It is the second day of January and I sit at my desk, staring out of the window. I can see all the way down through the valley to the trees shrouded in mist. My fingers hover expectantly above my laptop keyboard, waiting for some increasingly elusive inspiration. It is hard to avoid the heavy weight of expectation that comes with the New Year. I am not talking about resolutions, more that feeling that we should enter January as if on fire.
In reality I prefer to ease myself into the year by taking stock and making a workable plan for the next few months. Like many people, I do struggle to achieve a good work/life balance, so it feels important to make the most of any quieter periods. I invite a good friend to come and stay mid January. On a particularly cold and blustery day, we visit Dungeness, exploring its post-apocalyptic architecture and barren shingle landscape in the biting wind. We watch the seagulls swoop and soar and linger a little too long at film maker Derek Jarman’s iconic cottage. Cold to our bones, we stop on our way home for blistering hot fish and chips, blowing furiously at the salty, vinegar drenched batter in our ravenous eagerness.
All too soon our adventures are over and on a damp Friday morning she returns home. Missing her sunny disposition and quiet positivity, I decide to cheer myself up and make some blood orange curd. It seems no coincidence that this rosy hued citrus fruit is in season in the bleakest of winter months. Nigel Slater’s Rye, Linseed and Treacle Bread from The Christmas Chronicles is the perfect accompaniment, so delicious I’ve made it on an almost weekly basis since November. Otherwise the curd will keep for a week in the fridge to be enjoyed spooned onto yoghurt and granola for breakfast, although in truth, it is perfectly acceptable to eat it straight from the jar.
- 3-4 blood oranges ( you will need the zest of 3 and 200ml of freshly squeezed juice)
- 2 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- 125g caster sugar
- 75g unsalted butter, diced
- pinch of salt
- squeeze of fresh lemon, to taste
- You will also need 1 or 2 jam jars with lids, sterilised (see recipe for Seville Orange Marmalade for how to sterilise)
- Finely zest 3 of the oranges, reserve a third of the zest and put the remainder in a heat proof bowl along with 200ml of freshly squeezed juice from the oranges.
- Add the whole eggs and the yolks to the bowl, along with the sugar and butter and a pinch of salt and whisk briefly to combine.
- Place the bowl over a small saucepan of shallow, gently simmering water (don't allow the bottom of the bowl to com int contact with water otherwise you'll end up with scrambled egg). Stir until the sugar has dissolved and the butter has melted.
- Stir the mixture frequently, it will take about ten minutes to thicken enough to coat the back of a spoon. It is ready when the curd creates a trail when the spoon is lifted from the bowl.
- Remove the pan from the heat and pass the curd through a fine sieve into a jug. Stir in the reserved zest and add a squeeze of lemon juice to balance the flavours.
- Pour into the sterilised jars and leave to cool completely before topping with lids and chilling.
- The curd will keep up to 10 days in the fridge.