They have the zing of a raspberry and pack a huge nutritional punch. Blood oranges are only in the shops for a short while, so get baking them in a cake, or enjoy them in these delicious salads
With its intense citrus flavour, an almost raspberry-like zing and a dark-pink-hued flesh to match, the blood orange is high up on the list of my favourite fruits. Blood oranges are only available for a couple of months a year — from Christmas until the end of February or March — and are usually imported into Ireland from the Mediterranean, though they are also grown in some of the warmer states of America.
The blood orange, like its cousin the orange, works a treat in sweet baking, drinks and cocktails, and also loves earthy-flavoured ingredients such as beetroot or the deep, savoury tang of goat’s cheese. The fruit’s sharp sweetness also makes blood oranges a delightful pairing with seafood such as scallops and crab, or with white meats.
The red pigment in blood oranges is an antioxidant, thought to bring many health benefits — even more than you get with your average orange. When I cook with blood oranges, I try and make dishes that really show off the fruit’s stunning colour, as in this upside-down blood orange cake — the round slices of blood orange look stunning, and taste even better.
When you’re using oranges in a salad, as in the chicken, fennel and blood orange salad featured here, you can, if you wish, segment the oranges for the juiciest result. I explain how to do this in the recipe, but if you prefer, take the easier option and just slice the oranges instead.
Look out for blood oranges in your local greengrocer, farmer’s market and supermarket to bring some zing to your kitchen this month. If you have any left over, squeeze them and sip the juice over ice or with the addition of some cold sparkling wine.
You will need:
375g caster sugar
3 blood oranges
150g soft butter
200g self-raising flour
Whipped cream or crème fraîche, to serve
1 You will also need need a 25cm sauté pan or frying pan that can be used in the oven. Preheat the oven to 170C, 325F, Gas 3.
2 Put 200g of the caster sugar and the water into the pan. Stir over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves, then cook, without stirring, until the sugar caramelises to a golden brown.
3 Meanwhile, peel the blood oranges and cut into slices approximately ½cm-1cm thick, ensuring you cut across the fruit (the ‘equator’) rather than from top to bottom.
4 When the sugar is caramelised in the pan, take the pan off the heat straight away, then carefully arrange the orange slices in a single layer over the caramel (this will be the top of the cake when it’s cooked). Set the pan aside to sit for a moment while you prepare the cake batter.
5 If you are using a food processor, put the soft butter, the remaining 175g of caster sugar and the self-raising flour into the bowl of the processor, whizz for a couple of seconds, then add the eggs and stop as soon as the mixture comes together. If you don’t have a food processor, cream the butter and the 175g of caster sugar in a bowl; add the eggs one by one, then mix in the self-raising flour.
6 Spoon blobs of the cake mixture in an even layer over the slices of fruit, then gently spread it out in the pan.
7 Bake the cake in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. The centre should be just firm to the touch and the edges should have slightly shrunk from the sides of the pan. Run a knife around the edge to make sure it hasn’t stuck anywhere. Leave the cake to sit for 2 or 3 minutes before turning out of the pan. Serve with whipped cream or crème fraîche, whichever you’re using.
You will need:
1 chicken (1.5kg-2.25kg). See my Top Tip, below
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 blood oranges
2 bulbs of fennel
Zest and juice of half a lemon
4 large handfuls of salad leaves
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 Preheat the oven to 180C, 375F, Gas 4.
2 Place the chicken in a roasting tray, drizzle with the 2 tablespoons of the extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with some salt and freshly ground black pepper.
3 Put the chicken in the preheated oven and roast it for about 1½ hours to 1¾ hours until it is cooked. The legs should feel quite loose in the bird and, when a skewer is inserted in the thigh, the juices should run clear. If the chicken begins to look quite dark while it is cooking, cover it with some foil. When it is cooked, carve the chicken in pieces and cut into roughly bite-sized chunks.
4 While the chicken is cooking, segment the orange. Use a small knife and work over a bowl to catch the juices. First, cut off the ends of the orange, then carefully cut off the peel and pith in a spiral until you have a peeled orange with only flesh and no white pith. Next, carefully cut along the edge of each segment, leaving behind the membrane and freeing a wedge of flesh from the pith. Repeat until you have cut out all the segments. Put them in the bowl. Squeeze the peel and remaining membrane over the bowl to extract any juice, then discard. Repeat with the other orange. See Rachel Recommends, below, if you don’t want the faff of segmenting the oranges.
5 To prepare the fennel, slice the leafy fronds off the top of the bulbs and reserve them for later. Next, trim the top and the base of the fennel bulbs, then cut the bulbs into 5mm-thick slices.
6 When the chicken is cooked and carved into chunks, add the fennel slices, the lemon zest, the lemon juice and the remaining 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil to the same bowl. Toss gently and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Drain off a little of the liquid and use it to toss the salad leaves, then place the dressed leaves in the middle of a large serving plate. Add the chicken pieces, the orange segments or slices, whichever you’re using, and the sliced fennel. Scatter over the reserved fennel fronds and the chopped parsley, then serve.
Rather than roasting a whole chicken for the chicken, fennel and blood orange salad, you could roast 6-8 large chicken drumsticks or thighs, or a mix. They’ll only take about 20-25 minutes to cook in the preheated oven.
If you don’t fancy segmenting the blood orange, then peel it and cut it into 5mm-thick slices, cutting across the orange.
You will need:
3 blood oranges, segmented (see chicken, fennel and blood orange salad recipe, above, for method)
350g cooked crab meat
1 small red onion, finely chopped or thinly sliced
2 avocados , peeled and cut into 1cm dice
50ml extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped coriander, parsley or dill
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
To serve, you will need:
A few handfuls of salad greens
A drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
1 Place the blood orange segments in a wide mixing bowl. Add the cooked crab meat, the finely chopped or thinly sliced red onion, whichever you’re using, and the diced avocado and toss gently.
2 Drizzle over the extra-virgin olive oil, the sherry vinegar and the chopped coriander, parsley or dill, whichever you’re using. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and toss again — gently, so as not to break up the orange segments.
3 Place a small handful of salad greens on each plate, or all together on one large platter. Drizzle with a little extra-virgin olive oil, then spoon the crab and blood orange salad over the top, and serve.