A glum winter is brightened by citrus season: seville oranges for marmalade, blood oranges from Sicily, bergamots (the zest of which perfume Earl Grey Tea) and leafy mandarins. If you can, try to get hold of Japan’s extraordinary citrus selection. Yuzu has become fashionable over the last decade: combined with soy sauce to make ‘ponzu‘ or with chillies and salt to make ‘koshi‘, another condiment.
I haven’t travelled since I got back from Japan a year ago when I visited Shikoku, the island where they grow Yuzu. I also tried Dekopon, mandarin-like with a large orange nipple and Mikan satsumas. Hard to describe the flavour of these, it’s more a question of intensity, the most orangey-orange you have ever tasted.
Difficult to find in the UK are Meyer lemons, usually from California. Imagine a fragrant lemon with sweetness. Many exotic fruits can be ordered directly from the Natoora app, but beware. Fiddling around on the iPhone, I found I’d spent a shocking £12.80 on a single yuzu once it was delivered. Both Ocado and Riverford Organics sell bergamots.
Pomelo, like a large but not so bitter grapefruit, is another citrus worth trying, especially in salads: this can be bought at corner shops in Kilburn High Road. The pith is incredibly thick. From February you can buy perfumed Bengali limes or ‘Gondhoraj Lebu’, large green knobbly citrus costing around £1.40 each from East London/Whitechapel ethnic shops.
Spend time learning to carve or ‘supreme’ citrus: it’s the pith that is bitter and ideally you don’t want the chewy membrane either. For many citrus (Bergamot, Yuzu, Bengali limes) the zest, crammed with volatile essential oils is the point, while the actual fruit can be rather dry. With limes, lemons and oranges, both zest and juice are equally valuable in recipes. I love grapefruit, increasingly sweeter varieties higher in ‘Brix’ (the sweetness scale) are grown, but it clashes with many medicines such as statins.
And look! I’ve given you a Valentine’s idea… I’ve made this with bergamot but you can make it with lemons or blood oranges.
Tarte au bergamot
For the pastry
- 150 g plain flour
- 75 g unsalted butter
- 30 g almonds, ground
- 50 g icing sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
- 1 egg yolk
- pinch salt
For the curd
- 1 bergamot zest plus juice
- 2 lemon zest plus juice
- 4 eggs
- 300 g butter, room temperature
- 240 g caster sugar
For the pastry
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC
- Rub the flour and butter together until it forms breadcrumbs
- Add almonds, icing sugar, vanilla, egg and salt.
- Knead together, cover with clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
- Roll out the dough then press it into a prepared (greased and floured)tart tin.
- Blind bake: line the pastry with a piece of parchment paper and pour in baking beans. Bake at 180ºC for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, remove the beans and parchment paper and bake for another 10 minutes until golden. Leave to cool.
For the filling
- Combine the sugar and citrus zest in a bowl which will fit over a saucepan/bain-marie without touching the water. Stir for a few minutes.
- Add the juice and eggs. Stir constantly until the mixture reaches 82ºC or is thick and custar-like. Remove from the heat and let it cool to lukewarm.
- Pour all of it into a blender, then add the butter while the blender is running cube by cube.
- Pour the curd into the tart shell. Leave to chill then serve.
- TLDR: a shortcut is buying ready-rolled shortcrust pastry, baking it as above, then adding store-bought lemon curd.
Blood orange salad
- 4 blood oranges, reserve zest, remove skin and pith
- 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
For the dressing
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tbsp dijon mustard
- handful of dill, finely chopped to scatter
- blood orange zest to garnish (optional)
- Arrange the ingredients prettily on a plate then drizzle with the dressing, dill and zest
Yuzu kosho (Japanese chilli citrus paste)
- 1 yuzu ( use other citrus such as limes/lemons/bergamots/meyer lemon if unable to get a yuzu)
- 1 small green chilli
- 1 tbsp sea salt
- Zest the yuzu, taking care not to include the pith. Deseed the chilli.
- In a blender or a pestle and mortar mince all the ingredients together.
Pomelo, cucumber and peanut dressing salad
- half pomelo fruit, all pith and membranes removed
- half cucumber, thinly sliced
For the dressing:
- 50 g peanuts or 3 tbsps of crunchy peanut butter
- big splash sweet soy sauce or Kecap Manis
- 3 tbsps coconut sugar or brown sugar
- 150 ml coconut milk
- 1 small red chilli, deseeded, ground
- thumb galangal or ginger, minced
- clove garlic, minced
- 2 fresh kaffir lime leaves, torn up
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 3 tbsps ground nut or vegetable oil
- 1 fresh lime, juiced
- Arrange pomelo and cucumber on a plate.
For the dressing:
- Process peanuts, soy, kecap, sugar, coconut milk, chilli, galagal, garlic, kaffir lime leaves and salt in a food processor, leaving some texture to the peanut. Finally add the oil and lime.
- Then put in a saucepand and simmer gently, taking care not to let it boil. Add some hot water if it needs to be thinner. Remove from the heat and let it cool.
- Finally add the oil and lime, whisk together or shake in a jar and pour over the salad.