I don’t suppose I’m the first woman to wish she could regularly breakfast with James Bond. I wonder, though, how many want to do so just to get their hands on his victuals. Because that man knows how to breakfast. A read of From Russia With Love tells that Bond’s breakfast of choice would include: strong black coffee, a single speckled brown boiled egg from French hens reared by a friend of his housekeeper, two thick slices of wholemeal toast with “deep yellow Jersey butter”, and a choice of Tiptree’s ‘Little Scarlet’ strawberry jam, Fortnum’s ‘Norwegian Heather Honey’ and Cooper’s ‘Vintage Oxford’ marmalade. Gotta love a spy who knows his high-end butters and preserves.
If Bond in any of his film-star guises ever wanted to take his marmalade appreciation to the next level and make his own, now is the time of year that we would be seeing him ask Q for a way to squeeze the oranges without getting bitter juice in his eye. He’d have to be quick, though. The seville oranges from which marmalade is made are in season in January and February only, and it is that very brevity of their season which lies behind Sevilles becoming marmalade at all.
In sixteenth-century Britain thick-skinned Sevilles were so popular – and the only oranges around – that cooks did the only sensible thing given their so-short season: they preserved them. They did it by making the fruit into a thick slice-able paste in just the same way they preserved quinces. Quinces not only gave cooks the idea of how to preserve the Sevilles, they gifted marmalade its name. ‘Marmelo’ being portuguese for quince.
By the mid-17th century when Nell Gwynn was impressing the King with her pips she was doing it with the sweet imports that stole the march on general orange popularity. Seville oranges were still being preserved, though, and evolved from a thick paste into something spoonable and recognisable as modern marmalade.
Hundreds of years later marmalade is still going strong on the nation’s breakfast tables. Much of it is ‘Dundee’ rinded marmalade that was commercialised by the Keiller family grocery in Dundee. Or there’s the chunkier, darker ‘Oxford’ marmalade that Bond went for. Given seville oranges are now easier to buy than for years you could make your own of a texture and intensity that is just right for you. But making marmalade is a labour of love. Worth it if for you the pleasure is as much in the doing as the tasting; otherwise there are some really terrific marmalades out there to try.
Radnor Preserves is top of that list for me. In the barely half dozen years since Joanna Morgan started the company it has won ‘Champion of Champion’s’ Double Gold Prize at the World Marmalade Awards 2015, three Gold Medals from the World Marmalade Festival, and several Great Taste Awards from the Guild of Fine Food. Not bad for a lady who started preserving from a cottage in the Forest of Arden with no electricity. Talk about a labour of love. Joanna was literally marmalading by candlelight.
Her move to the Welsh Marches and electricity allowed Joanna’s preserving to step up several notches. Radnor Preserves was established in 2010. By 2013 it was being stocked by Fortnum and Mason.
The Radnor Preserve range is hand-prepared in small batches to keep quality high. There are no artificial preservatives or additives. The ingredients list for Radnor’s seville orange marmalade is reassuringly just what the home-marmalader would use: sugar, oranges, water. Plus molasses because the Radnor marmalade is dark and rich. It is also thick-cut and therefore right up Bond’s breakfast street.
Radnor make two other types of seville orange marmalade: there’s one with crushed coriander seeds, and also a rindless jelly. That may be closer to those original pastes but I think seville orange marmalade has to have some rind for it to be fitting as the marmalade of breakfast choice for heroes from James Bond through to Paddington Bear. Who, thinking about it, I might rather have breakfast with after all.
The World’s Marmalade Festival takes place at Dalemain Mansion & Gardens, Cumbria, on Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th March 2016. For more information, visit www.dalemainmarmaladeawards.com. National Marmalade Week takes place from Sunday 28th February 2016.
To celebrate World Marmalade Week, we have a delightful gift for our readers. Radnor Preserves are offering a jar of their award-winning Smoky Campfire Marmalade or Radnor Classic Seville Orange Marmalade, together with a free recipe book, to the first 20 readers to place an order. Simply place your order via their website and send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, quoting ‘Arbuturian March Reader Offer’ and your order reference, to confirm your choice of marmalade.
For more information about Radnor Preserves, visit www.radnorpreserves.com.