I have to confess, I’m not a winter girl. I don’t much like the cold, the short days and the fact that swimming is mostly out of the question. However, this time of year does have one redeeming feature – winter citrus.
When the temperature drops, you’ll find a constant stream of much-loved citrus-based creations coming from my kitchen – think lemon delicious pudding and mandarin syrup cakes, citrus-roasted chicken, blood orange shortbread and, at the end of every day, warming fresh lemon and ginger tea.
Among the great things about citrus is the way you can make magic from the whole fruit – rind or zest, flesh and juice – with each part adding its own special flavour, texture and colour.
From June to August, during their peak season, lemons feature a lot in my cooking. Recently I expanded my lemon recipe repertoire with the most wonderful salad from Yotam Ottolenghi’s latest book, Plenty More (Ebury Press). In it, lemons are very thinly sliced, blanched, drained and tossed with olive oil, shredded fresh sage, and a little sugar and olive oil, before being roasted. They made the most amazing slightly bitter addition to a tomato and herb salad with pomegranate molasses.
I don’t stop there, however. Even though mandarins are often overlooked when it comes to baking, I have discovered the thin-skinned and very juicy murcott (sometimes known as honey murcott due to their sweetness) is a great baking ingredient.
These mandarin, white chocolate and pistachio biscotti are made with ground, dried mandarin peel, which imparts a more intense flavour than the freshly grated rind – a trick I learnt many years ago from Greg and Lucy Malouf’s book Saha (Hardie Grant Books - find recipes here), where dried orange rind is incorporated into a praline to use in a completely heavenly ice cream.
Next on my winter citrus list are navel oranges. Sweet, juicy, seedless and thin-skinned, they are perfect when using a whole orange in a recipe like this choc-orange loaf with chocolate glaze. Also keep an eye out for cara cara navel oranges with their deep rosy-orange, sweet flesh and thin bright orange skin during winter. They are low in acidity and have a subtly tart refreshing flavour that, like the common navel orange, is perfect to use in this naked orange poppy seed cake with a gorgeous frosting spiked with orange blossom water.
Sicilian blood oranges are also wonderful to use in baking such as these eye-catching upside-down blood orange and walnut cakes, where the whole fruit was used. It was also finished with a pretty, naturally blush-stained and slightly tart syrup. But be quick, blood oranges are only available from August to October so there is only a small window of opportunity to appreciate these beauties.
One of my favourite citrus hybrids is the tangelo, available in Australia from July to October. Being a combination of a tangerine and either a pomelo or grapefruit, its flavour is more intense than mandarin or orange, and it is therefore perfect to add a shot of flavour to creamy desserts like this cheesecake – especially when teamed with juicy segments of tangelo spiked with Campari!
Just a quick word on how to keep your citrus before you use its wonderful rind or zest, flesh and juice. All citrus fruits are best kept in a cool, well-ventilated place out of direct sunlight for up to 2 weeks from purchase or picking, or in a plastic bag in the crisper section of the fridge for up to 1 month. This will ensure their optimum state is preserved and moisture loss is minimised; however you’ll need to check the fruit and wipe them over with paper towel to remove any moisture.
So, even though I’m not crazy about the cold weather, I’m definitely passionate about the citrus it brings.
Anneka's citrus recipes
Anneka's mission is to connect home cooks with the magic of baking, and through this, with those they love. Read our interview with her or for hands-on baking classes and baking tips, visit her at BakeClub. Don't miss what's coming out of her oven via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
Photography by Alan Benson. Styling by Sarah O’Brien. Food preparation by Kerrie Ray. Creative concept by Lou Fay.
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