Food: Marmalade: spreading the word

Sarah Randell
Sarah Randell

For many cooks, January brings the smell of marmalade. Kate Whiting attempts to join the club

Every year, without fail, my mum whips up a batch of the most delicious marmalade. It arrives in January - the only time of year when the bitter Seville oranges are available - and disappears by about February, spread liberally on as much toast as my household can consume.

Now I’m a mum, I feel it’s about time I popped my marmalade cherry, and got my hands sticky in the kitchen too.

Besides my own mum, help of another kind is on hand in the form of Marmalade: A Bittersweet Cookbook by Sarah Randell, food director of Sainsbury’s Magazine, who’s written some lip-smacking recipes for 
marmalade and what you can do with it - marmalade-glazed bacon sandwiches anyone?

“Marmalade is part of our British culinary psyche, it represents us on breakfast tables all over the world and is something we are, justifiably, very proud of,” she says. And according to Randell, our love of marmalade dates back to the 18th century, when it was first made commercially by the Keiller family in Scotland.

“Mrs Keiller and her husband, who was a grocer, took stock of a batch of Seville oranges from a Spanish ship that had to dock unexpectedly on the coast of Dundee. Mrs Keiller set about making them into marmalade and Mr Keiller sold it. Around the same time, home cooks were beginning to experiment with recipes for marmalade-type preserves. But the name marmalade stems from the Portuguese word ‘marmelada’, which refers to quince paste.”

Paddington Bear boosted the preserve’s profile in the Fifties with his love for marmalade sandwiches - and now the film’s doing just that again, with sales of marmalade up 88% at Waitrose.

“We always had marmalade on the breakfast table at home. We were more of a toast and marmalade family than bacon and eggs, so it has always been part of my life,” says Randell. “A few years ago, I was asked to join the judges for The World’s Original Marmalade Awards. I was fascinated by the range and variety sent in from around the world, hundreds and hundreds of jars and every one was different. I was hooked.”

Her idea of a perfect marmalade is “a bright clear jelly with tender peel suspended evenly in it - the peel should be tender but still have a slight bite”.

Her recipe for Classic Seville Orange Marmalade begins with the words, “Put the radio on”, so that’s just what I do...

But sadly, after two days of prep, I over-boil my concoction at the final stage and end up with a fragrant - but very runny - goo.

It’s disappointing after the effort, but it tastes amazing, so I pour it out into my jars and slap on labels reading ‘Kate’s Runny Marmalade’.

Make your own marmalade while Seville oranges are in town - or just try one 
of Sarah Randell’s recipes using it...


(Serves 2-3)

12 rashers of British smoked dry-cured streaky bacon

2tbsp Seville orange marmalade

A dash or two of Worcestershire sauce

Soft butter

4-6 large slices of medium-sliced white bloomer bread

Preheat the grill on a high setting. Lay the rashers of bacon on a grill pan - I put them on a silicone sheet to stop them sticking. Grill the bacon for two to three minutes on each side, until it is part cooked. Meanwhile heat the marmalade, Worcestershire sauce and a tablespoon of water in a small pan - chop the marmalade first if it has a chunky shred (I do this with a pair of scissors when it is in the pan).

Brush one side of each bacon rasher with the marmalade glaze and return them to the grill for three to four minutes, until crispy on the edges. Turn the rashers and repeat.

Butter the slices of bread generously. Top with the sizzling hot, crisp bacon, sandwich together and eat while mulling over the day that lies ahead.