While the end of January can often be a bit cold and dull, this time of year also heralds the start of citrus season. The promise of a little color and delicacies around the corner when you need it most. A good greengrocer will now stock fist-sized lemons, sharp Seville oranges for marmalade, and incomparable glorious blood oranges. On the outside, these blood fruits look just like their counterparts, but the skin hides dramatic ruby red flesh. Depending on the variety, the blood reference can be anything from red-spotted segments to full crimson. They have a combination of sweet and slightly sweet and sour flavors and are good to eat on their own or squeeze the juice into something shiny for a catchy and delicious drink.
Another staple guaranteed to cheer the heart on a gray day is a well-done cake. Add the magic of blood oranges and you have something really special. Slices of citrus fruits are cooked in an orange syrup then placed at the bottom of a cake mould. The dough has ground almonds and is lightened with yogurt. During baking, the syrup-coated fruits melt into the cake. Once out, it should then be anointed with more syrup to add a layer of sticky lushness. It’s especially comforting with a cup of tea if you heat it up and add fresh yogurt.
Likewise, it’s perfectly acceptable to seek comfort in rich, dark stews and more sensual dishes at this time of year. And a roast chicken can be particularly reassuring with the addition of a little tangy lemon. Buy lemons that really smell like fruit. Go to a good greengrocer and buy some imported from Italy that are loose rather than bagged. The scent of the skin will transport you to a warm and exotic place. The chicken is coated in a citrus-spiced yoghurt batter and roasted. It is served with a lemon and almond rice salad. Hot chicken and fresh rice – the ultimate yin and yang of deliciousness for this time of year.
Spicy Lemon Roast Chicken with Lemon Almond Rice Salad
What you will need
For the Spicy Lemon Roast Chicken
1 medium chicken, about 1.5 kg
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
3 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon of turmeric
Set the oven to 210°C and place the chicken on a lightly oiled roasting pan.
Mix the oil with the yogurt, lemon zest, garlic, garam masala and turmeric and season to taste. Pour generously over the chicken. Cut the lemon in half and add it to the pan. Bake for 20 minutes then lower the heat to 170°C. Cook for about an hour or until a skewer inserted into the thigh, the juices run clear. Let rest. Squeeze the juice from the lemon into the juice and boil until you get a thick sauce and set aside.
For the Lemon Almond Rice Salad
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
250g basmati rice
500ml chicken stock
A handful of fresh cilantro
50g toasted slivered almonds
4 green onions chopped
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Cook the onion in the rice until soft and add the rice and broth. Place a lid on top and heat until the rice is cooked and the stock is absorbed – usually about 12 minutes. Then add the cilantro, 2/3 of the almonds, the green onions and the lemon zest and juice. Stir in the juice from the roast chicken and check the seasoning. Pour into a bowl and garnish with the remaining slivered almonds.
Blood orange and almond cake
What you will need
For the blood oranges in syrup
4 blood oranges
100g caster sugar
Slice an orange and a half and set aside. Squeeze the remaining oranges into a saucepan and add the sugar. Cook until the sugar is dissolved. Add the orange slices and heat for about 10 minutes.
Grease and line an 8 inch cake pan with parchment paper. Arrange the orange slices on the bottom and pour a few tablespoons of syrup.
For the cake
150g soft butter
200g caster sugar
Zest of 1 blood orange
150g ground almonds
200g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
75 ml Greek yogurt
Mix the flour and the baking powder together.
Beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the orange zest and the eggs one by one. Mix half the yogurt with half the flour and the ground almonds. Mix the rest of the flour and yogurt to obtain a smooth paste. Pour over the oranges and bake for about 45 minutes in a preheated oven at 180°C or until a knife inserted comes out clean.
Leave to cool for 10 minutes then turn out onto a plate, orange side up. Serve with cream or yogurt.
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