What does the scent of zested oranges immediately bring to mind? I didn’t want to mention the C-word just yet but I can’t help it: oranges, satsumas, clementines and grapefruits are popping with colour everywhere and they are getting juicier and tastier.
Which is your favourite citrus? Is it the orange, for fresh juice in the morning even though you know that by drinking juice, you’re missing out on all the fibre and none of the sugar? Sadly, the art of peeling oranges or, even better, filleting them is quite forgotten. And it’s a shame as it's really hard to beat the sweet, juicy segments perfectly pared out of the pith and the membranes. The same technique works for grapefruit too, and the benefit of preparing it for your breakfast in that way means you’re earning your meal with hard work!
Everyone seems to prefer the little tiddlers with strange names, and often divested of names altogether. 'Easy peelers' surely does not refer to a particular variety of a citrus fruit if you read labels carefully; most often they are clementines or tangerines. Personally, I consider it a disgrace: what an obscenely lazy marketing ploy! Are we now going to call all apples ‘crisp’ regardless of variety? If you don’t know what you like, you’re much easier to be sold a dud.
In my house satsumas reign supreme; the Weather Man can tell them from clementines or mandarins at a hundred feet from the stall, with no glasses on. I usually have to read the label or grope them – satsumas have looser skin (and thanks to that are EASIER TO PEEL, NUMBSKULLS!!!). I love to celebrate my satsuma, peeling the skin, then every scrap of the pith to finally open up a segment and gobble the flesh. But I eat the membrane too – fibre, you see.
And yes, you can cook with oranges and not only make cakes. Practice your filleting skills preparing the fennel and orange salad. Make an orange sauce for meat, not only the classic duck breast but also for pan fried wild pigeon which is in season and cheap.
Pork goes just as well with orange flavours. Check out the pork steaks with sage and clementines. And you can swap lemon for orange in the recipe for potato wedges, and just as successfully use it in stir fried salmon.
But the best things orange are baked, that’s for sure. From simple orange muffins, a pre-taste of Christmas (oh pants! I wasn’t going to use the C-word!) to the lavish orange macaroon cake, zest, squeeze and juice oranges for this weekend’s bakes. Bake some orange dacquoise biscuits if you have a couple of spare egg whites in the freezer. Go Italian and have cake for breakfast: orange doughnut-shaped ciambella. Or crack some walnuts to put in the orange and walnut loaf cake – and this one is seriously orangey!
It will soon be time to add cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger to the bouquet of smells this season. I promise to behave and not get ahead of myself here! Until then – keep well and stay warm!