Oranges and lemons ...

Like the bells of St Clements, you can ring in the New Year with new-season citrus fruits. Sybil Kapoor gets peeling
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Indy Lifestyle Online

THE COOK'S year gets off to a refreshing start in January with Seville oranges, sweet clementines, juicy lemons and blood oranges. This is the peak season for Mediterranean citrus fruit and the perfect time to capture their zingy taste. Even before you start cooking you can revitalise yourself with a citron pressé. Or, after the rigours of marmalade-making, reward yourself with a pick-me-up Buck's fizz, made with ruby red blood orange juice. Seville oranges should arrive in the shops next week, Spanish blood oranges are due in at the end of the month.

The cook's year gets off to a refreshing start in January with Seville oranges, sweet clementines, juicy lemons and blood oranges. This is the peak season for Mediterranean citrus fruit and the perfect time to capture their zingy taste. Even before you start cooking you can revitalise yourself with a citron pressé. Or, after the rigours of marmalade-making, reward yourself with a pick-me-up Buck's fizz, made with ruby red blood orange juice. Seville oranges should arrive in the shops next week, Spanish blood oranges are due in at the end of the month.

Try to buy organic citrus fruit as it should be particularly fragrant and you needn't worry about any pesticide residues in or on the skin. Organic fruit is unwaxed, so it has a shorter shelf life; keep it in the fridge to extend it. Seville oranges also freeze well if you want to make marmalade after their brief two to three week British season has ended. Alternatively, candy their thick peel and freeze their juice (in small batches). The peel can be mixed with home-made candied lemon and grapefruit peel to give cakes and puddings a gorgeous flavour. The juice adds a superb taste to vinaigrettes, syrups, flavoured butters and sauces. Choose citrus fruit that feels heavy for its size and avoid any that has soft patches on its skin. Russetting and scars don't matter, they're where the skin of young fruit has been rubbed by leaves.

How else to make the best of this cornucopia of citrus fruit? The possibilities are endless: they all offer aromatic bitter zest and sweet-sour juice which can give an intense flavour to sweet and savoury dishes. Pink grapefruit and sweet oranges are especially good in savoury salads and work well with shellfish, chilli, avocado and coriander. Lemons and oranges, especially Sevilles, combine the sour intensity of a lemon with the flavour of an orange, making them ideal for savoury dishes too. Blood oranges can be used to season mayonnaise, while salted lemons are delicious cooked with lamb. And then there are all those sweet variations such as Seville orange meringue pie, crêpes Suzette, gooey lemon almond tart, and clementine and mango gratin topped with a little sabayon. It will be spring before you know it.

Sybil Kapoor is the Glenfiddich magazine cookery writer of the year. Mark Hix is away

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