As fans of Paddington will know, he is a bear who is very partial to marmalade…
Indeed, so fond of marmalade is Paddington, that he always carries a spare marmalade sandwich under his hat just in case he feels a bit peckish. So, we think that if Paddington Bear was planning a weekend away in Britain during March, he would head to the Lake District.
At this time of year in this beautiful region of Britain, the daffodils are in bloom, newborn lambs can be spotted and – most importantly for Paddington – the annual World’s Original Marmalade Awards and Festival take place at Dalemain Mansion and in the town of Penrith.
The Marmalade Awards were founded in 2005 by Jane Hasell-McCosh of Dalemain, who herself has enjoyed making marmalade since she was a child. Inspired by her love of marmalade, Jane set up the competition to celebrate this historic preserve and to encourage marmalade enthusiasts to make it to a good standard. In the first year, the Awards received only 50 entries. Nowadays, such is its fame that the competition receives thousands of entries from amateurs, B and Bs, hotels and restaurants, and artisan producers around the world, including Australia, Korea, Japan and South Africa.
Categories for entries include Children’s Marmalade and Octogenarians and Upwards Marmalade, a sign of how an interest in marmalade making spans the generations. Proceeds from the amateur entry fees go directly to charity, with thousands of pounds raised for good causes over the years. Judging is carried out by a knowledgeable panel of experts, including Pam Corbin, jam expert at River Cottage and Australian baker Dan Lepard who taste their way through the entries in a marmalade-sampling marathon.
This year the results of all this cogitation are announced and celebrated with the Marmalade Awards and Festival’s public event (March 17th and 18th, 2018) with a multitude of marmalades on offer for visitors to taste. Aptly, given Paddington’s penchant for marmalade, the late Michael Bond, the much-loved, charming, courteous writer who created the character of Paddington Bear, was a patron of the Marmalade Awards for over ten years, supportive of its aims to promote this very British preserve.
A fondness for marmalade is also apparent on the menu at Lindeth Howe in the Lake District, once a country house belonging to the bestselling children’s writer and illustrator Beatrix Potter and now a charming country hotel in the hills overlooking Lake Windermere.
“We use marmalade a lot at Lindeth Howe,” explains the hotel’s senior sous chef David Bewick. “It’s on our breakfast menu, of course, but we also feature it on our a la carte menus, which change all the time.” In a clever updating of that retro French classic, duck a l’orange, the kitchen might, for example, offer diners a dish of duck two ways, serving Barbary duck breast alongside a slow-cooked confit duck leg, flavoured with a marmalade glaze.
We make the marmalade ourselves from Seville oranges. We like to play around things, so we add a little bit of cinnamon and cloves into the glaze. The natural bitterness of the Seville oranges in the marmalade works really well in the dish, as it cuts through the richness of the duck. I think the English palate has got used to eating fruit in all sorts of dishes. When I cook, I like the contrast of sweet and sour a fruity element brings to a dish.
Bewick, an inventive chef, also enjoys using marmalade on his dessert menu. He describes the work that he and his team put into creating a delectable Marmalade and Bourbon soufflé:
We marinate the Seville oranges in bourbon before we turn them into marmalade and use that bourbon marmalade to flavour the soufflé base. We also dry out orange peel, so as not to waste it, and make it into a powder. We line the ramekins with butter and sugar and orange peel powder, so that it coats the soufflé. When we serve the soufflé, we add different textures to the plate: a fresh orange segment that’s been caramelised with a blow-torch, orange powder and an orange gel made from juice.
Freshly baked to order, it’s not surprising that this is proving a hit with the guests. “I do think that it’s important to give diners something that they couldn’t or wouldn’t eat at home,” explains Bewick. Marmalade creativity it is apparent is flourishing in the Lake District. Paddington Bear, always keen to try new things and appreciative of good cooking, would, we feel, thoroughly approve.
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