'There does not seem to be a cafe that doesn't serve a version of this marvellous cake. It is dense and moist and the cooked [orange] peel gives it a tart and intriguing flavour that is very seductive.'
When a wee crate of new season oranges arrived on my doorstep courtesy of Citrus Australia (thank you) this week, I cheered #GoOrange! Ten oranges, ten days and an abundance of health benefits for me, not to mention that I'm supporting Aussie fruit growers as a bonus. Yup, this is a challenge I am more than happy to meet, and oranges take centre stage on the fruit platter at my place all year round as it is.
So, we are all aware that oranges are an excellent source of Vitamin C, but when it comes to snack foods, they're a naturally-packaged source of nutrients. One orange is loaded with good things, as outlined in this study undertaken by the Consumer Science Program of CSIRO Health Sciences & Nutrition. Some of this information might come as a sweet surprise.
The benefits of oranges go beyond that of simply being a delicious and health giving snack. Oranges make the perfect ingredient to many flavoursome recipes. I often use the rind, juice and flesh of oranges in my cooking. For instance, strips of orange zest add a fresh depth of flavour to rich and hearty winter meals like slow cooked lamb shanks and corned beef. I favour orange zest over lemon in my gremolata for osso bucco (and also add several strips of orange zest to my version of the dish). I use the juice of oranges in pork cutlets with orange sauce and orange juice and zest is essential in my Asian-style baked chicken wings, which has been a huge hit with family and friends over the years.
When it comes to baking, Peter's petit madeleines wouldn't taste as exquisite without grated orange zest... and oranges are THE star in Claudia Roden's classic orange and almond cake, which I've shared with you here. The recipe is my take on Stephanie Alexander's version in her magnificent food bible, The Cook's Companion. I serve it accompanied by candied oranges in syrup and a dollop of Greek yoghurt flavoured with fresh passionfruit. I'm sure you know it, and I know you'll love it my way.
ORANGE & ALMOND CAKE
3 whole oranges, washed
6 eggs, beaten
280g ground almonds
230g vanilla infused raw caster sugar
1 teaspoon gluten free baking powder
Oranges in Syrup
1-2 oranges extra, washed and cut into 1/2 cm slices
1 cup vanilla infused raw caster sugar
1 cup water
Greek yoghurt combined with fresh passionfruit pulp
sprigs of fresh lemon thyme, to garnish
Place the oranges into a deep saucepan and cover with water. Pop the lid onto the saucepan, bring to the boil, lower heat and allow to simmer for two hours until the oranges are very soft. Top up with a little extra water as needed during the cooking time.
Grease and line a 24cm round or square cake tin. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C. Drain the water from the saucepan, then split the oranges open and remove any pips before pureeing the oranges (skin and all) in a food processor (or with a stick blender) until smooth. Add the eggs and sugar, and mix well. Mix in the ground almonds and baking powder, and stir until combined. Pour this batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for 45-60 minutes until a skewer comes out clean and the cake is golden brown. Allow the cake to cool in the tin before turning out onto a cake rack lined with baking paper.
To make the oranges in syrup, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring this to a boil over medium-high heat and stir with a wooden spatula until the sugar has dissolved. Lower the heat, then add the orange slices. Simmer very gently for 10-15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the oranges cool in the syrup. This will keep well in the refrigerator for a few days.
To serve the cake, arrange the orange slices over the top of the cake and drizzle with syrup. Garnish with sprigs of lemon thyme and serve with a pot of passion fruit flavoured Greek yoghurt. Serves 10.
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Tell me, do you use oranges in your cooking, do oranges have star billing on your fruit bowl, and are you up for the #GoOrange challenge?
Cooking and writing have been a lifelong passion.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.