Food and Drink


In Season: Citrus Fruits

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Winter is the time of year for beautiful citrus fruits, from oranges and lemons to grapefruits and mandarins. Don’t be put off by the tinges of green in the skins of oranges — a bright orange colour indicates they were ripened in the summer, and similar to wine grapes where a slower cool climate ripening provides greater complexity of flavour, so too with oranges. Clementines are a variety of mandarin which is very easy to peel, they’re seedless too.

All of these fruits are versatile. Mandarins rival the banana as an easy peel lunchbox favourite, especially when you compare prices. What greater breakfast is there than freshly squeezed orange juice or a peeled and sliced grapefruit (drizzled honey with honey to contrast that slight bitter sourness)?

One of my favourite cakes is ‘Claudia Roden’s Middle Eastern Orange Cake’ — you can find it in Stephanie Alexander’s iconic Cook’s Companion. It uses whole oranges, simmered and then processed with ground almonds. It’s very simple to make and I can’t recommend it highly enough. I have made it a few times now with cumquats and it’s a real winner.

Try making some Cumquat marmalade for another beautifully fragrant breakfast treat, or as the base for marmalade pudding.

Grapefruit is fantastic as a winter salad with walnuts and dark green salad leaves — sliced roasted duck as well if you prefer added protein. Try the slightly gentler pink varieties, which have a more complex flavour.

If you’re brave enough try ‘Sussex pond’ which is an old English dessert that includes a whole lemon baked in the middle of a suet pudding, but I suggest using a Myer lemon, which is a cross with an orange and a little less sour.

Here is a slightly unusual family favourite using grapefruit as the basis for an alternative sweet-sour effect (serves four).

2 small chicken breasts (skin on)
2 Chicken thighs (skin on)
6 x Spring onion (cut into 1 cm lengths)
2 x Grapefruit
1 tablespoon Curry Powder
2 tablespoons Honey
1 level teaspoon Cornflour (mixed with a little water to form a ‘slurry’)
Soy sauce to season

Cut the chicken into 4 or 5 pieces each and fry. Skin side down first in a little olive oil on high heat, turning over only when golden and crisp. When cooked place on kitchen paper to drain.

Peel the grapefruit with a knife and cut into segments. Keep any juice, squeeze out the juice from any flesh still attached to the skin, you want it all for the sauce.

Wipe out the pan and sauté the spring onions.

Add the curry powder and fry until fragrant.

Now, working quickly, add the grapefruit juice, honey, chicken and enough soy sauce to season. Thicken with the ‘slurry’. And lastly toss through the grapefruit segments.

Serve with steamed rice.

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