Blood Oranges

Blood oranges start to make a weekly appearance in the fruit and veg box we order from Riverford from January until about March. I always feel a compulsion to do something special with them. Carving one into segments to guzzle routinely after a meal, or juicing a few at the weekend, using our ancient citrus press, while both delicious, seem to miss the opportunity to savour the fruit’s brief season and unique red interior.

At first glance, blood oranges look similar to standard varieties. These days, it’s rare that I get the chance to look up the contents of my veg box in advance. So, I usually know the season has arrived when I cut into, what I think is, a standard orange only to reveal unexpectedly, and sometimes alarmingly, the most striking crimson flesh and pink sticky juice. Blushes of pink and red in places across a blood orange’s thick flesh are usually the only hint at the fruits true identity.

Slightly sweeter than your average, and with a hint of strawberry and raspberry, blood oranges lend themselves well to being the star of a dish, where their flavour and colour can be fully appreciated.

They can adorn upside down cakes, compliment spiced caramel in a fruit salad and even add zing to a mojito. One of my favourite recipes though – and perhaps no surprise given earlier evangelism – is a delicious salad, of blood oranges, burrata, bitter leaves and ciabatta crostini.

It couldn’t be easier:
  1. Wisk the zest and juice with some olive oil to dress bitter winter leaves, such as radicchio.
  2. Brush slices of ciabatta with olive oil and bake them until crisp in a warm oven (about eight minutes)
  3. Trim the skin off two oranges and cut the fruit into slices
  4. Arrange a generous handful of leaves and the burrata on a plate, top with the orange and a sprinkling of toasted and crushed hazelnuts
  5. Enjoy spread on the toasted ciabatta crostini. Enough for two

Any leftover crostini will keep well in an airtight container. You could experiment with the dressing by adding a splash of balsamic or some toasted crushed fennel seeds. Twist the pared orange skin and add to a gin and tonic with any juice that runs from the fruit as you peel and cut them.