With its cheerful colour, refreshing taste and floral scent the orange is a welcome change from the plethora of root veg and dark, earthy greens of winter. Spanish citrus season provides fruits that are deliciously sweet and relatively inexpensive to buy.
A well-travelled fruit with origins in China and India; the orange first came to Europe along with the Romans, hitching a ride to Spain and Portugal with Moorish conquests in the 8th century. Rich Britains got their first taste as the orange found its way onto the banquet tables of Tudor England.
As the bitter tasting Seville also came into season this month, now is the time for marmalade making in many households. I’m particularly keen on the Pam Corbin recipe from the River Cottage handbook ‘Preserves’. Recently I fancied a change so opted to follow our Tudor ancestors by turning the whole fruit into a thick, unctuous preserve. While Henry VIII might have eaten this as part of a large final course of sweetmeats and fine desserts, I’m sure you will find your own uses for this deliciously bittersweet conserve.
I was a latecomer to haggis but instantly converted. People can be a little squeamish about eating offal these days, but it strikes me that the rich mix of spices and otherwise unused animal parts fits perfectly with the modern sensibility of reducing food waste. Everything but the oink as the old saying goes.
But there is more to a Burns Night meal than the haggis. The next question has to be – what else would my Scottish neighbours eat to celebrate their most beloved poet?
I am always impatient for the arrival of Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb at the local market. The bright pink stems act as a colourful, sharp antidote to a winter full of earthy root vegetables and irony kale. Grown as a medicinal plant by ancient Chinese cultures this tart vegetable didn’t become popular in Britain until the 1800’s. By the early 20th century forced rhubarb growing had developed into a thriving industry and the Yorkshire Triangle could be found at the centre of all things rhubarb.
Poached with orange juice and honey it makes a simple and healthy pudding and this savoury alternative is a great way of using up a few leftover stems. Team the salsa with pork chops or griddled halloumi as part of the main meal, or serve alongside salty nachos for a group of friends.
I can smell violets from the next room. One whiff of their heady floral scent and I’m back in my Nan’s living room circa 1986. Sucking on Palma Violets, while Perry Mason gets busy clearing a hapless but innocent defendant in court. All is well with the world.