As the bleak mid Winter weather really kicks in, it’s serendipitous that this time of year also signals the arrival of new season citrus from sunnier climes.
Nothing injects a bit of sunshine into a grey, January day than the ruby red glow from the flesh of a blood orange or the sight of a knobbly, golden Sicilian lemon. I was recently in Italy and found a small cafe where they served homemade Limoncello with your coffee. The mamma of the house had made this traditional liqueur from the previous season’s lemons and the essence of the fruit was captured perfectly. The sweet, tart lemon elixir was a glass of memories, tradition and food provenance. I envied their access to late season’s lemons and the ability to ensnare their natural beauty.
Back home I was in St George’s market last week and found some imported blood oranges and Sicilian lemons at the organic vegetable stand run by Polish grower Aleysa. I’m all for local but sometimes you need a touch of Mediterranean sparkle in your life!
Making Limoncello is one ideal way to preserve these treasures for the limited time they’re available. You combine the zest with vodka and then add sugar syrup. The whole process only takes a fortnight and you end up with a real citrus treat that’s so much better than the variety lying at the back of your drinks cupboard from a distant holiday! As you only use the zest for the liqueur, preserved lemons is the best way to store the remaining flesh for future use. Pack thick slices layered with fennel and bay infused salt. Store for a fortnight before using and refrigerate for up to three months.
Preserved lemons will pep up a roast chicken to great effect. When I pan fry some fresh fish, I add a few slices to the pan at the end with a splash of white wine and a slick of Broighter Gold lemon rapeseed oil, for a simple and healthy way to get the most out the fruits of the sea. They’re especially good with oily fish and they’ll brighten up a boring pork chop no end. Add a bit of chilli to for an extra buzz.
Blood oranges are among the most exotic looking fruits – the skin is slightly darker and when you slice them you’re greeted with dark, deep red flesh.
They look slightly dangerous which only adds to their appeal.
My other recipe this week is for a blood orange cake – almond sponge redolent of tart orange and topped with thin syrupy slices of the alluring fruit. It’s too depressing weather wise for a detox and this cake will make January seem a bit more twinkly.