It occurred to me the other day how great recipes often tend to be born out of scarcity or abundance. I suspect there would not be nearly as many wonderful recipes for pickles all across Europe if our long hot summers and their generous harvests were not invariably followed by long and cold winters bearing very little in terms of fresh fruit and vegetables. And I doubt we would today be able to cook with Pomegranate molasses or enjoy moreish Baklava with our post-lunch coffee if there had not been an abundance of their prime ingredients at some point, allowing someone to figure out just what to make with all those piles and piles of pomegranates full of ruby-red arils or what to do with nuts once you are bored of eating them by themselves.
I don’t think I would have ever made these Nibby Rye and Marmalade Crumble Bars if there wasn’t currently an abundance of homemade bitter orange marmalade in my flat. After all, there is a whole jar of marmalade hidden beneath that generous layer of chocolate and rye crumble.
While you can certainly find decent bitter orange marmalade in stores and fancy delis, the more I make my own bitter orange marmalade, the more I prefer it to what I can buy. And not because I am a natural when it comes to making marmalade. Far from it in fact. My first batch was on the thicker end of ‘thick cut’ and had barely set. My second batch managed to catch on the bottom of the pan. And my third batch? I compensated for my first batch by going a little too far along the road towards boiled sweets.
But it doesn’t even upset me. Every single jar I have made has been eaten, with gusto even, despite these small (or large) imperfections. The flavour of the citrus seems brighter than with store-bought ones and I like knowing that each jar was prepared with my own hands. And while I am very much at the beginning of what is no doubt a long learning curve, I like the promise of what lays ahead – being able to control the set just so, playing around with different types of sugar, using a mix of citrus fruits or adding some whiskey to make a marmalade that is exactly the way I want it.
And why not? Making marmalade is certainly a labour of love. That being said, during their short season (scarcity!), they are wonderfully cheap (that abundance again). And for those that don’t mind a bit of repetitive action in the kitchen, all you need to do is invest a little bit of your time on one of those cold winter weekends where you don’t want to leave the house anyway and you can easily stack your shelf with a good dozen jars of marmalade. Enough to last you through the next season. In theory at least.
This time I actually refused to open my final jar of last year’s batch before my homemade marmalade stocks were replenished. But scarcity soon turned into abundance as there are now 10 jars of marmalade stacked on my shelves. So the marmalade gets once again dolloped generously into hot porridge, slathered thickly on toasted sourdough bread and even used to bake, like for these Nibby Rye and Marmalade Crumble Bars.
Nibby Rye and Marmalade Crumble Bars
Note: I am rather partial to the combination of chocolate and orange. But I appreciate not everyone shares this love. So feel free to use a different type of jam – I suspect raspberry or sour cherry would work equally well with the chocolate. A rose jelly could be beautiful as well if that is your thing.
200g flour all purpose flour
100g rye wholemeal flour
100g cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
230g cold butter, cubed
50g cacao nibs
Pinch of sea salt flakes
350g bitter orange marmalade
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees and line a 20x30cm baking dish with parchment paper.
In a mixing bowl whisk together the all purpose flour, rye wholemeal flour, the cocoa powder, the sugar and the salt.
Add the cubed butter and rub into the dry ingredients until the mixture is crumbly and there are no large lumps of butter remaining (you may need to clump the mixture together using your hands a bit). Stir through the cacao nibs.
Scatter about 2/3 of the mixture on the bottom of the baking dish and press down to form the base layer of the marmalade bars.
Next, spoon the marmalade over the base. Scatter the remaining crumble mix over the marmalade and finish with a pinch of sea salt flakes.
Bake for ca. 50-55 minutes until set. Leave to cool in the dish.