In this spring column, I am taking you on a journey with two of my all-time favourite things – desserts and blood oranges. Anyone who knows me can tell you that I am a dedicated dessertie (the dessert version of a foodie – of which I’m also one), and will forgo entrees and main courses in restaurants if it means I can have a kick arse dessert. It is the ultimate ending to a meal as far as I’m concerned. I have hundreds of recipes for them, and even though I know beyond any shadow of a doubt that I will never get through them all, not even in several lifetimes, I continue to collect and drool over them. When I have friends over for dinner, dessert is decided before the meal plan even begins. If this sounds a bit obsessive to you, you’re right. It is, and I have no feelings of guilt connected to this obsession. I excelled in them at TAFE, and if I were young enough to get an apprenticeship in the hospitality industry, it would be with patisserie. As for blood oranges, I wait anxiously for the first of them to appear at the beginning of spring. Their glorious colour, and sweet tartness make them perfect for salads and desserts. If you visit Europe, especially France, and order orange juice for breakfast, it is more than likely to be blood orange juice you get.
I am approaching the recipes in this column differently than usual. I am going to give you one basic dessert recipe – a blood orange jelly. This is incredibly simple to make, and will impress your guests a lot more than any packet jelly will. I am going to give you a range of accompaniments to go with it to make it a contemporary summer dessert. Don’t forget your presentation. I hope you have fun with it.
If any readers would like recipes for any occasion, help with cooking, information on
ingredients or assistance with planning function, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org . I am only too pleased to help.
Blood Orange Jelly
500ml (2 cups) strained blood orange juice – about 5-6 blood oranges
250ml sugar syrup (½ cup sugar to ½ cup water, then boil 5 minutes)
2 tablespoons grated blood orange zest (Grate before squeezing)
4-5 leaves gelatine (these set better than powder gelatine, and are available from places like ‘Essential Ingredient’, ‘Jones the Grocer’ and Simon Johnson Providore’. If it is too difficult to obtain, use 1-1½ sachets of powdered gelatine)
Juice oranges and strain. Mix zest with warm sugar syrup, leave aside. Alternatively, boil zest with sugar syrup with a more intense orange flavour. Soak gelatine in one cup of the juice (or soak powder in 3-4 tablespoons cold water) for 5 minutes. Heat juice to dissolve gelatine, or mix powdered gelatine with one cup of juice and slowly heat till dissolved. Mix all liquids together, strain, then pour into 6 dariole moulds or other moulds you wish to use. If you lightly oil them with vegetable oil (this has no flavour), they will slip out easier when set. Chill for 4-5 hours to set, or overnight. If moulds are unoiled, or jellies do not slip out of moulds when inverted on a plate, dip the mould in hot water for 20-30 seconds to release jelly. If you need to slide them into position on a plate, rub a small amount of orange juice under the jelly, and slide it CAREFULLY into position. Otherwise, be creative and work around it.
Blood oranges are seasonal, so don’t feel restricted to just using them for jelly. If you have a food processor or juice extractor, try this recipe with apples, lemons, oranges, limes, pineapple, berries, mango or grapes. Just remember to strain the pulp out of the mix.
TUILES: These are delicious, brittle wafers. Sift 50g plain flour, 65g caster sugar, 35g icing sugar into a bowl and make a well. Slowly add 125g eggwhites (2-3 whites. Weigh them), and incorporate with your hands, making sure there are no lumps. Add 65g melted butter, and chill mix for 1 hour. Place a sheet of baking paper on a tray, then lightly spray with cooking spray. Spread mix onto paper in round or square shapes. Allow 1 per person, and don’t be anal about shape. Bake in 150°C oven until a light golden brown all over. Peel off, cool slightly, then shape. Until they are cold, these are quite malleable. You can shape them into cups by draping over the outside of a cup or glass, fold into loose envelopes to insert chocolate wafers into, scrunch them, twist them, or do free-form designs.
ROASTED STRAWBERRIES: How delicious are these! Preheat oven to 160°C. Arrange 2 punnets of washed and hulled strawberries in an ovenproof dish. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons vanilla essence and 2 tablespoons caster sugar. Place in oven for 8-10 minutes, until berries are soft and juicy. Cool in dish.
TOFFEE APPLES: Peel and core 4 Granny Smith apples, then cut each into eighths. In a bowl, combine 3 tablespoons caster sugar, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 2 tablespoons water, then dip apples wedges into it. Tip them into a heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat and let them caramelise and brown. Turn each of the apple pieces as they start to caramelise, and take them out of pan when they are cooked on both sides.
ORANGE MASCARPONE: Beat 2 eggwhites until they are stiff, then set aside. Beat the two yolks with 2 tablespoons caster sugar and 1 tablespoon grated orange rind. When light and creamy, gently whisk in 250g mascarpone cheese (from dairy section in supermarket) and 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or a teaspoon of orange blossom water (from health food stores, specialty stores, or ‘Herbies’ at Rozelle). Fold the eggwhites through the mascarpone mix and chill for 1 hour.
POMEGRANATE & FIG SALAD: Finely slice 3 green figs and 1 guava and place in a bowl with segments from 1 orange (use a blood orange for effect). Slice a pomegranate in half and scoop out the seeds into the bowl. Squeeze remaining juice from pomegranate over fruit and serve.
CANDIED ORANGE WEDGES: You can eat the skin and all on these delicious morsels. These are for genuine sweet-tooths. They will keep in their syrup for about a month. Cut 3 blood oranges and 1 naval orange into eighths. Heat 4 cups caster sugar and 2 cups water over low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Increase the heat, add the wedges, then simmer, stirring regularly, for 30 minutes or until transparent. Remove from heat, then stand the wedges in the strup for 4-6 hours, or overnight. If you wish, add a cinnamon quill and 2 star anise to the syrup when cooking.
Garnish with a chiffonnade (very fine julienne) of basil leaves.
RASPBERRY SAUCE: Place 300g fresh raspberries (use frozen if out of season or expensive), 50ml orange juice, 3 tablespoons icing sugar and 2 tablespoons orange liqueur (buy miniatures from a bottle shop – they are relatively inexpensive) into a blender and blitz until smooth. Put through a sieve and refrigerate. Spoon around the jelly and garnish with fresh raspberries and a sprig of mint.
SPUN SUGAR: This is for the more advanced, or more adventurous chefs. People will tell you this is difficult to do, but it just requires good timing and patience. Be prepared to waste or burn 2-3 sugar mixes before you get it right. This is the one thing where a sugar thermometer is a must. The effect of spun sugar is fantastic, and will make you look like a real pro. To do it properly, buy a cheap whisk from a $2 shop, and cut the curved bottoms out of the whisk blades to leave you with a bunch of metal sticks. This is easier to use than forks.
Bring 250g caster sugar and 225g water to a simmer in a heavy-based saucepan. If you want a kitsch effect, put some food colouring into it. Brush down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush during simmering, to prevent sugar crystals forming. DO NOT STIR THE SUGAR, as it will crystallise and become hard. Place your sugar thermometer in the syrup, and cook until it shows 155°C (known as the hard crack stage). IMMEDIATELY remove the saucepan from the heat and plunge the pan into cold water to halt the cooking. If you don’t do this, it will continue to cook after you remove it from the heat, and probably burn. Place pan on a board, and wait until it starts to form a thick toffee. Dip the whisk into the syrup and flick the whisk back and forth over a broom handle, rolling pin or an upturned, lightly vegetable oiled cup (to form a toffee cage). For the fork method, place 2 forks back to back, dip them in the syrup then lift and pull coated forks apart, then twist. Continue until you have enough. WORK QUICKLY. If you are using strands, gather them in your hand and mould them to shape. If using the cage, place it over the jelly.
Use all these in any combination to make your jelly a real success.
Tim Alderman 2015