In season now: kalettes; coming soon: Seville oranges; pink rhubarb

Kalettes

Cute and very tender, these are a hybrid between kale and sprouts, with kale’s curly leaves and Brussels sprouts’ small size. Delicious tossed in a little good olive or rapeseeed oil, then fast roast for 10-12 minutes in a hot oven. Season with flaky salt and freshly ground black pepper and a spritz of lemon juice.

Pink rhubarb

Fine stems of bright pink rhubarb are grown in special sheds in Yorkshire, in the ‘rhubarb triangle’, the area around Leeds, Wakefield and Bradford. Cultivated under controlled light and soil conditions, it shoots up to 5cm a day, and it’s rumoured you can ‘hear’ it growing, with tales of eerie creaking sounds as the stalks push up through the soil. Especially loved by chefs for its delicate mild flavour and glorious colour.

To cook: trim, wash, cut into lengths and place in a baking dish. Scatter with sugar and a little orange juice to bake in the oven, or poach very gently in a pan with sugar syrup, so that the stems don’t lose their slender shape. Good additions are a little finely grated orange rind, or finely sliced matchsticks of ginger (candied stem ginger or fresh are both good) or a star anise.

Seville oranges

This ‘less sugar’ recipe is by Tamasin Day-Lewis. One of our partners in the farm shop, Elizabeth, has been making this for years. It makes a beautiful clear set marmalade in which you can really taste the oranges.

Seville orange marmalade (enough for 16 pots of varying sizes)
4.5 lb/2kg Seville oranges
3 lemons
7 lb/3.2kg granulated sugar
9 pints/4.5 litres water

Wash the oranges and lemons, halve them and squeeze them, reserving the juice and all the pips from squeezing separately. Extract the remains of the pulp, interior skin and pips from the orange halves with your fingers and put them into a muslin jelly-bag with the other pips. Halve the halves, and pile the quarters into a tight stack that you can gradually feed through the slicer disc of a Magimix (or cut finely by hand).
Trim any bits of peel that have not been properly shredded. Put all the peel into a large preserving pan, with the squeezed juice, water and the jelly bag tied to the side, and bring gently to the boil. Place a lid on top, and put in the simmering oven of an Aga, or continue to simmer very gently on top of the stove. It will take about 2 hours inside the Aga; rather less – just under two hours – on top of the stove; for the peel to have absolutely no bite to it right the way through.
Remove the jelly bag and suspend it over a bowl for the juice to drain through for about 30 minutes, then add the juice to the liquid in the pan. Now divide the mixture accurately into three batches for the next stage, because it sets better in small quantities. Put one third of the mixture back into the preserving pan, with one third of the sugar, and heat gently, stirring to dissolve the sugar completely.

The mixture mustn’t boil until the sugar has dissolved. Now boil hard until you reach setting point – about 15 minutes – but start testing after about 10, by putting a small saucer in the fridge to cool it, then placing a teaspoon of boiling juice on the saucer, and returning it to the fridge for a couple of minutes. If the liquid wrinkles when pushed with a finger, you have reached setting point.
You must remove the marmalade from the heat each time you try it, otherwise it will set like stone. When you have reached setting point, remember to leave the pan off the heat for 30 minutes before you ladle the hot, liquid marmalade into your clean jars. If you neglect to do this, the shreds will rise up to the surface, leaving your jars looking strangely unbalanced.

Cheese of the season: Vacherin Mont D’or

A vacherin can be one of a number of rich, creamy cow’s milk cheeses made in France or Switzerland, typically with between 45 and 50 per cent fat.

All vacherins have slightly different tastes and textures, according to where and by whom they’re made.

Vacherin Fribourgeois is made in the Valais region of Switzerland – it is semi-hard, with a coarse, brown rind and a pale yellow paste with a scattering of holes. It has a rich nutty flavour, a little like Italian fontina. When young, it’s served as a dessert cheese. The older cheese is good for fondue.

Vacherin Mont d’Or and Vacherin du Haut Doubs are essentially the same cheese, but the first is made with pasteurised milk on the Swiss side of the Jura mountains and the second with unpasteurised milk on the French side. They have a soft, pale brown rind, with deep, wave-like indentations and a yielding texture. They are packed in a circular spruce box, which both flavours the cheese and keeps it in shape (it can be very runny when ripe). The flavour is rich, a little sweet, with grassy undertones.

Vacherin d’Abondance and Vacherin des Bauges are two other French vacherin cheeses, and are similarly soft and slightly sweet.