Nigel Slater’s jelly recipes

13 Jul
Soft on fruit: Nigel Slater’s apricot jelly recipe. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin for the Observer

Soft on fruit: Nigel Slater’s apricot jelly recipe. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin for the Observer

A hectic week, with a little too much on my plate and the feeling that everything was in danger of spinning out of control. I decided to make jelly. There is something entirely frivolous about the idea of setting fruit juice so that it wobbles on your spoon. No one needs jelly. It is there simply to amuse and delight. Making jelly is escapist cooking. Like trifles, whim-whams and blancmanges, they are there simply for fun.

The stone fruits – particularly peaches, nectarines and apricots – are in fine fettle at the moment. I bought flat white peaches this week that smelled like roses, and apricots that had an almost wine-like scent. The peaches ended up in a softly set jelly of elderflower cordial; the apricots were warmed with a splash of orange, then crushed and embedded in juice set with very little gelatine. A grown-up version of the much-loved mandarin-orange jelly of my childhood.

Take it easy on the sugar and pick your fruits wisely – redcurrants or blackcurrants, stone fruits, rhubarb or oranges – and you get an extraordinary clarity of colour and vibrancy of flavour. (The acidity in currants can affect the set, so a few more sheets of gelatine are required.) Leaf or sheet gelatine, the sort that comes in paper envelopes rather than as fine powder in sachets, is the sort I prefer. It is a doddle to use. Just soak the leaves in cold water for five minutes until they have collapsed and softened, then lift the result out of the water and stir it into warm juice or a mixture of juice and wine. It really couldn’t be easier.

I make mine the day I intend to eat them, giving them a maximum of six hours in the fridge. Any longer, even overnight, and they firm up just a little too much. In my book, a jelly should quiver rather than bounce.

Apricot jelly

Ripeness is all with this fruit, but if you are working with less than perfect specimens, as is sometimes the case, cook them for a few minutes longer than in the recipe below, sweetening them with a tablespoon or so of caster sugar.

Serves 4
apricots 500g
orange juice 500ml (6 medium oranges)
leaf gelatine 12g (6 sheets)
caster sugar 1 tbsp
double cream 250ml
rose petals (optional)

Finely grate the zest of one of the oranges on to a plate and set aside.

Cut each apricot in half, discard the stone, then put the fruit in a medium-sized saucepan. Pour in 4 tbsp of the orange juice and let the apricots cook, partially covered with a lid, for 10 minutes or until they are vivid in colour and soft enough to pureé.

Crush the apricots with a fork, so they are part way between chopped fruit and purée. Spoon the fruit into a shallow serving dish, about 22-24cm in diameter.

Soak the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water, pushing the leaves under the water one at the time to prevent them from sticking.

 ‘Pick your fruits wisely and you get an extraordinary clarity of colour and vibrancy of flavour,’ says Nigel Slater. Above: his white peach and elderflower jellies recipe. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin/Observer

‘Pick your fruits wisely and you get an extraordinary clarity of colour and vibrancy of flavour,’ says Nigel Slater. Above: his white peach and elderflower jellies recipe. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin/Observer

Warm the orange juice in a saucepan, but do not let it boil. Remove the gelatine from the water – it should be a squishy lump – and stir it into the hot orange juice. When the gelatine has completely dissolved, pour over the crushed apricots and allow to cool. Transfer to the fridge and leave for a couple of hours to set.

Put the grated orange and the sugar into a food processor and blitz for a few seconds, until the sugar has turned a pale-orange colour. Alternatively crush the sugar and orange zest together using a pestle and mortar. Stop when the zest has lightly coloured and perfumed the sugar.

To serve, softly whip the cream (not so stiff it can stand in peaks) and place in spoonfuls around the edge of the dish. Decorate with the orange-scented sugar and, if you wish, a few rose petals.

White peach and elderflower jellies

Nectarines make a beautiful substitute if you can’t find white peaches. They are less fragrant, but their colour makes up for it. I have included a spoonful of sugar in this recipe as I feel that, despite the sweetness of the elderflower cordial, the jelly benefits from it. Leave it out if you prefer.

Makes 4
For the peaches:
white peaches 125g
lemon juice of ½

For the jelly:
leaf gelatine 10g (6 small sheets)
elderflower cordial 100ml
white wine 350ml
caster sugar 1 tbsp (optional)

Half-fill a mixing bowl with cold water then add the sheets of gelatine. If you do this one at a time, it will prevent them from sticking together. Leave the gelatine to soften for 10 minutes, in which time it becomes a clear, spongy mass.

Pour the elderflower cordial and white wine into a medium-sized saucepan, add the sugar (or not, if you prefer a sharper jelly) and warm over a moderate heat. Don’t let the mixture boil, which would affect the gelatine’s setting qualities.

Cut the peaches in half then into thin slices, discarding the stone as you go, then toss them gently in the lemon juice to prevent them from browning. Divide the peaches among four small serving dishes.

Lower the softened gelatine into the warmed cordial and wine, then stir until it has dissolved. It should disappear almost instantly. Pour into a jug then into the dishes to cover the peaches, then refrigerate for about four hours, until lightly set.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: