Wednesday 26 April 2017

Hello, sunshine: Delicious, versatile and packed with vitamin C

Delicious, versatile and packed with vitamin C, oranges combine beautifully with a dash of lemon, says Brenda Costigan, to make fresh and tangy soups, cakes and sauces

LEMON, HONEY AND MUSTARD
CHICKEN BREASTS
LEMON, HONEY AND MUSTARD CHICKEN BREASTS

A good, juicy orange feels heavy in the hand. These balls of sunshine can add so much fun and flavour to your cooking, quite apart from the joy of simply eating the fruit by itself. They're in season at the moment, so it's the best time to use them in recipes, although, like everyone else, I use them all year round in so many ways.

Freshly squeezed orange juice mixed into a yogurt is just delicious poured over your breakfast cereal. When making a coleslaw, I like to thin the mayonnaise to a runny consistency by mixing some freshly squeezed orange juice into it.

A delightfully simple but tasty sauce can be made in the following way with four fresh oranges. Squeeze the juice from two of the oranges and add enough water to the juice to measure a total of 300ml (?pt). Stir the liquid into 2-3 rounded teaspoons of cornflour and add 75g (3oz) caster sugar. Bring it to the boil, stirring all the time to thicken slightly.

Cut the remaining two oranges into individual segments and, ensuring all the white pith has been removed, add them to the sauce. Finally add a tablespoon or two of freshly squeezed lemon juice to give a kick to the flavour. This sauce is delicious served hot on ice cream or with pancakes.

CARROT, TOMATO AND ORANGE SOUP

At this time of year, a tin of tomatoes will give a much better result than fresh ones, and a tin of plum tomatoes will be richer in texture than the standard chopped tomatoes.

You will need:

40g (1 1/2oz) butter

1 tablespoon olive oil or sunflower oil

1 medium onion, chopped

450g (1lb) carrots, chopped

150g (5oz) potatoes, peeled and chopped

2 sticks celery, finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

900ml (1 1/2pt) chicken stock

1 x 400g (14oz) tin chopped plum tomatoes

Orange juice, squeezed from 2 oranges, use a third if necessary

3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

200ml creme fraiche

Put the butter and the olive or sunflower oil, whichever you are using, into a heavy-based saucepan, then add the chopped onion and fry it lightly without browning it. Add the chopped carrots and potatoes and the finely chopped celery. Season them with some salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the sugar and cook very gently over a low heat with the lid on to sweat the vegetables for about five minutes. Stir them occasionally.

Next, stir in the ground cumin, the chicken stock and the tin of chopped plum tomatoes. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and cover the saucepan with a lid. Cook until the vegetables are tender, which should take about 20-30 minutes. If you like, buzz the soup in a blender or a food processor, or simply mash the cooked vegetables gently with a potato masher, and then return the soup to the saucepan.

Add the freshly squeezed orange juice to the soup and reheat. Taste and, if necessary, add more salt and freshly ground black pepper or sugar. Stir in two tablespoons of the chopped chives and, if you like, some of the creme fraiche. Otherwise, serve the creme fraiche separately. To serve, sprinkle a little of the chopped chives over each bowl of soup.

LEMON, HONEY AND MUSTARD CHICKEN BREASTS

(Pictured)

A handy meal with a tasty combination of flavours. Serves 4.

You will need:

4 chicken breasts, preferably partially boned

1 medium lemon

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 tablespoons clear honey

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 heaped teaspoon wholegrain mustard

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Finely grated zest and juice of 1 medium orange

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 C, 400 F, Gas 6.

Cut three slits across the top of each chicken breast and lay them in a shallow, ovenproof dish. Cut the lemon in half, cut one half into wedges and place them around the chicken breasts. Squeeze the other lemon half and mix the juice with the finely chopped garlic, the clear honey, the olive oil, the wholegrain mustard and the fresh thyme leaves, or the dried thyme, whichever you're using. Add a little bit of finely grated orange zest also and spoon this mixture on to the chicken breasts. Season with some salt and freshly ground black pepper, and cover with tin foil. Bake for 20-30 minutes (a little longer if the breasts are partially boned) or until the chicken appears cooked through. Remove the tin foil and continue cooking the breasts uncovered so that the top of them browns nicely. When the breasts are cooked, lift them out. Add the orange juice to the juices in the cooking dish. Taste and, if necessary, add more salt and freshly ground black pepper. Spoon the juices over the chicken and serve.

PORK CHOPs WITH TANGY ORANGE SAUCE

Fresh orange juice mixed with grated fresh ginger and tiny cardamom seeds makes a very tasty sauce in which to cook pork chops. The pork chops are first lightly browned on a pan and then placed in a single layer in an ovenproof dish. They are then covered with this tasty sauce and cooked in the oven. This dish takes a generous hour to cook.

You will need:

4-6 lean pork chops

2-3 tablespoons olive or sunflower oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 small garlic clove, chopped

Juice of 2 large oranges

400-600ml (3/4-1pt) chicken stock

2 teaspoons very finely grated fresh root ginger

Little black seeds from 6-8 cardamom pods

2 dessertspoons mango chutney

1 rounded tablespoon cornflour, blended with a little cold water

1-3 tablespoons fresh cream

Chopped fresh parsley, to sprinkle on top

Mashed potato, to serve

Green vegetable of your choice, to serve

Preheat the oven to 180 C, 350 F, Gas 4.

Fry the lean pork chops in the olive or sunflower oil, whichever you are using, until they are golden on each side, and arrange them in a single layer in an ovenproof dish. Season with some salt and freshly ground black pepper. Fry the thinly sliced onion and chopped garlic until they become soft and then scatter them over the chops. Mix together the orange juice, the chicken stock, the very finely grated fresh root ginger, the black cardamom seeds and the mango chutney. Pour this sauce over the chops. Cover tightly with a lid or with some tin foil. Bake in the oven for 1-1? hours until the chops are very tender. Then pour the juices into a saucepan, add the blended cornflour and bring to the boil to thicken a little, and so that the juices lose their watery texture. If necessary, use a little more cornflour. Stir in the fresh cream and pour the mixture back over the chops. Sprinkle with the chopped fresh parsley. Serve with mashed potatoes and a green vegetable.

ALMOND FEATHER SPONGE WITH FRESH ORANGE DRIZZLE

Simple to make, this single-layer cake has sweetened fresh orange juice, with a little lemon juice added for bite, drizzled over the top to give a lovely moist sponge. The lemon juice could be substituted with a generous dash of brandy -- if the humour takes you.

You will need:

175g (6oz) butter

175g (6oz) caster sugar

3 large eggs

150g (5oz) self-raising flour

Finely grated rind of 1/2 lemon

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

75g (3oz) ground almonds

25g (1oz) flaked almonds

Juice of 1 1/2-2 oranges

Juice of 1/2 lemon

25-40g (1-1?oz) caster sugar

Whipped cream or sour cream, to serve

Use a deepish sandwich tin, 23cm (9in) in diameter. Grease it with butter and line the base with a circle of baking parchment. Preheat the oven to 190 C, 375 F, Gas 5.

Beat the butter until it is soft and add the caster sugar. Beat together until soft. Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a spoon of the weighed self-raising flour with the third egg if the mixture gets rather curdled in appearance. Beat in the finely grated lemon rind and the almond extract. Then stir in the rest of the flour and the ground almonds to make a smooth mixture. Put into the tin and spread out. Scatter the flaked almonds over the top. Bake for about 35 minutes until golden brown and cooked through.

While the cake bakes, mix together the orange juice, the lemon juice and the caster sugar, stirring well. The mixture should measure about 150ml (?pt). Taste when you're adding the lemon juice to ensure the resulting drizzle is not too bitter. The sugar will dissolve while the drizzle is standing.

Cool the sponge in the tin on a wire tray for a few minutes and then turn out to cool completely. Remove the paper lining from the base and put on a serving plate. Using a skewer, pierce a lot of holes in the surface of the cake and gently spoon the drizzle all over the surface. Serve with whipped cream or sour cream.

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