lemon and ginger preserve

Hi, my name is Dylan and I have a problem. I am addicted to preserving. I just can’t get enough of it; I dream about making jam all day long, I dry the skin of every citrus fruit I ever use and have an ever-growing list of chutneys and pastes that I’m dying to make.

Preserves are a great way of extending flavours to times well outside of their seasonality. Sometimes a rainy day can be brightened up a dollop of sugary strawberry jam; a stew can be taken to the next level with the addition of a few crisp fragments of citrus; the deep flavour bleeding into the sauce as it cooks throughout the day. On the flipside, pickled radishes; a delicious use of a winter vegetable are a great way to add a colourful crunch.

I have all of these great ideas, but I am running out of jars… and space in my pantry! I have promised myself that this one will be the last one for a while, so it’s a good thing that it’s such a stunner. Lemon, ginger and honey is just a comforting winter drink – good for the soul and good for the immune system, so I decided to see how it fared as a chutney combination.

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I wanted something warming – if it’s going to be of any use in the winter then its warmth has to emanate throughout the body with each bite. Lemon, ginger and turmeric seemed like the ideal combination; it’s tangy, fragrant and warm, but not too spicy or overpowering, and not too sweet.

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Here’s what you’ll need:
6 lemons
a decent size piece of fresh ginger
a handful of turmeric bulbs
a dash of vinegar
6 tablespoons of salt
1 teaspoon each of fennel and coriander seeds
the juice of 6 additional lemons

As you can probably tell, this recipe can easily be scaled up or down, depending on the size of your jars.

Begin by dicing the ginger and turmeric. I used three turmeric bulbs and grated them as finely as possible – biting into a big hunk of bright, bitter turmeric is a dreadful thought, something I really wanted to avoid. I julienned the ginger root with similar audacity, even though I am not crazy at the idea of a mouthful of ginger, it seems less unpleasant than the turmeric so I tried to keep the slices as thin as I could.

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Gently heat them in a tablespoon of olive oil, with the fennel and coriander, use a relatively low heat. I added a tablespoon of water to lightly steam them – I wanted to avoid crisping them up in any way possible. It might even work better to steam them over hot water first. Take the pan off the heat and toss through another dash of olive oil and a few caps of vinegar. I used apple cider vinegar for tartness and because it’s the only kind I had.

While that pan is filling your kitchen of smells reminiscent of an Arabian marketplace, it’s time to move on to the lemons. As most people on the internet will tell you; organic is best and freshly washed is also good. If you can help it, only pick your lemons once they are ripe, that way they will be juiciest as they stop ripening as soon as they are picked. The recipe that I based mine on (from Ottolenghi, duh) says to quarter them lengthways (but not quite to the bottom). For practicality, I diced mine into bite sized pieces; I thought this would make them easier to squeeze into the jar and easier to spoon out afterwards. Stir through the ginger and turmeric, the salt, and any herbs you think would suit; I used rosemary and a sprinkle of dried thyme.

Jam as much of the mixture into each jar as possible, it can be quite a messy job but try and keep the juice off the table and floor as much as possible! Seal the jars and leave in a cool, dark cupboard for a week.

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Side note: make sure your jars are sterile you could end up with a fungus forest instead.

If patience is not a virtue you are the beholder of, then this is probably not something you should be experimenting with as this is merely the beginning. After a week, squish the lemons down and pour the juice of the six remaining lemons overtop, that should almost take your jar to capacity, add water to make up the difference and add another little glug of oil. Reseal and leave in the cupboard for at least four weeks to ferment.

Wait.

The fibres within the lemon rind will slowly break down, absorbing its own juice and the flavours of the ginger; sweet, tangy and soft.

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Serve atop warm couscous, stir-fry with vegetables or any other kind of cooking. I added a few tablespoons to some sautéed mushrooms for a lemon and mushroom risotto and loved the tang it gave in contrast of the sweet chicken broth.

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pimm’s coq-tail

You may have noticed that in part of my orange themed week, it is also a little bit Ottolenghi-themed. And this post is going to be no exception.

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tangelo and pimm’s roast chicken

I have liberally adapted this recipe to fall in line with some flavours and ingredients that I like, and also things that I had readily available at the time, so if you are thinking of making it, feel free to adapt it liberally also. The orginal recipe uses arak but because I am not actually in Israel, I used Pimm’s which worked well because the flavours of Pimm’s are well suited to combine with citrus.

There are two sections of this recipe, for the marinade you will need:
50ml of Pimm’s or other aperitif alcohol
a few spoonfuls of orange or lemon juice
1 tablespoon of wholegrain mustard
1 tablespoon of brown sugar, white sugar or honey
a large gulp of olive oil
salt
pepper
turmeric
cinnamon
thyme
crushed fennel and caraway seeds

Combine these ingredients with eight small sliced tangelos and then coat four chicken thighs or legs (bone and skin inclusive) and leave for as long as possible. If you are preparing this meal well in advance, like I did, freeze the marinated chicken.

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If you are preparing it they day-of, or have thawed the frozen chicken, move the mixture to a large roasting dish and add a handful of almonds and enough root vegetables for your dinner party. I used potatoes, but you can use fennel bulbs, onions, sweet potato or parsnips.

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Bake at 220°C for 45 minutes, the natural fruit sugar in the tangelos will have caramelized and given them a lovely sweet flavours, which will have been absorbed by the chicken and the vegetables, and because they are thinly sliced they will have crisped up beautifully.

Drain any juice that hasn’t evaporated or been absorbed and simmer in a pot until it reduces sufficiently. If there is a lot, mix a teaspoon of cornflour with a bit of water and add to the juice to thicken it up.

Garnish with chopped parsley and eat it hot or serve it cold at an afternoon or early evening picnic.

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five quarters of the orange

I have recently been reminiscing over all of the books I read in my formative years which initially attracted me to France. This, combined with my recent orange obsession, reminded me of Joanne Harris’ book, Five Quarters of the Orange. There is a scene where the little girl puts dried orange peel into the house’s heating vents and the house is filled with a sweet yet faint aroma of oranges. While this is her mother’s absolute nightmare, I can’t think of anything better.

Dried orange peel is something that is so easy to make and so useful for so many different ways of cooking.

Turn your oven up relatively high for this; about 250°C on fan bake. Peel a bunch of oranges; enough to fill a baking tray. For the peels to dry properly they need to be quite thin, so slice them lengthways to get as much of the pith off as you can. Bake the peel slices for about 30 minutes or until they are dry and brittle, you can make a judgement call on this based on the size of your pieces and the strength of your oven.

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This is such a versatile ingredient; add it to a stew or slow-cooked brisket or chuck steak for a subtle sweet tang, or simmer with some double cream or chocolate to add another dimension to your desserts. They will store for weeks and once cooked they develop a soft, candied texture and can be eaten as part of the dish.

saucy orange – orange sauce

One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to become a bit more organised with my daily food preparation, I think it is so important, and yet so difficult to find the time to properly prepare an evening meal every day so I am trying to get into the habit of taking a Sunday afternoon and adding a bit of productivity into my live by preparing a bunch of meals which I can then freeze or refrigerate for the coming week. A little bit of organisation, probably a little bit of a fad… Anyway, here is a delicious orange sauce that works perfectly for this.

This recipe for orange paste is ideal to make while pottering around the kitchen as it essentially just involves leaving a pot of the stove to simmer.

Firstly, cut an orange into thin slices- flesh, skin, pith and all (well, not the pips). Line a small saucepan with the orange wedges, add a dash of vinegar- I used apple cider vinegar as I like the tart apple flavour it brings, 50grams of honey or sugar and half a teaspoon of saffron. If you don’t have saffron (which I didn’t), substitute it for a combination of cinnamon and turmeric. The cinnamon will give it a slightly similar flavour and the saffron’s colour is replicated by the turmeric. Cover with just enough water, bring to the boil and simmer for about an hour while you potter about. You will be left with beautifully soft orange segments and a thick orange syrup.

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Leave it to cool slightly before blending the mixture into a thick, pulpy paste. You can store the paste in a jar in the fridge for up to a week and can be used as a salad dressing or a sauce with grilled chicken. I thinly sliced some chicken breast and marinated them with the paste. As part of my organisational plan, I froze the chicken to be defrosted during the week. This is a great idea to get really tender meat as it absorbs the flavours and juices while it is freezing and continues to do so while it is defrosting. You can then either pan-fry it and add to a salad or use as the base of an orange pasta sauce- a great summer idea and a nice comfort food for those colder nights.

fun with fruit: orange edition

To me, oranges are the penultimate sign of summer, nothing can beat a ripe, juicy orange for breakfast, an afternoon snack or an after dinner treat. The Spanish phrase for soul mate is ‘la media naranja’, which means ‘half of an orange’ which I take to mean that we should all be in love with oranges because they are everything.

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church in Olvera, Cadiz, Spain overlooking orange groves

The theme of my next few posts will be some ideas on how to incorporate orange elements into a variety of different dishes. Depending on where in the world you are located will determine the availability of oranges at this time of the year. If you are in New Zealand, oranges are at their last dash for the season; these recipes will supply you with some ways of prolonging the season and bringing a little bit of summer zing into the coming winter months. In Spain (where most of Europe’s oranges come from), the season is from the end of Spring to the beginning of Summer, so at this point in thee year, you will be looking for ideas for when the inevitable deluge of oranges begins.

These recipes are inspired by some recipes I found in the Ottolenghi book ‘Jerusalem’.
Dried orange peel
Orange sauce
Tangelo and Pimm’s chicken

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I have been kind of obsessed with this book for a really long time, ever sine 101cookbooks posted their fattoush recipe and I have only just been able to justify buying it for myself, and I don’t regret it one bit!

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orange tree at La Aljafería, Zaragoza, Spain