Red Belly Citrus and stock up on blood oranges. This citrus fruit is a favourite ingredient in our house; we love colour and flavour and also how good they are for us. Not only are blood oranges high in vitamin C but also the kind of antioxidants that have made red wine and dark chocolate more justifiable than ever.
I'm also pretty partial to the family behind Red Belly Citrus. Led by cousins Vito, Anthony and Len Mancini, this family business has taken a graft from their grandfathers' backgarden in Griffith and developed a significant, and growing orchard of blood orange trees. Tim and I visited them last year, then had the good fortune of standing next to Len and his wife Ruth for three days at a recent trade show in Hong Kong. And while I'm sure they could recite our spiel about the health benefits and great taste of our Mandagery Creek Venison, we are likewise now more clued up than ever about what makes their blood oranges so special.
So when it came time to return to Griffith, I called Vito Mancini to see if we could possibly prevail on the family again, and bring some friends this time. And so it was, that we held a pre-feste festa in the orchard.
And as these things sometimes turn out - it was also a morning when everyone brought something to the table; Vito of course, contributed the oranges. Our friends from Orange, James and Chrissy Robson of Ross Hill Wines, (above), brought a bottle of their vintage brut. Kate and James McKay from Collector, NSW brought the ceramic tumblers that Kate makes in her ceramics studio there (above), while we contributed a few of our new venison salamis.
It was the best. And while we were at first reluctant to mix such a special sparkling wine with anything; freshly squeezed blood oranges, straight from the tree, were deemed acceptable. The combination turned out to be a winner, with the acidity of the juice and the rich creamy flavour profile of the wine a great match. We ate freshly baked pastries from the Griffith farmers market and drank beautiful juice and wine out of handmade cups.
Blood oranges are in season now until late November and you can find Red Belly Citrus at fruit shops and markets around Australia or via Farmhouse Direct.
Blood orange sherbert
Tangy, light and absolutely bursting with flavour; this is possibly one of the yummiest things I've made all year. Sherbert is my new favourite. Essentially a sorbet but churned with milk, it's a much healthier option for custard-based ice cream and really worth trying. I based this recipe on one given for lemon sherbert in Alice Waters' wonderful book The Art of Simple Food.
225mls blood orange juice
450mls water1 cup caster sugar
finely grated zest of one blood orange
Combine the orange juice, water, sugar and zest in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat, then whisk in the milk. Transfer mixture to an ice cream machine and churn according to your machine's instructions. Serve with sponge fingers or almond bread.
Blood Orange and dark chocolate almond loafAlmond cakes are the best kind; they're rich in flavour and stay moist for ages. Throw some tangy blood orange and bitter dark chocolate into the mix and you have one great cake on/in your hands. The idea for this recipe came from a sticky orange and vanilla upside-down cake in Donna Hay's Seasons book. I've tweaked it a little, added the chocolate etc, but the basic concept is the same. Thanks Donna!
Also, if you have enough ingredients; I'd double this recipe. It's no extra bother really to make two, and one of these loaves, wrapped in baking paper and tied with string, makes a great impromptu gift for that friend who helped you out last week or just someone who might need a kind gesture to lift their mood. The recipe below makes one loaf.
1 cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup plain flour (I like using wholemeal, you could also go for spelt)
1 tsp baking powder
150g melted butter
1 cup almond meal (it's great if you can make your own meal using fresh, natural almonds - the flavour will be loads more intense than if you use ready-processed almond meal. Just tip a cup of almonds into your blender or food processor and blitz)
3/4 cup best quality dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
For the topping
1 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 blood (or other) oranges, very thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 160C and grease either a 24cm cake tin or a large loaf tin (mine is 20cmx12cm). For the topping; combine the sugar, water and vanilla in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the orange slices and simmer for about 15 minutes or until they are completely soft. Arrange the slices on the base of your loaf or cake tin and then pour in the syrup.
For the cake batter; combine the eggs, sugar and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk for 10 minutes, or until the mixture is pale and trippled in volume. Fold in the flour and baking powder. Then gently fold in the butter, almond meal and dark chocolate.
Spoon batter into the cake or loaf tin, smooth over the top and bake for 45 minutes or until cooked through. Let rest for about 5 minutes then turn out onto a platter (to catch all that yummy syrup) and serve.
Blood orange jelliesSince discovering the world of making our own gummy sweets at home (via Hannah of the Perthville Pantry), I've been experimenting with lots of different flavour combinations, and sweeteners and this is my current favourite.
1/2 cup blood orange juice
Juice of one lemon
3 tbsp maple syrup (or to taste)
2 tbsp grass-fed gelatin (on Hannah's recommendation, I use Great Lakes Gelatin, a grass-fed product that can be ordered here.)
Combine the juices and maple syrup in a small saucepan and bring just to boiling point. Remove from heat, whisk in the gelatin then pour mixture into silicone ice cube moulds. Let set in the fridge for half an hour or so before popping them out. Store in the fridge for a few days.