All the citrus fruits are ripening early this year. Normally the limes are just starting to crop now, but have been ready for almost two months now. The one little grapefruit tree is so laden with large fruit that I will have to make some props for the branches to stop them breaking. As the fruit is already changing from green to yellow I thought I would check to see if they were sweet enough to eat so that I could thin out the biggest groups of fruit. On one side of the tree the fruit look pinker than the other, but the fruit are still tart, while the other side of the tree has yellower fruit that are edibly sweet.
There are several varieties of oranges on the farm, the earliest of which normally start being ready to eat at Christmas, but this year they are nearly there already. While still a little tart for eating alone, they are perfect for salads.
The use of fruit in savoury dishes is a vestige of the arab occupation of various countries around the mediterranean. While in Sicily recently I was treated to a one day course on Sicilian cooking and our profesora, Silvia, prepared for a starter a salad of Florence Fennel with Oranges. (There will be more of the cookery course in a later post.)
Slivers of fresh plump Florence Fennel steeped in lashings of fresh olive oil from their farm, seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, topped with sliced oranges and garnished with black olives.
The sweet and sour flavour of nearly ripe oranges and the fruity acidity of the new freshly pressed olive oil go together so well. One of the simplest orange salads that I have been served was in Merida while on honeymoon. Oranges lightly salted and soaked in olive oil for an hour or two, then garnished with tiny black currants. It was served as an amuse bouche.
Whenever I have been away on a trip, particulary if to somewhere landlocked, the food I yearn for on my return is the wonderfully fresh fish that we have here. Dorada or Sea Bream is farmed in large round enclosures just off the coast here. They are brought to market when the fish are a perfect one person size and are always brightly fresh. Some purists insist that line caught wild fish taste better, but I defy anyone to tell the difference in a blind tasting. Also freshness is such a factor with the taste of fish that I would rather have super fresh farmed than day old wild.
Now for the truly Arab version of an orange salad. Finely grated carrot dressed with lemon juice, honey and orange flowerwater, spread over a layer of thinly sliced oranges and garnished with a few toasted cumin seeds. Leave in the fridge to let the flavours mix for an hour before serving with a spicy lamb tagine.