Flavoured with rosewater, musk or ambergris, Elizabethan marmalade came in a solid block, which was ‘cut like an hard egg’, according to Hugh Plat’s Delightes for Ladies, and served as a dessert. Only in the mid 18th-century did it turn into the spreadable preserve which we eat today. Janet Keiller from Dundee is credited with inventing ‘modern’ marmalade, possibly in a bid to cut short on the laborious process required to make the traditional orange paste.

Today, even the Keiller method – akin to jam-making – appears dauntily time-consuming to many of us. A short-cut in the short-cut consists in making an orange ‘jam’ in the microwave.This brings cooking time right down to an easily manageable half-hour. The result is not as grand as properly-made marmalade, but it is very fresh and of a pleasantly runny texture. Because it doesn’t contain much sugar this marmelade doesn’t last very long, so it is preferable to make it in small quantities.

Speedy Marmalade

Ingredients:

6 oranges

7 tbs sugar

Method:

* Peel three oranges removing as much of the bitter pith as possible. Soak the peel in water for at least 24 hours.

* Discard the water and shred or slice the peel.

* Cut the pulp of the three peeled oranges in chunks, removing all the pips.

* Squeeze the remaining three oranges.

* Place pulp, juice and peel in a very deep microwavable container (this is important, otherwise marmalade will spatter the microwave as it boils). Stir in sugar and mix well.

* Cook in the microwave at full power until the marmalade sets (20-30 minutes depending on the microwave). To test if the marmalade is ready, spoon a little onto a chilled saucer. Allow to cool for a few seconds, then push with a finger. If it has a jam-like consistency, it is ready. If not, boil for a further 5 minutes and test again. Bear in mind that, as with all microwave cooking, your marmalde will continue to set after you remove it from the oven.

* Transfer into warm, clean jars. Place a waxed disc on top immediately and cover when cold.

* Store in a cool, dry place and, once opened, keep in the fridge. It will last about a month.

The best use you can make of marmalade is, of course, to spread it on a hot toast for breakfast. If you can spare a couple of tablespoons, however, marmalade cake provides an equally delicioous tea-time treat.

Marmalade Cake

Ingredients:

10oz (300g) flour

2 eggs

7oz (200g) sugar

5oz (150g) yogurt

2.5oz (70g) vegetable oil

4 tablespoons marmalade

peel of 1 lemon, shredded

peel of 1 orange, shredded

4 level teaspoons baking soda

Method:

* Pre-heat the oven at 180§C and grease a cake tin at least 1 inch deep.

* In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat the eggs, then add the sugar and beat well.

* Sift flour onto the mixture and gently foldit in.

* Pour in the yogurth and vegetable oil and stir until well combined.

* Mix in the marmalade and peel.

* Add the baking powder and blend carefully until the mixture is smooth, ensuring that there are no clots in it.

* Ladle the mixture into the tin, spreading it evenly. Place the tin on the centre shelf of the oven and cook until a wooden pick inserted in the centre comes out clean (1-1 1/4 hour depending on the oven).

* Once baked remove the cake from the tin and leave to cool.

It is ironical that in orange-growing countries marmalade is hardly common. In Sardinia, Italy, a concoction which vaguely resembles Elizabethan marmalade, called aranciata, is made using honey instead of sugar and eaten as a dessert.

Aranciata

Ingredients:

3.5oz (100g) orange peel, shredded

3.5oz (100g) honey

Method:

* Place the honey in a saucepan and heat gently over low fire for 30 seconds.

* Add the orange peel and cook overlow fire for 30 minutes, stirring continuously.

* Remove from fire and pour on a clean cutting board.

* When warm to the touch, but still soft, cut into squares. Don’t leave this till too late because the aranciata hardens as it cools.

* Let it cool and serve as a dessert.

* the aranciata can be enriched by adding 3.5oz (100g) of chopped toasted almonds just before removing the saucepan from fire. It will gain in texture but lose its fresh tartness of flavour.