Until recently, blood oranges were in the realm of “What the heck are they?”, as far as I was concerned. The name didn’t appeal terribly, either. Blood orange? What, a meat-lover’s fruit now? Did it taste like blood (ugh, gruesome thought)?
Then I googled around and learnt that blood oranges were so named because their interior is anything from a deep orangey-red to crimson in colour - totally unlike your regular orange which is just, well, orange. Some of the sources mentioned that blood oranges tasted better and had a sweeter fragrance than regular oranges.
Ok, so blood oranges were fancy citrus fruit grown in the US, in Spain and in Italy. And, they were pretty exotic because of being rare and difficult to get elsewhere, especially without great expense - which basically meant that unless I actually traveled to that part of Italy or Spain or the US, I was not very likely get an opportunity to strike up an acquaintance with any blood oranges.
That seemed pretty much that, so I set aside any such hope and refrained from printing off all the wonderful blood orange recipes so efficiently searched and presented by Google.
And then, in my local Sainsbury, I came across a pack of blood oranges. Four of them, nestling in a thermocol holder under a hard plastic cover.
The price was as exotic as the fruit, but I reverently put the pack in my trolley. After all, they were cheaper than the cost of traveling to Spain or Italy or the USA (but gosh, not by much!).
Then it was homeward bound in a lather of excitement, me barely able to wait to get inside the front door so that I could open up the pack and get face-to-face with my first ever blood oranges. Pete was left to carry the bags into the house and put everything away (a task I hate only next to vacuuming. Shopping is fun, but putting everything away is the polar opposite. Anybody agree?). Pete might have grumbled, but I have no recollection. I happen to subscribe to the school of thought which believes that foodies and food-blog writers should be left to gloat and fuss over their latest purchase or exotica without having to be bothered with the minutiae of home life. (Especially housework.)
Anyway, the thing about describing something is that words can only do so much to tell the reader what it actually tastes or feels or smells like. Photographs can show what it looks like, but the smell/taste/feel sensations remain woefully unconveyed (I hope that is a valid word.)
That’s why my first deep sniff of my first blood orange was such a heady affair – it was orangey, of course, but there was something more to it... it was more fruity and somehow almost perfumey. I was in for a bit of disappointment when I cut it open, though - I was expecting a deep ruby red, or at least a flame orange, all through, but only part of it was red... towards the centre it was like a regular orange. And the taste... it was glorious! A burst of sweet with the slightest hint of tart, it was so good that I was half tempted to eat them all, never mind making anything with them.
But I desisted because I had to make the most of these hard-to-get fruit. After scouting for recipes, I settled on a buttermilk blood-orange cake. I love orange-flavoured cakes, as I've probably mentioned before, and this one was absoutely glorious. It may have been the blood oranges, it may have been my imagination, but the loaf-cake was probably the most addictively orangily good one I've ever made. I took two slices of it every day to work for a week, and it stayed beautifully moist for 3 whole days. It didnt exactly crumble to bits thereafter, though... it just was a bit drier than fresh - but the flavour and taste were just as lovely. This loaf-cake is a sure-fire repeat recipe.
Recipe for: Buttermilk blood-orange cake
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
Zest of one medium orange
1/2 cup fresh blood-orange juice (no problem with having pulp in it)
1/2 cup oil
1 medium egg
1-1/4 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1. Mix together the self-raising flour, sugar, baking powder and grated orange zest.
2. Put the oil and orange juice in a large bowl along with the vanilla extract.
3. Whisk in the egg until well incorporated and the mixture is lightly frothy.
4. Then stir in the buttermilk. Now add the flour to the wet mixture.
5. Stir till the batter is smooth. Don't over beat.
6. Pour the batter into a 2-pound loaf pan sprayed with Pam.
7. Bake in a 180C oven for 40 minutes or till the cake tests done. Since ovens vary in performance, start checking the cake at 30 minutes and test every 5 minutes to see if it's done.
8. Leave in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely.