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Award-winning Suffolk food writer Nicola Miller, from Bury St Edmunds, talks blood oranges and gives tips on how to serve them





The blood-orange season is a licence to gorge. We have only a short time to enjoy their very welcome vivacity at a time of year when light – and energy – levels are low. Over the last few weeks, I have eaten shedloads of Sicilian Taroccos from the slopes of Mount Etna, which, rather conveniently and romantically, are stocked on my local market. I keep it simple, slicing the fruit into quarters and adding salt to enhance its natural sweet-savouriness There’s usually a plate of sliced Taroccos on my desk to snack on as I work; by the end of the day, the keyboard is stained with their juice.

Waitrose has re-branded blood oranges as ‘blush oranges’, which sounds like something Hyacinth Bouquet might dream up. I hate it. Their oranges are Sicilian Taroccos like the ones at my market. Taroccos are a little tart; if you want something less sharp, look for a variety named Moro. The red-stained flesh is rich in anthocyanin antioxidants and Vitamin C. And it’s an easy fruit to handle, albeit messy, with thin, easy-to-peel skin and very little pith. They are beautiful.

I could bake a blood-orange and pomelo sticky crunch loaf, Elly McCausland’s Vanilla and Blood Orange Torta di Riso or Samuel Goldsmith’s Blood Orange Upside Down Cake. A salad of small black olives scattered over thin wheels of blood orange and icy anise-scented fennel shards is quick and easy. Maybe I should roast chicken thighs with chipotle, achiote and Tarocco juice? Or knock up a plateful of Michael Procopio’s Antidepressant Salad from his newsletter, Spatchcock, packed as it is with roasted beets, oranges, and hazelnuts in a cider vinegar, mirin and maple syrup dressing.

Blood oranges
Blood oranges

Years ago, I made a small pot of blood orange and honey curd. It looked like I’d captured one of Turner’s sunsets and was inspired by a Melissa Clark recipe for a honey and blood orange compote to accompany slices of blood orange olive oil cake. Clark’s compote is simple: she suprêmes three oranges, arranges the bright, fat little pieces on a plate, drizzles over 1-2 teaspoons of honey, and leaves the mixture to infuse for 5 minutes before gently stirring. My curd? Less so; it took hours of faffing around. And it didn’t hang around for long either - the fate of all delicious things. I stirred it into ice cream, used it to sandwich bitter-chocolate cookies, and poured it over fingers of toasted brioche. I have only made it once so I can’t offer the recipe here, but American food writer Nik Sharma has a meticulously tested recipe for Blood Orange Curd with Honey Bourbon on his website, Niksharmacooks.com. It would be mellifluously gorgeous in a pavlova, as a dipping sauce for madeleines or dolloped over your breakfast yoghurt and granola.

This winter, I have yet to do any of these things. All I have done to my blood oranges is dust them with Tajín and a little extra sea salt to recreate a taste so familiar it feels like the emotional equivalent of muscle memory. It is simple, addictive, and perfect. When I was a kid in Mexico walking home from school, my friend and I would stop at one of the roadside stalls where little plastic bags half-filled with chunks of pineapple, mango, orange, prickly pear fruits (called ‘tuna’) and papaya dusted with Tajín Clásico were sold. Life in the desert was thirsty work, and fruit was much-needed, but too much sweetness in the heat can be rather sickly; Tajín’s blend of ground chilli peppers, lime and sea salt was perfect mitigation.

BLOOD ORANGES WITH LIME, CHILLI AND SALT

All you need to do is slice, suprême (remove all of the pith and peel) or quarter your blood orange, saving any escaped juice. Arrange on a plate however you like, pour over the juice and lightly dust with Tajín. Add a few flakes of finely ground sea salt if you like. Gorge yourself.

NOTE:

If you want to get fancy, here are some suggestions for what to put on blood oranges (or any oranges, for that matter).

Pinches Salt is a West Suffolk-based company that makes hand-blended salt mixes. Try their lime and chilli, rosemary, lemon or an intriguing medley of paprika, cumin seed and black pepper

Smoked salt or seaweed salt from Cornish Sea Salt

Halen Môn celery salt (go easy with this)

Togarashi (Japanese blend of red chilli peppers, Sichuan peppercorns, dried orange peel, sesame seeds, ginger, and seaweed)

Maldon chilli sea salt

Dorset Sea Salt Co fennel-infused salt

Ground White Sarawak pepper

Tapenade (a herbed paste made from black olives and capers)

Grated dried salted plum

A sprinkling of Korean Gim (a blend of black sesame seeds, shredded roasted seaweed, perilla oil and salt)

Olive oil (look for a peppery, grassy, spicy one)

Dukkah

Grated chilli chocolate

Follow Nicola on Twitter: @Nicmillerstale

Winner of the Guild of Food Writers Online Food Writer Award 2020

Fortnum & Mason Cookery Writer of the Year 2022