Sunday, 12 January 2020

Oranges are not the only fruit

I wonder at the advancements and innovations the Moors brought with them to this region, from their scientific developments (like distillation processes, even though they didn't drink alcohol for religious reasons), to their planting habits (as they invaded, they planted citrus trees as they went, both for the fruit, and the scent - hence Seville's famous orange trees).Well before you utter the word marmalade the bitter orange season is here again.Pupils dilate with excitement when the word goes round that the Seville oranges are in the shops.Once again the house is filled with the citrus smell that I equate with perfect happiness.
Today many people have lost all feeling for what food is seasonal and what is not. Everything is available throughout the year. The bitter or Seville orange is one of the few exceptions. Its season is short, from mid-December to February, and even then unless you frequent the Iberian peninsula this fruit can be  hard to find. If you have found a supplier, buy a great quantity and freeze the oranges you do not use immediately.If you have a tree,even better,or just make lots of marmalade.
If you want to freeze Seville oranges, pour water that has just been boiled over them, dry them well, wrap them separately in foil and then store them in a freezing bag.
 I have made a bitter orange tart. Ideally this should be made with Seville oranges,but if you want to make this when they are not available the trick is to use sweet eating oranges and add the juice of a lime in order to replicate as closely as possible the fragrant bitterness of Sevilles.This recipe involves several steps which can be divided over a few days to split what could be quite an undertaking into a series of small tasks taking just a few minutes each.

Seville orange tart with a blueberry topping
The tangily sharp smooth pale cream is offset by the purple black headiness of glazed berries on top.

24cm x 6cm fluted tart tin

FOR THE FILLING
juice (200ml) and zest of 2-3 Seville oranges
or of 1 eating orange and 1 lime
250g caster sugar
300ml double cream
6 large eggs

FOR THE PASTRY
90g soft unsalted butter
75g caster sugar
3 large egg yolks
175g plain flour

FOR THE GLAZE
1 tbsp arrowroot
50g caster sugar
scant tsp orange juice
125ml water
250g blue berries

Start with the filling,a couple of days in advance.The taste is so much better when the juice and the cream and so forth are left to deepen in the fridge for a couple of days.In a wide-mouthed measuring jug,mix the juice with the sugar,add the zest,double cream and eggs,and stir to combine.Cover and chill for up to 3 days in the fridge or alternatively leave at room temperature for a few hours.
You can also make the pastry in advance.
Cream the butter and sugar together,then add the yolks one at a time.Stir in the flour to form a soft dough,then form into a fat disc,wrap in clingfilm and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4 and put in a baking sheet.Roll out the pastry to fit the tart tin and line it with the pastry,pushing gently down so that it lies flat on the bottom,leaving a little overhang.Put back in the fridge for a further 20 minutes to rest again.
Roll a rolling pin over the top of the tart tin to cut off excess pastry neatly.
Line the tin with foil or baking parchment and fill with baking beans.Put the tin in the oven for 15 minutes,then remove beans and foil or parchment and give it another 5 -10 minutes,until the bottom has dried out,transfer to awire rack to cool a little and turn the oven down to 170C/gas mark 3.
Strain the liquid mixture into the pastry case to remove the zest,put back on the sheet in the oven for 45 minutes.( You may find this easier if you more long-winded,if youif you sieve this mixture into another jug and pour from this into the pastry case already on the sheet in the oven with the rack pulled out.
When the tart is cooked,it should be firm on the top with a hint of a wobble underneath.Remove to a wire rack and let cool.Unmould and transfer to a serving plate.
To make the glazed blueberry topping,combine the arrowroot and sugar in a small saucepan,then stir in the juice and water. Put the pan on the heat and bring to the boil,stirring all the time:it should turn clear very quickly.take it off the heat and add the blueberries,then spoon the now-glossy berries over the top of the tart.leave to set for about 10 minutes.Dont worry when slicing the tart its texture is very soft,on the cusp of a custard.  Serves 8

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