaise is to cook. I especially like to use citrus flavours in winter, as they help to awaken the senses and brighten things up with their acidity and even their colour.

One of my favourite January pastimes is making Seville Marmalade. I have always loved the stuff, thanks to my maternal grandfather who hails from the Scottish side of my heritage. His habit of stuffing things in my tiny mouth whilst babysitting me as a toddler is probably the largest single contribution anyone made to my palate. Marmalade, green olives, watermelon… he opened my eyes and tastebuds to the range of flavours in the world.

I have written about my marmalade making in the past, and the wonderful author of the recipe I use, in my post Wishing for Marmalade Skies . I did make marmalade this year again, adding a wee dram of Johnny Walker Black Label to the pot just before filling the jars. Next year I intend to submit a sample in the international competition in Dalemain, UK. I’d like to attend their Marmalade Festival too, at some point.

For those who aren’t marmalade fans, I have another recipe for you to enjoy. I adapted a tart recipe from Ottolenghi, a fabulous chef to use for winter inspirations with all his Mediterranean flavours.


Orange Polenta Cake is perfect for sharing, whether for afternoon tea, happy hour (with a bit of Asti Spumante) or as a dessert after a nice stew dinner. 

There is a wee bit of a marmalade flavour from the caramelized oranges on top but the cake is buttery and having a bit of caramel sauce with it almost makes you forget it’s winter.

It is a new year, and spring will come eventually. In the meantime, I’ll keep cooking and persevere. The smell of the oranges cooking will remind me of sunshine and lollipops and all things bright and beautiful.

Spring passes and one remembers one’s innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one’s reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.

Yoko Ono

Wishing for marmalade skies

img_0431It’s another grey blustery day here – this shot is one I took on last year’s holiday in Jamaica. As my bones and I pine for warmer climes and more spectacular sunsets, I search for activities to brighten the day. Thankfully, it’s Seville orange season! So I might not be able to have marmalade skies, but I can have my marmalade on toast. That is, if I get to work and replenish my stock!

Those of you who know me have probably tasted my marmalade if you like the stuff. Many people don’t, I have discovered – more for me, I say! If we don’t know each other personally, I will apologize here and now: I’m sorry, but this is a recipe I don’t share. It was given to me in trust by an Englishwoman who made it regularly for her guests. She and her husband owned a lovely B & B in the Maritimes that I was fortunate enough to visit one summer long ago. They were a charming couple – he a Canadian who served overseas in World War II and her a war bride doing community work, whose husband was killed in service with the RAF. They met again after the war when he came back to London as a widower and connected. Happy endings don’t get any better than that, I think – although they did joke ruefully about their paradoxical plan to “relax as owners of a b & b”. They don’t own the place anymore, but it is still there and still looks as lovely. If I ever get back to that neck of the woods I will certainly visit, and I do recommend you check out Fairmont House in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia.  It’s a quaint seaside town south of Halifax; it was the perfect end to a day on a summer cycling trip.

Now that we are in the world of the internet, you can find endless recipes for a good old-fashioned marmalade. The recipe I have takes 3 days to make – it is not for the faint at heart. But it’s a very heartwarming effort on cold grey winter days.

So, here I go! If anyone wants to come for tea on Thursday afternoon, I’m sure there will be a few spoonfuls to enjoy. I might even make biscuits to put it on!


Ta ta for now 🙂


Sharing something special

Do you have recipes that are family secrets? Is there some “secret sauce” or “Aunt Mabel’s noodle casserole” that you are sworn not to share?? In today’s world of the Internet and cookbooks at Costco and chefs on Twitter, how could there be any secrets left, I wonder… I would love to know your feedback on this.

The closest thing I have to a secret recipe is one I was given by a charming English lady at a bed and breakfast in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. It is for traditional English marmalade, and I wanted it to preserve the memory of the full English breakfast she served my companion and I on our cycling holiday along the south coast. I have made it every year since, and I cherish every spoonful.

Mahone Bay, a picture-perfect town south of Halifax, Nova Scotia

It could be said that keeping this recipe close to my heart doesn’t matter much, as I have found that many people don’t even like marmalade.Certainly a recipe that takes 3 days is a harder sell.

day 2 - separating the pips, pulp and peel, then chopping the peel finely. Sticky work!

But I like the idea of having something special that I can share with those special people. My Aunt Myrna makes marmalade on the Sunshine Coast, along with her many other efforts to preserve and share from her kitchen. My Mom makes it, too – most often when she hasn’t been able to visit me, as I am happy to share. (I can’t eat 10 jars a year.) And every once in a while I run into another avid fan and I get to share a bit of sunshine in a jar with them and know they will smile over their next piece of toast.

This year's harvest - the big jar stays in my fridge!

They say that many cultures are unified by the traditions of food, even when other elements like religion or politics can divide them. No wonder we use the word “comfort” when we speak of food; it is not only sustenance for our physical system, but emotional sustenance as well. (Anyone who got their heart broken and consumed a tub of Haagen Daz in one sitting can attest to that!) Perhaps the traditions surrounding food are part of what keep any secrets or special ingredients a part of family and cultural history.

Do you have favourite foods that you can only get in one place? Are there secret recipes or ingredients that you use? Please share your opinions and comments!

By the way, I am happy to trade secrets, if you happen to be a marmalade fan 🙂

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