Blood Oranges - In Season

.Georgina Campbell

Blood oranges are a variation of the familiar orange (Citrus x sinensis) with slightly reddish tones showing in the skin and deep, in some cases almost blood-red, flesh.

They are grown mainly in Mediterranean countries and one, the Arancia Rossa di Sicilia ( the Red Orange of Sicily), has PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) status. Their season is short and they are at their best in late winter, so enjoy them while you can. Like other citrus fruits they are light and healthy, with a high vitamin C content and lively, refreshing flavour.

The depth of colour and flavour varies according to variety, with Moro (Italy) and Sanguinello (Spain) both having a good deep colour and intense flavour. Like lemons and oranges they are very versatile in cooking and they look beautiful in many dishes where other citrus fruits would usually be used - with fish, for example - or when juiced.

The deep red colour and its association with love makes the blood orange an especially interesting ingredient to play around with for a romantic dinner - starting, perhaps, with the delicious salad below. I noticed it in Darina Allen’s Simply Delicious Christmas book - and how happy I would be to find this delicious, simple and refreshing dish on a restaurant menu…

Watercress, Blood Orange and Toonsbridge Mozzarella SaladWatercress, Blood Orange and Toonsbridge Mozzarella Salad

The rich West Cork pasture that the buffalos feed on gives the Toonsbridge mozzarella its quintessentially Irish taste. A few beautiful fresh ingredients put together simply make an irresistible starter. Make just before serving.

Serves 4

a bunch of fresh watercress
2-3 balls of fresh Toonsbridge mozzarella
2 blood oranges
2-3 tablespoons Irish honey
a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
coarsely ground black pepper
coarsely chopped roasted hazelnuts
sprigs of fresh flat parsley

Scatter a few watercress leaves over the base of each plate, warm the mozzarella (see below) then slice or tear some mozzarella over the top.

With a sharp knife, remove the peel and pith from the blood oranges. Cut into 5mm (1/4in) thickslices and tuck a few here and there in between the watercress and mozzarella.

Drizzle with honey and really good extra virgin olive oil. Finally, add a little coarsely cracked fresh black pepper, sprinkle with coarsely chopped roasted hazelnuts and a few sprigs of flat parsley and serve.

TIP: Put the balls of mozzarella into a thick plastic bag and drop in simmering water for 3 or 4 minutes. This transforms the mozzarella to a melting tenderness.

[Note: If watercress is unavailable, try using other robust salad leaves, eg curly endive, chicory or lamb’s lettuce. GC]

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