I am a dreadfully compulsive shopper, notorious for seeing things that look interesting but without even the vaguest idea of what I will do with them, all in furtherance of some abstract aim of having a “well-stocked larder”. The most recent manifestation of this habit all started with a mission into central London to track down some elusive yuzu fruit, but without any success(*).
In trawling various shops, I came across other exotic fruit, and this is how I came to have two punnets of kumquats sitting in the kitchen. Cue feelings of guilt about not doing something with them…
I think kumquats are absolutely delicious, and I am happy to eat a few of them on their own, peel, pips and all. As you bit into them, you get the rich sweetness from the skin and a burst of the aromatic perfumed oil, then the citrus tang of the kumquat flesh. They always make me think of the Far East – kumquats do originate in that part of the world, but I think it is their dainty size, elegant shape and delicate flavour that makes this connection for me. Does that make sense?
Now, to say that I didn’t know what to do with them is not entirely correct, as I managed to munch my way through a fair few of them as I pondered what the options were. Ultimately I thought it would nice to make something exciting with them, but I settled on the idea of making candied kumquats. Not perhaps so exciting, but I imagined that I would later be able to add them, chopped, to cake batters or use them and their rich syrup as a topping on a chocolate dessert, all to add a little sweet citrus zing.
I was aiming for a pot of kumquats that would be sweet and soft, but would hold their shape, all the while enrobed in a rich syrup. The flavour is quite pronounced – you need to like oranges – and a little reminiscent of marmalade. And if you are a little freaked out by the idea of eating the skin of an orange, fret not. These kumquats keep their shape, but area wonderfully soft and seem to melt in the mouth as you eat them.
To make candied kumquats:
• 400g kumquats
• 300ml water
• 200g white sugar
• pinch of salt
Wash the kumquats and pat dry with a clean towel.
Cut each fruit in half (across the fruit) and use the point of a sharp knife to remove the seeds(**).
Place the kumquats, water, sugar and salt in a pan and leave on a medium heat. Stir a couple of times to be sure the sugar has dissolved, then bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, and leave the kumquats to simmer, covered, for around two hours until the fruit is translucent and the syrup has thickened (remember it will thicken further when cool).
Pour the kumquat and syrup into a clean jar(***). Seal and store in the fridge until needed.
(*) If anyone does know where I can get hold of yuzu fruit in London, I would be most grateful! I did have them in some wagashi recently, and am keen to try doing something with yuzu myself.
(**) At this stage, if you are worried that the kumquats are too bitter, boil some water in a pan. Add the kumquats, boil for 1 minute, then drain. Repeat. This should get rid of any bitterness, and then continue with the recipe.
(***) Such as, eh, the large and very heavy Le Parfait glass preserving jars that you forced someone to carry all the way across Europe on holiday last year…
Worth making? If you have the patience to slice and de-seed kumquats, this is a superb recipe. The result is surprisingly sophisticated, and makes a wonderful addition to good ice-cream or on a simply piece of cake. You also get the benefit of a rich, sweet kumquat syrup which also works well on desserts or, for the more louche cook, in a cocktail.