I don’t think I could live without citrus, especially in winter. I love lemons, oranges, mandarins, limes and cumquats. I love the zest, juice, even the candied rind for use in savoury and sweet dishes. Then there are all the preserves. Burnt cumquat jam is amazing with pulses and confit duck.
Lemons are essential for me. Sometimes people just think of lemon delicious pie and lemon tart and not much else but coming from the Mediterranean angle, there are endless applications. Lemon goes with everything, sweet or savoury. A squeeze of lemon juice is a flavour enhancer: it makes the other ingredients in a dish taste more like themselves, bringing every flavour to life on the palate. A lemon and extra virgin olive oil emulsion is the most-used dressing in my kitchen. Throw in a few herbs and it’s way better than any jar of vinaigrette you could ever buy.
When my tree is full of lemons, I make preserved lemons, then use them sparingly. Lemon juice is always best squeezed on the day but you can freeze the juice in cubes for later use in sweet dishes. I also make a lemon cordial syrup because old-fashioned lemonade is a bit of a favourite at my place.
Fragrant citrus rind must be used straight away: add peeled zest early in the cooking process, but add finely grated zest right at the end to give that final fresh lift. I make a dressing for carpaccio with orange or mandarin zest and juice: reduce the juice by two-thirds then add the zest, extra virgin olive oil and herbs. Reduced juice is also fantastic for mandarin or orange icecream.
When choosing citrus, look for heavy local fruit with firm, taut skin. Buy as many as you need and keep them at room temperature. Otherwise, citrus fruits keep well in the fridge for a couple of weeks and I do love having a bag of oranges in the fridge for chilled juice.