Citrus Madness

Teeth biting into fruit, sweet acerbity, juice gushing onto arms, legs and clothes, the bitterness of the peel - there's nothing like an Israeli orange

Doram Gaunt
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Orange and yogurt cake.Credit: Doram Gaunt
Doram Gaunt

For those among us who grew up in Israel, it is hard to grasp that in other countries oranges are considered an exotic fruit, rare and sought-after. Gone are the days, of course, when a middle-class European or Japanese family would go out and buy a single, costly orange, on special occasions, to taste the magic of sunnier lands. Today many citrus fruits are still sold around the world according to a price-per-unit, as a special offer with four or five in a bag.

Our Jaffa oranges are still a brand with cachet. Indeed local citrus fruit generally occupies a prominent place on grocery store shelves abroad, but next to it are rivals from other hot climes such as Spain, China, Mexico and also our neighbors Egypt and Turkey. During the season, Israel exports weekly to every corner of the globe thousands of tons of citrus fruit, which end up in stores in Europe as well as Japan, Korea and Australia.

Even today when far fewer Israeli kids need to wander through citrus groves on their way to school, and refrigeration allows us to enjoy their yield all year long, an orange may still be the consummate Israeli fruit. A grove, a kibbutz hat, bright sunshine, a small penknife, a quick cut, small teeth biting into the fruit, sweet acerbity, juice gushing onto arms, legs and clothes, the bitterness of the peel stinging mouth and lips - have another orange!

Slow roasting in an oven keeps the chicken tender and juicy. Serves four.

1 1/2 kg. chicken thighs

salt and pepper

olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

1/8 tsp. hot paprika (or to taste )

1 tsp. thyme leaves

1 1/2 tsp. crushed coriander seeds

400 gr. tomatoes, peeled and chopped

1 1/2 cups orange juice

1 1/2 tbsp. grated orange zest

1 1/2 tbsp. cilantro leaves, chopped

Heat an oven to 150 degrees Celsius. Salt and pepper the chicken thighs. In a large, oven-safe pot, heat a teaspoon olive oil over medium-high heat. When hot, place the chicken in the pot, skin-side down. Saute until the chicken is brown and crispy, five or six minutes. Turn over and saute for another five or six minutes on the other side. Remove the chicken to a bowl; pour out most of the oil (leave a tablespoon or so in the pot ). Saute the onion until soft and golden, about five minutes. Add the paprika, thyme and coriander seeds; stir for a minute.

Add the tomatoes and orange juice. Return the chicken to the pot, bring to a boil and cover. Place the pot in the oven and bake until the chicken is very tender, about an hour and a quarter.

Take the chicken out and sprinkle orange zest and cilantro flakes over it (you can also use nana mint, parsley or basil ). Divide onto plates and top off with a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with mashed potatoes, rice or good bread for wiping up the sauce.

A relatively easy dessert, which is best when prepared a day, or at least several hours, in advance. For those who feel that fruit is not enough, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream to their serving. Serves six.

6 small or medium-sized oranges

For the caramel syrup:

1 cup sugar

1 tsp. lemon juice

1/4 cup cold water

1/3 cup boiling water

With a sharp knife peel the oranges down to below the pith (the white layer inside the rind ), leaving the flesh exposed. Slice the oranges widthwise into pinwheels about half a centimeter thick; stick a toothpick in the center of each orange to hold its shape. Arrange the pieces snugly in a glass or stainless-steel bowl.

Prepare a bowl of cold water, to stop the cooking of the caramel syrup. In a small pot combine the sugar, lemon juice and cold water. Bring to a boil, dissolve and cook over medium heat until caramel starts to form. Lower the heat; continue cooking, without stirring, until the caramel becomes fairly dark (be careful not to burn it ).

When the caramel is ready, dunk the bottom of the pot in cold water to stop the cooking. Carefully add the boiling water, return the pot to the fire and stir over low heat until the caramel dissolves again into uniformly smooth syrup.

Cool the syrup and pour over the oranges. Refrigerate for at least several hours, preferably overnight. Serve cold, with a generous helping of syrup.

A plain cake that soaks up a sweet orange syrup, which keeps it moist and soft. Use a round 22-centimeter cake pan.

100 gr. butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

250 ml. plain yogurt, at least 3% fat

1/2 cup orange juice

1 tbsp. orange zest

2 1/2 cups self-rising flour

3/4 tsp. baking soda

For the syrup:

1/2 cup orange juice

1 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tbsp. orange zest

1/3 cup sugar

Cut the butter into cubes; cream it with the sugar. Add the eggs and beat together. Add the yogurt, orange juice and zest and mix well. Add the flour and baking soda and fold in gently, until no pockets of flour remain.

Line the cake pan with baking paper and grease with butter. Pour the batter into the pan and bake at 180 degrees Celsius, just until a toothpick comes out almost clean, 30-35 minutes .

While the cake is in the oven, prepare the syrup: In a small pot, heat the orange and lemon juice with the orange zest and sugar, stirring until the sugar dissolves and a syrup forms. Cook for about five minutes over a low flame.

When the cake is ready, spoon the syrup over it while still hot. At first it will seem like there is too much syrup, but have no fear - the entire amount will get absorbed into the cake. Allow the cake to cool before removing it from the baking dish.