Blood oranges are a vibrant red with a smooth acidity and tartness that lends itself to savoury and sweet dishes as well as cocktails and cordials.
Juicing blood oranges will give you an intense colour and fantastic fresh flavour and can be used in a variety of ways. As they are only available in Australia from August to October, Jason Saxby, head chef at Enmore's Osteria di Russo & Russo, eagerly awaits the return of blood oranges each year. This blood orange season he plans to use the whole fruit in drinks, mains and desserts, with no part wasted. Here are his suggestions.
1. Cordial for the children or a cocktail for grown-ups
Cordial is great for extending the life of seasonal produce. Heat equal parts blood orange juice and sugar to 70C (do not boil), then add blood orange zest. Stir to dissolve sugar, and sit to let cool. Add lemon juice or citric acid to balance the sweetness. To drink, add a decent splash to soda.
For the adults-only version, you will need an ice-cream churner. The blood orange cordial can be churned until smooth and then popped in the freezer to make a blood orange sorbet. Whisk two generous scoops of this sorbet with white vermouth (Osteria di Russo & Russo use Cocchi Americano, a white vermouth made from Moscato), then slowly whisk prosecco into this mixture. The result is an interpretation of the classic Italian cocktail the Sgroppino, Bellini's slightly frozen cousin. Delicious.
2. Blood orange curd
Blood orange curd is more subtle than lemon curd and lends itself beautifully to desserts with white chocolate. Another way to serve it is simply with shortbread biscuits for a great snack with tea in the afternoon instead of the usual jam and scones.
Combine 100ml blood orange juice, 100g caster sugar and 100g egg yolks in a mixing bowl and cook over a pot of simmering water, constantly whisking until the mixture reaches 85C. Take off the heat and whisk in 250g of cold diced butter, adding a little at a time, until thick and creamy. Then chill in the fridge. When chilled, adjust with extra juice if desired and serve in a bowl next to your favourite shortbread biscuits.
Freeze blood orange juice in a wide, shallow tray and then use a fork to scrape the frozen liquid into crystals. The result is a delicious, crunchy, frozen granita that will be perfect as a light dessert, or as a fresh, cold component to a dinner party dessert. The colour will be show-stopping.
4. Candy the peel
Instead of wasting the peel, there is a delicious way to use it up. Use a vegetable peeler and peel off the skin. Finely julienne into long strips and place in a small pot covered with cold water. Bring to the boil, strain and then place peel back in the pot with fresh cold water. Repeat the process for a third time. Cover in a simple syrup of 50 per cent sugar and 50 per cent water and simmer until translucent, sweet and sticky. Use the candied peel to garnish cocktails, desserts or just fold it through whipped cream. Candied peel will keep in the fridge in a moisture-free air-tight container.
5. A savoury dressing
Make a fresh zingy vinaigrette with equal quantities of blood orange juice, white wine vinegar and olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and whisk to emulsify. This is a fantastic match for a simple seafood dish with pickled fennel, cucumber and blood orange salad. Tuna crudo is well suited to this dressing, as are cooked or raw fish, crab, prawns and squid.
6. Blood orange chips
By drying slices of blood orange you can make crispy orange chips. Thinly slice a whole blood orange (with the skin on) and dehydrate them in an oven set to 70-80C on a tray lined with baking paper. Make sure the door is slightly ajar to allow air flow. Leave in the oven until crispy and dry, this will usually take a few hours. Add chips as a garnish to desserts for dramatic presentation as well as great crunchy texture. Blood orange chips will keep for a few days in an airtight container at room temperature in the pantry.
Jason Saxby, Osteria di Russo & Russo, 158 Enmore Rd, Enmore, NSW, (02) 8068 5202.