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Essentially England News, January 2009 -- Chocolates, Marmalade and Roman Mosaics.
January 27, 2009

Chocolates, Marmalade and Roman Mosaics

A cheerful welcome to everyone who subscribed to Essentially England News during the last month! Here you'll find England news, site news, travel tips, reviews and our Recipe of the Month, all in one easy-to-digest email.

What's New at Essentially England?

I’ve spent much time over the Christmas break adding new pages. Check out new bits in

But the biscuit this month goes to a piece of news that made the headlines in our neck of the woods last week: Two metal detectorists have found a 4th century Roman mosaic in a field just a few miles from us in Kemble! The area around Cirencester is already famous for the number of Roman artefacts that have been found over the years, and any new finds can only shed more light on a historical time period when life was perilous.

It’s said that the mosaic could be largest in Western Europe. So if this interests you, you can read the whole report here.

Travel Tips and Reviews

Holiday advertising is going ballistic at the moment. But amongst all the hype, there are a few really good bargains, too.

If you like exploring historical houses a National Trust membership can knock pounds off your holiday expenses. And at the moment - when you join The National Trust online, you’ll get three months’ membership free, because you’ll receive 12 months for the price of nine, plus afree pair of binoculars to help you enjoy all the fantastic sights the Trust has to offer.

Hotel deals are often good at this time of the year. Hilton is offering up to 50% off weekend hotel breaks until August.

And if you’re looking to book a summer break, Travelodge has a number of rooms for just £19 per night for stays during May, June, July and August.

Fairs, Festivals and Things to Do

We’re moving closer to Lent and – prior to that – Valentines Day and Shrove Tuesday. Both notoriously bad for your waistline!

But I always feel that both chocolates and pancakes are very necessary during this gloomy time of the year to cheer me up, so I don’t mind the extra calories too much. And most of England seems to think the same way. Just make sure your chocolate is of the finest and you can’t go far wrong. Chocolate is good for you, remember?

For my money Hotel Chocolat has the best Valentines Chocolates in England (and it’s now also available in America.)

If you’re in England for Pancake Day, try and catch one of the many local pancake races. Olney in Buckinghamshire has the most famous pancake race in England, but there’s plenty going on elsewhere.

And if you’re still looking for a calorie-free treat for your significant other, have you thought of a personalised love story? Travel writers Kathy Newbern and J S Fletcher could help you do just that! Inspired by their travels they’ve written a number of novels set in far-flung locations that they’ll personalise for you. A quirky present, that one, and guaranteed to raise a smile.

Recipe of the Month - Bitter English Marmalade

It’s Seville Orange season and I’m knee-deep in marmalade – the real English, slightly bitter variety that is. For some reason I can never make enough to last the rest of the year. Most times my whole output has disappeared – ladled onto buttered toast or into Orange Marmalade Cake - shortly after Easter.

But that never deters me from trying to make more. And if you’ve never made Marmalade, just follow this simple method and reap some delicious rewards:

You’ll need:
1.5kg bitter Seville oranges
2 lemons
2kg sugar
2 litres of water

Cut the oranges in half and squeeze out the juice. Set aside.

Take a spoon and scrape out the pith from the squeezed orange halves, leaving only the skin. (This isn’t nearly as painful as it sounds! The insides of Seville Oranges come out rather easily.) Reserve all the pith.

Place the orange halves into a large jam pan and add the water. Bring to a gentle boil and simmer until the orange skins are soft. (This can take as little as 30 minutes).

Lift the orange halves from the water and shred them finely. Put all the slivers back in and add the sugar. Heat slowly to dissolve.

While the sugar is melting, place all the pith into a pan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and cook for about 10 minutes. Then strain the remaining liquid through a sieve, pressing down well. The liquid will be rather gloopy.

When the sugar has dissolved, bring your marmalade mix to a fierce boil. Add the juice from both lemons and boil rapidly for 5 minutes. Then turn the heat right down and add the gloopy liquid you strained from the pith.

Stir well and place a teaspoon full of marmalade onto a cold plate. Leave to cool for a couple of minutes, then test for set. The surface should wrinkle when pushed. (it will also set further as it cools),

Leave your marmalade to cool a little more before spooning it into clean jars. Cover with waxed paper and seal tightly.


And Next Month …

Look out for more on Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Norfolk. Plus the first food festivals …

Until next month, keep well and think of England…

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