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Orange cake

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Orange cake is one of my all-time favourites. I have an old family recipe which my mother used to make and I love. I have entered it enough times in the Show (many years ago) to know that it isn’t a Show recipe, but I hope that the recipe below will bring you more luck! This recipe is adapted from an old madiera cake recipe.

Ingredients

120 g butter
120 g sugar (use caster sugar for Show work)
grated rind of an orange
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
180 g Self Raising Flour

Method

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Beat the butter and sugar on high speed in Mixmaster or KitchenAid until lighter in colour and creamy in texture.
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Add the orange rind and mix well. Add the eggs one at a time to avoid curdling. Reduce speed to minimal (or hand mix), and add the flour and milk, alternatively, starting and ending with the flour. Fold in the flour and milk, do not beat.

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Place mixture into a greased and lined cake tin. Cook approximately 45 minutes, or until the mixture comes away from the sides of the pan, and springs back to the touch.

Cook on a wire cooler (covered with a tea towel for Show work), and ice with orange icing when completely cool.

Sweet orange marmalade

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Orange marmalade is one of the most popular preserves, and one of the easiest to make, however as with all marmalades, there are tips and tricks to get a successful outcome. For this recipe I have used navel oranges, which are highly recommended, and will give the best outcome. I also grow Seville oranges which make an excellent marmalade, and these come into season very late and well after other winter citrus, around August/September. There are many different methods of making orange marmalade, and the one below is simple to follow and works consistently. For show work, some exhibitors make a jelly marmalade using the squeezed juice and very thinly sliced in very fine strips, which is very difficult to jell, but spectacular when it works and the fine strips of orange skin are suspended in the jelly.

For this recipe I used five oranges, the juice of one lemon, and sugar, lots of sugar. Apart from taste, sugar is a preserving agent, and an important part of the chemical process which sets a jam, jelly or marmalade. Getting a preserve to set is a magical combination of sugar, acid and pectin, which in the right combination, and at the right temperature, sets to give jams and marmalades that distinctive texture or jell. With a sweet orange marmalade, the juice of a lemon will often be necessary to provide the necessary acid.

Method

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Top and tail the oranges, cut in half or quarters lengthwise, and slice the oranges as thinly as possible. Place in a bowl and cover with water. I do this by feel and experience, and there is not specific amount of water. Bear in mind that a lot of the liquid will be boiled off.

Soak the oranges in the water overnight or for at least four to five hours. If you are using oranges with seeds (naval oranges don’t normally have seeds), these need to be removed and soaked separately in a small container to remove the pectin. Strain the seeds after soaking, and add the liquid to the rest of the mixture.

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After soaking, boil the orange slices, uncovered, for one hour. This is an important step, and is needed to ensure that the orange slices will be tender.

After cooking, test the mixture for pectin content, the amount of which determines the amount of sugar to be added. To do this, add one teaspoon of the cooked orange liquid to three teaspoons of methylated spirits, and tip onto a plate. If there is one big clot of the fruit mixture, you can add the sugar cup for cup. If there are smaller clots (see picture), add 3/4 sugar per cup of fruit mixture. If there are no clots, you have a problem and are unlikely to get the marmalade to set. Add more lemon than you otherwise would to give it a chance of setting.

After adding the sugar, put back on the heat, but ensure that all of the sugar is fully dissolved before it boils. If you have a candy thermometer (strongly recommended), add it now.

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Once the sugar is dissolved, boil rapidly until the marmalade jells. This will take approximately 20 minutes.

As the marmalade approaches the setting point (104 degrees Celsius), the bubbles will change and you will see a rolling boil. It will also send up the occasional spit. At this point, being testing for jelling, and also keep stirring to prevent the marmalade from sticking to the bottom and edges of the pan.

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Once the marmalade is set, remove from the heat, and allow to sit for 5 minutes.

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Pour into heated, sterilised bottles (after sterilisation, heat for 15- 20 minutes in the oven at 150 degrees), then lid immediately.

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Anzac biscuits

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Anzac biscuits are an Australian and New Zealand Anzac Day tradition. There are as many recipes around as there are stories as to the origins of the biscuits. Legend says that they were made to send to the troops in World War I serving in Europe, but it seems that the original biscuit, or tiles, as they were called, were much harder and long lasting with more basic ingredients. Interestingly, the name “Anzac” is protected in Australia with an exemption for the biscuits, provided they stay true to the original recipe. Although rolled oats, sugar, coconut, flour, butter and golden syrup and bicarbonate of soda are now key ingredients (never eggs), coconut was not included in the original tile recipe, available on the Australian War Memorial website. There are a lot of recipe variations available, but they should still contain the traditional ingredients, not macadamias, ginger, chocolate, and all manner of other things. Some recipes use less sugar than this, but I checked this against the recipe published by the Australian War Memorial, which also uses one cup of sugar, but amend to your own taste.

This recipe made 27 generous sized biscuits, in three batches. It’s quick and easy and a great one for the kids to make on this special day.

Ingredients

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup plain flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
pinch salt
125 grams butter
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Method

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Mix together in a bowl the first five dry ingredients. Melt the butter, golden syrup and water in a saucepan or microwave, then add the bicarb soda and mix well, which will bubble up. Add this to the dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon.

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Roll into small balls and put on a baking tray, flattening the balls with a fork.

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Bake for 12-15 minutes in moderate oven (180 degrees), checking after 12 minutes. When golden brown, remove from oven and allow to sit for a few minutes, then slide onto a cooling tray. The easiest way to do this if the biscuits are still hot is to slide them off the baking tray still on the baking paper. As they cool, they will crisp up and harden.

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Show cooking hints

Ensure you sift the flour and bicarb soda (not together!) before adding to their respective mixes. Check that the balls are the same size, and put fewer on the baking tray so that they don’t touch during cooking. The judges will be looking for a medium sized biscuit (not too big or small), evenly cooked, with a great flavour. Crispness of the biscuits is an important characteristic, so ensure that they are flat enough to crisp up as they cool.

Mango Chutney

Mango chutney recipes abound, and in my long experience of seeing Show entries, they are the most closely guarded within families of any recipes, particularly in Queensland! So many of us have mango trees in the backyard, and recipes are handed down through the generations. Mango chutney is the chutney I mainly remember my mother making, but sadly the recipe died with her over 30 years ago. The recipe I am using here is adapted from one of my cookery heroes, Miss Amy Schauer. Miss Schauer was a big figure in my childhood, with her Schauer Cookery Book, Improved Eighth Edition, 1939, figuring large in my kitchen escapades, and everything I cooked as a child (ie cakes) came from the book. It was not only my mother’s favourite cook book, it was her only cookbook. When I last counted a long time ago, I had over 300 cookbooks, and I had to stop collecting them in the same quantity, mainly for space reasons. How much things have changed! I was particularly impressed as a child that Miss Schauer had “graciously consented to the reproduction of her photograph” in that edition. She was a very kindly looking lady, and I looked at her often. The fact that this was my mother’s only cookery book (at least that I recall) puts into context that I spilt water on the pages as a little girl, causing a subsequent deterioration, which meant it hasn’t aged well. I still feel guilty about that. For my mother and Miss Schauer. Hopefully I have redeemed myself by now, but I still well remember how awful I felt to have damaged the book, and how cross my mother was!

But back to the mango chutney recipe, which I have adapted from another of Miss Schauer’s wonderful works, The Schauer Fruit Preserving Book, no date, but around the 60’s or 70’s. You can still pick up a copy of this small paperback at a second hand store or Lifeline Bookfest if you are lucky.
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The original recipe specifies 24 green mangos, but the mangos of the time must have been significantly smaller than my R2E2 and Kensington Pride giants from the backyard from trees that are from recent breeding stock. I used around ten, as you can see from the photo. Mango chutney recipes are necessarily vague, as they are often used (at least in my case!), to use up excess mangos from the backyard, or from a tray which we can often buy in Queensland, so you can vary the recipe a little.

Ingredients
– Mangos – around 8-10 green, verging on ripe if possible. Remove the skins, and slice the mango flesh from the stones, and chop into dice.
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– around 350- 500 g of raisins or sultanas; I used up the rest of two packets of raisins and currents which I had on hand, leftover from Christmas. Sunbeam is the best brand if you can get it.
– 1.5 kg sugar – 3 packets in other words; it sounds a lot, but the sugar is essential for preserving
– 1 head of garlic
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– ginger – here preserved is best, and one of my favourite products is a big tub of Buderim Ginger preserved ginger in syrup, which makes fantastic jams and chutneys; use a few good heaped tablespoons, chopped finely. If you can’t get this, you can often buy a similar product in the shops, or you can use a quantity of fresh ginger, grated or chopped or even a good tablespoon of powdered.
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– some chilli to give it a bite – I used a few teaspoons of chilli paste
– one bottle of vinegar – I used a 2 litre bottle of apple cider vinegar. Here opinions differ on using a white wine vinegar or malt. I like the apple cider vinegar, but it depends what I have on hand. In my Mother’s day you used plain old white vinegar or malt vinegar most of the time, depending on the recipe.
– the original recipe said 2 ounces of salt, which is around 60 grams. Salt is important for preservation, so you do need to use around this amount for preservation and for flavour, as frightening as it appears to modern readers!

Method
Boil all of the ingredients for around 1 1/2 – 2 hours until it reaches a thick, chutney like consistency, but remember that it will thicken once it cools. Chutney has a nasty tendency to stick very badly at the end and burn on the bottom, so be careful! If this happens, don’t scrape it up with the spoon and stir it in; you can save the chutney by pouring it off.

This is as you begin cooking...

This is as you begin cooking…


It should look something like this at the end.

It should look something like this at the end.

Pour into sterilised, heated jars, and immediately put the lids on.
This recipe made ten 500 gram jars. While chutney improves with age, be careful in a hot humid climate, and store preserves in the fridge where possible. Always store in the fridge after opening.
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Apricot Jam

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It’s the end of stone fruit season, and there is just time to make jam with some fabulous summer fruit! This recipe is very similar to that used for plum or fig jam, and the same principles apply. Although there are several ways of making apricot jam, my favourite technique is using the sugaring method, which I am describing below. It produces a great result, although apricot jam is very fickle, and it’s all too easy to make Burnt Apricot Jam instead. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s not exactly Show material! This is a simple recipe, but good, and the resulting jam has a lovely sweet and tart flavour in equal parts, and lasts well.

Ingredients are apricots, water, and a lemon.

Take a quantity of apricots, preferably just ripe – I used 800 grams. If they are too ripe the jam won’t jell, and I will deal with the reasons for this in a separate post. Then cut the apricots in halves or quarters, and take out the stones. You can also peel them (scald in boiling water), but I don’t normally do this. Then take an equal amount of sugar, and sprinkle the half the sugar over the cut apricots in layers. Leave overnight, or at least 4-6 hours. By then the apricots should render a lot of juice. Add the apricots to a preserving pan with the remainder of the sugar, and heat gently until the sugar is dissolved. Add the strained juice of one lemon; more if you increase the quantity of apricots. The mixture mustn’t be allowed to boil until the sugar is all dissolved and if necessary, add a little water to assist the process – I added around a cup as the mixture was too thick, and wouldn’t have had time to boil enough before jelling. Stir with a wooden spoon during this part of the process. Allow to come to jelling point, and test for setting point either with a jelly thermometer (104 degrees), or if the mixture “sheets” off the wooden spoon, or wrinkles when cooled on a plate and a finger is run through. Apricot jam will suddenly jell, so watch carefully after around 15-20 minutes. It also has a tendency to burn, so watch carefully for this, and stir frequently. The time taken to jell will be somewhere around 20 minutes, depending on your quantity of apricots, and a few other factors including how quickly it is boiled.
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Bottle immediately into hot, sterilised jars, and lid straight away.

All in all, my 800 grams of apricots made just over two jars of jam. Perhaps not the most economical, but a delicious result, and apricots, figs and plums make outstanding jam.