Me, aged five or six, with my beloved dolly Gloria.
No one in my family will ever forget the day my little sister Sophie, on her fourth birthday, spent a happy half hour picking every single Smartie and jelly-baby amputee off the vast tray of racing cars my mother had set out on the party table. By the time the guests arrived, all that remained was a sad pile of biscuits pocked with cake icing.
I've tried to recreate the memory of those happy birthday parties with these stripy jelly wedges. Several months ago, while flipping through a Victorian cookbook, I came across an engraving of a pile of jelly oranges made with contrasting strata of jellied fruit juice. Frustratingly, I can't remember which book it was, let alone whether it was a real book or one that I found online. Whatever the case, I was interested to see that jelly oranges were a feature of Victorian party buffets.
In the original recipe, the orange was set on its base, then hollowed out via a coin-size hole cut through the pith at the stalk end. The whole orange was then filled with contrasting jelly layers. Once the jelly had set, the orange was cut into eighths vertically, resulting in perfect wedges with neat and identical strips.
I abandoned this idea immediately - hollowing out an entire orange through a tiny hole isn't my idea of pleasurable cooking - and instead I cut the oranges in half. The result, if you take this approach, is a variety of differently patterned wedges: the ones cut from the middle of the half-orange have perfect stripes, and the ones towards the edge of the shell are prettily graduated in sunset colours.
This is a fiddly recipe, I admit. It's not easy getting the stripes even, and it's quite difficult to cut the wedges perfectly. Use the sharpest knife you have, and keep dipping it into boiling water so that it glides easily through the jelly layers. Measure the gelatine exactly for a perfect firm set.
Stripy Jelly Orange Wedges with Raspberry Juice
three perfectly round fresh oranges
about 1½ cups (375 ml) freshly squeezed orange juice (see recipe)
2 cups (500 ml) frozen or fresh raspberries
1½ cups (375 ml) water
½ cup (125 ml) caster sugar
8 tsp (40 ml) powdered gelatine
Cut the oranges in half along their 'waists'. Run the tip of a very sharp knife a third of the way round the edge of the flesh, and then use a big spoon to scoop out all the flesh, making sure you remove all the membrane. Do this over a bowl, so that the juice doesn't escape. Trim away any fluffy bits of pith or core and set the orange shells on a plate. If they're not perfectly level, shave a little peel away from the the bottom of each shell, making sure not to pierce any holes. Refrigerate.
Place the orange pulp in a sieve set over a bowl and press out as much juice as you can. Add more fresh orange juice to bring the total amount in the bowl up to two cups (500 ml). Put four tablespoons (60 ml) of this juice into a little bowl and over it sprinkle exactly four teaspoons (20 ml) of the gelatine. Set aside to 'sponge' for a few minutes. Now place the bowl in a saucepan of boiling water (the water should come halfway up the sides) and leave it for a few minutes to melt, without stirring. When the gelatine is clear, remove the bowl from the heat. Stir it into the fresh orange juice, and then strain the mixture into a clean jug. Set aside at room temperature.
Now make the raspberry jelly. Put the raspberries, sugar and water into a saucepan and bring gently to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer very gently for eight minutes, stirring now and then. Tip the mixture into a large sieve set over a big clean jug and allow the juice to drain out, pressing down gently with the back of a soup ladle. Discard the pulp. Sprinkle the remaining four teaspoons (20 ml) of gelatine over the hot juice and stir until it's completely dissolved. Set aside at room temperature.
Pour a layer of the orange jelly about 2 mm deep into the cold orange shells. Refrigerate until set. (You can put the shells in the freezer to speed up the layering process, but don't leave them too long). Now pour a thin layer of raspberry jelly over the top, and allow to set. Carry on layering the jelly until the shells are full. If the jugs of jelly begin to set, place them in a bowl of boiling water to liquefy them.
When the top layers of jelly are properly set, use a very sharp, hot knife to slice each orange-half into four wedges. Refrigerate until needed.
Makes 24 jelly wedges.