Who wudda thunk it

Thanks to my brother-in-law, I have now come across, and sampled, what must be the most unusual use for marmalade yet: pasta. He found the recipe in Food&Wine, and gave me a heads up to add the marmalade with discretion (he followed the 2 tablespoon recommendation, which turned out to be too much). I made it last night, and it works; it definitely works.

Start by frying some chopped up bacon (the original calls for pancetta, but anything porky, cured and with some fat will do the job), and once the fat is rendered and you’ve got some good colour on it (or, when the kitchen smells of breakfast), add a lot of very thinly sliced onion and a good handful of chopped, fresh rosemary. This needs to cook gently for 10-15 minutes, or until the onions are nicely caramelised. I added a good slug of chardonnay to help it along.

The recipe doesn’t use garlic, but as far as I’m concerned all pasta needs garlic, so I added some about half way through the cooking time, together with salt and lots of pepper.

Finally, when you start cooking the pasta (choose something good for holding chunky sauces, like farfalle), stir in 1-2 tablespoons of orange marmalade and take the sauce off the heat. I was cooking for four people with moderate-healthy appetites, which meant 350-400g bacon (one big packet minus enough bacon for breakfast another day), 3 onions, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of the sweet stuff. These proportions were perfect: the marmalade is definitely there, but there is nothing cloying about it; just an unusual, but very nice tang, and a glossy coating on the pasta.

Serve with green salad, nice fresh bread, and freshly grated pecorino: buonissimo!

To dessert: the same woman who gave me the bag of oranges that have now been consumed, variously, in pasta, toast, chicken, and cake, also gave me a bag of dates which begged the obvious: Cape Brandy Pudding. This is one of those righteous desserts in the family of hot sponge cake drenched in syrup, eaten with cold, melting ice-cream (whipped cream is definitely an option, though I prefer ice-cream).  South Africans (and I) love this stuff: malva, vinegar and “fruit cocktail” puddings are all variations of the same, but what makes the brandy pudding king of the batch is a) the addition of nuts, and b) that the sauce it’s doused with contains a hefty 3/4 cup of unboiled (ie. as alcoholic as the day it was bottled) brandy.

I googled and compared three or four recipes, which were thankfully all exactly the same (down to all omitting a crucial ingredient in the sauce: ‘Boil sugar, butter and water till syrup forms’, they prescribe, without mentioning how much water in the list of ingredients). This case of internet plagiarism was very good for me, in fact; it is a blessed rarity to find such consensus about a recipe, and it saved me having to compare and choose between five different ones. So I followed “Funkymunky“‘s directions for an Old Cape Brandy Pudding (not to be confused with a Cape Brandy Pudding, apparently), with just two alterations: I halved the sugar and doubled the nuts – these desserts are always just a bit TOO sweet, and given that it’s full of dates too, I figured less sugar wouldn’t hurt, and it didn’t – and I added fresh ginger.

When it got to pouring the hot syrup over the baked cake, I must say I had some misgivings; I couldn’t imagine how that little pudding would ever absorb that much liquid. But I guess that’s the thing about a brandy pudding: it really is FULL of brandy.

It was damn delicious, and after my second helping, you will be unsurprised to know that I slept like a log.