Citrus

Citrus

By
Skye Gyngell
Contains
8 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
ISBN
9781844006212
Photographer
Jason Lowe

When I started following the rhythm of the seasons in my cooking, I remember being so surprised to learn that citrus were primarily winter fruits. To me, they speak so absolutely of summer, of sunshine and warmth. Their powerful burst of flavour suggests a product of blue skies, long days and, most importantly, heat. Now I realise that nature’s majesty has bestowed these jewels during the winter months to give a sense of sustenance and hope, such is the perfection of the natural world.

Intense and beautiful in colour, with clear, clean, top note flavours, they are a real gift and offer such diversity. Tarocco blood oranges, Seville oranges, kumquats, clementines, mandarins, pink grapefruit, cedros (citrons), lemons and limes are among the citrus fruit that I love to cook with. In truth, I would find it almost impossible to work without citrus fruits – their flavours are as necessary to my cooking as the use of salt.

Many citrus trees can, in fact, bear fruit for most of the year, though they blossom and fruit most notably in late December and January. Some not-to-be-missed varieties, however – including clementines, Seville oranges, mandarins and blood oranges – have a short season, lasting only two or three months during the winter or spring. Most of our citrus fruit comes from Italy, Spain and North Africa, though at Petersham we are fortunate to have a number of trees, including lemon, kaffir lime, Meyer lemon and kumquat. To be able to walk into a greenhouse and pluck lemons and other citrus fruit from the tree through the year is a real treat, not least because the trees themselves are visually so beautiful.

When you are buying citrus fruit, choose fruit that feels heavy for its size. Avoid any with bruises, but don’t worry about blemishes, as these occur naturally during ripening. To give it a longer shelf life, most citrus fruit is waxed, which is annoying. Buy unwaxed fruit if you possibly can, especially if you are using the zest or peel (all organic fruit is unwaxed). Otherwise scrub the fruit well before use.

All citrus fruits have intensely flavoured zest and juice, which give a zing to dishes – sweet and savoury. I use freshly squeezed lemon juice in so many ways – to make lemonade; dress vegetables and salads; drizzle over fish; cut the richness of mayonnaise made with extra virgin olive oil, and so on. The peel I add to slow-cooked dishes to impart vibrancy and life, and I strew the grated zest on almost everything – to add freshness and high notes.

Blood oranges, at their peak in January and February, are one of my favourites. I use them to make jellies and other palate-cleansing desserts. Their juice also lends a vibrancy to savoury dishes – try it in an aïoli to serve with roasted sea bass or deep-fried artichokes. Warm and intense, this garlicky mayonnaise with a hint of citrus is a beautiful pale orangey-red colour.

In January, we make big vats of marmalade from the bitter juice and skin of Seville oranges to sell in the shop at Petersham; we also eat it on sourdough toast cooked over the grill to take the chill off the early mornings.

We pickle limes to make a sour relish, which is perfect with dishes that are spice laden and Indian in spirit. We also preserve lemons in salt – to chop and add to veal stews, or slow-cooked dishes that are Middle Eastern in feel. Their peculiar and pungent taste is unique.

And we candy everything we possibly can, especially cedro (citron) peel and pinwheels of clementines and blood oranges. To my mind, nothing works better with bitter chocolate than candied orange peel.

Lemon juice is the ingredient, along with salt, that I depend on more than anything in the kitchen. It makes food come alive and I use the sharp juice to flavour so many dishes. Never is there a day when my kitchen is without a bowl of lemons.

Recipes in this Chapter

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