The last few days have been gloriously sunny and bright- a real shock to the system after the wet, dank weather we’ve had since the start of the year. The only thing that really keeps me going towards from February to March is the promise of lighter days, warmer weather and finally being able to hang up my winter coat. It looks like I’ll be doing that a couple of weeks earlier this year- this weekend we even sat outside at the pub, squinting into the sun.
There is one bright and brilliant addition to the last push of winter that I always look forward to, though: blood oranges. It seems strange that this vibrant citrus fruit is in season during the winter, though I’m not complaining, as they always seem to arrive just when I need an injection of freshness and long for lighter foods. This year, I was lucky enough to find bergamots for sale alongside blood oranges at the brilliant Deli Downstairs, my local treasure trove. So I had a bit of a mad few weeks where every meal was finished with a juicy, plump Sicilian blood orange, bright juices streaming down my hands and feat like some sort of gory feast. But I also experimented with them in salads, puddings and bakes. The results are in.
Blood Orange Curd
Adapted from Steve Parle’s recipe, found here.
(makes 1 large jar)
You will need:
400ml blood orange juice (from about 8 blood oranges)
zest of 3 blood oranges
150g caster sugar
10 eggs (5 whole and 5 yolks)
200g butter, cubed
1. Sit a medium sized bowl over a pan of just simmering water. Add the blood orange juice, zest sugar and whole eggs along with 5 yolks. Allow to thicken for about 15 minutes, until it coats the back of a spoon. Stir in the butter, one cube at a time, waiting until each has melted before adding the next one. Tip into a large sterilised jar, allow to cool completely then refrigerate. Use within two weeks.
Blood Orange and Mascarpone Victoria Sponge
You will need:
175g caster sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
175g self-raising flour, sifted
1 blood orange, zest and juice
blood orange curd
1 tub mascarpone
1. Preheat the oven to 180C and grease 2 x 23cm springform cake tins, lining each with a circle of greaseproof paper and greasing again. Cream the butter and sugar together with electric beaters until light and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs, continuing to beat between each addition. Fold in the flour and orange zest, adding 1-2 tbsp of juice to lighten the mixture slightly.
2. Divide the mixture between the tins and bake for 25 minutes or until the cakes are risen, golden and a cake tester comes out clean. Leave the cakes in their tins for 10 minutes, before removing from their tins and cooling completely on a wire rack. Generously spread one cake with the mascarpone and curd before sandwiching with the second cake.
Pan Fried Mackerel with Blood Orange and Fennel Salad
(Serves 2 as a light lunch or starter)
You will need:
220g pack of green beans, topped and tailed
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
pinch of sugar1 fennel bulb, sliced thinly and any fronds reserved
2 blood oranges, peeled with any pith removed, sliced into rounds
large handful black olives, I used Kalamata
2 mackerel fillets, pin-boned (get the fish monger to do this for you)
small knob of butter
25g toasted flaked almonds
1. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, add the beans and cook until just tender. Drain and place in a large bowl of ice cold water to cool and crisp up. Whisk together 2 tbsp of olive oil with the balsamic vinegar, sugar and some seasoning. Place the fennel, blood orange slices, drained green beans and olives in a large bowl. Add the dressing and toss together then divide between two plates.
2. Add the remaining oil to a large, cold pan. Sit the mackerel, skin-side down, in the pan and turn the heat on to medium. Frying your fish this way means the fillets don’t curl up and ensures perfectly crispy skin. Keep frying, basting with the oil and adding a little knob of butter if necessary. Once the flesh of the fish has gone from translucent to opaque, it has cooked through. Flip over briefly and fry for a further 30 seconds. Top the salads with the fish fillets and sprinkle with flaked almonds and any reserved fennel fronds.
Bergamot and Blood Orange Pavlovas
You will need:
5 egg whites (from the curd, see recipe above)
2 bergamots, juice and zest
275g caster sugar plus a little extra
300ml double cream
1 blood orange, segmented
blood orange curd
handful pistachios, roughly chopped
1. To make the meringues, preheat the oven to 120C. Place the egg whites in a large, preferably metal or glass, bowl with a squeeze of bergamot juice. Whisk to stiff peaks. Mix the sugar with the zest of 1 bergamot then add in heaped tablespoonfuls to the whites, whisking between each addition. Line a large baking sheet with greaseproof paper, then drop on 6 even dollops of the meringue mixture, leaving as much space between each as your baking sheet will allow. Use a spoon to swirl each meringue nicely before placing the lower part of the oven for 1 hr 45 min- 2 hrs, until the meringues are crisp and dry and will easily lift off the baking sheet. Allow to cool completely.
2. Meanwhile, whisk the double cream until stiff peaks form. Add the zest of the remaining bergamot and a squeeze of the juice. Sweeten to taste with a little caster sugar, but keep in mind that the meringues are very sweet. Once ready to serve, place each meringue on a serving place the pile high with the cream, segmented blood orange slices (in the photos for these posts I used bergamot segments, but feel these were too sour), a dollop of blood orange curd and a sprinkle of the pistachios. Serve immediately.
Blood Orange Jelly with Custard
(makes 5-6 individual or 1 large jelly)
You will need:
For the jelly:
3 leaves of gelatine
300ml fresh blood orange juice (about 8 blood oranges)
For the custard:
290ml double cream
zest 1 blood orange
2 large egg yolks
2 tbsp caster sugar
1. Begin by making the jelly. Place the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water so they are completely submerged. Leave for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, gently heat the blood orange juice and sugar until just dissolved. Do not boil. Set the sweetened juice to one side, then squeeze out any excess liquid from the now softened gelatine leaves and add to the pan. Stir for a few minutes, until all the gelatine has melted. Pour into a medium sized bowl or, for individual servings, ramekins and wine glasses work well. Allow to cool before chilling until completely set- at least 4 hours but preferably overnight.
2. Make the custard. Place the cream and orange zest into a pan and bring slowly to the boil. Set aside to cool briefly. Beat the yolks and sugar in a medium-sized bowl briefly until combined and creamy. Pour over the cooled cream and then clean out your pan. Return the mixture to the pan and stir over a low heat, until thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. This should take about 10 minutes- do not simmer or boil at any point. Strain if necessary and use to top the set jellies. Return to the fridge for a further hour before serving.
There is a glut of clementines about at the moment. Every shop I go into, every fruit and veg stall I pass, there they are in gargantuan, abundant piles. Often accompanied by an enormous 2-4-1 sign. This strikes me as surprising, given that I read a while ago that sales of oranges have actually gone down in recent years. Apparently we are too lazy to peel them- we simply can’t be bothered. Perhaps this is because these days we only really know how to use our fingers to text. And, obviously, this ability will soon be replaced with only knowing how to use our thumbs for touch screens. Other fingers will become superfluous.
But, all is not lost because clearly clementines are bucking the trend! The supermarkets would have you believe that they are immensely popular, even this time of year, post Christmas. The problem becomes what to do with them when you don’t have a stocking to put them in anymore.
I’ve been looking at ways to use up ours and decided to whizz up this Clementine Cake, created by Rangemaster’s home economist Alison Trinder, brought to my attention by the ACHICA website. ‘This wonderfully moist and tangy cake is very easy to make and perfect for fan ovens,’ is how it was described. ‘Gentle, consistent heat ensures that the cake will cook evenly and retain essential moisture for an irresistible afternoon treat.’ All very well put, Alison. And I would agree, it is a joyful cake, with almost Caribbean zest and zeal (just look at the colour! Only really very slightly enhanced in post-production, I can assure you. Sort of.) Having said that, the cake was a bit too much of a faff for me. I enjoyed eating it, as did my boyfriend, flatmate and colleagues (it makes for a mighty big cake). However, I wouldn’t say that all the different component-y, bit-y stages (separating the eggs, whisking the whites, grating the rest, making the syrup from x many clementines, using the pulp from y, etc, etc.) was necessarily worth it. Just my opinion. But give it a go. Tell me what you think.
Clementine, Yogurt and Polenta Cake
12 seedless clementines, satsumas or tangerines
450g/16oz caster sugar
200g/7oz butter, softened plus a little for greasing
the grated zest of 1 lemon
3 medium sized eggs, separated
300g/10oz ground almonds
100g/4oz polenta or semolina
150ml pot of natural yogurt
1. Melt 250g of the sugar in a small pan with 330ml of boiling water, bring to the boil and reduce the heat to simmer.
2. Meanwhile, thinly slice five of the fruits horizontally, discarding the ends. Add the slices to the pan with the sugar and water. Cover and simmer until the skin of the fruit is tender – this will take about 20 minutes.
3. Grease and base line a 25cm/10″ loose bottomed tin. Remove the fruit slices from the pan when tender, and arrange as neatly as possible over the base of the cake tin.
4. Grate the zest from the seven remaining fruits and put to one side.
5. Squeeze the juice from four and stir into the syrup. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 10 minutes until thick. Allow to cool.
6. Mix the remaining 200g sugar with the softened butter, lemon zest and the set aside zest. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time.
7. Peel the three remaining fruits, removing as much pith as possible, and whiz in a food processor until pulpy. Add the fruit pulp to the cake mixture with the almonds, polenta and yogurt. Then whisk the egg whites until stiff and gently fold in to the mixture.
8. Carefully spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin and place into a pre-heated oven 160ºC Fan oven, 170ºC Conventional oven, Gas 4.
9. Bake until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour, when the cake will be golden brown and risen. Cool the cake in the tin.
To serve: Invert the cake on to a serving plate, spoon over some of the syrup to glaze the fruit slices. Serve with cream, ice-cream or crème fraiche and the remaining syrup.