January is probably my least favourite month of the year. There are the cold temperatures. And then a sun that rises so late and sets so early you wonder why it bothers to rise in the first place. Both of which make it hard to get up in the morning, let alone leave the house.
But it’s not all bad. Since January is also peak citrus season. And that is most definitely a reason to be cheerful. As I write this, there is a big bowl of bitter oranges soaking in their juices in my kitchen, ready to be cooked into marmalade later this evening. And every trip to my neighbourhood’s organic supermarket has me checking to see whether their yearly delivery of Moroccan lemons has already arrived, bright yellow like Meyer Lemons and intensely perfumed, they are perfect for making preserved lemons.
And as I learned when I lived in Italy, there is hardly a more perfect way to end a meal in winter, rich and comforting as they tend to be, than with a plate of citrus fruit at their peak, oranges, tangerines, satsumas or mandarins – Tarocco oranges being my favourite among them. What oranges require in terms of extra work for peeling them they certainly make up for in being juicier and sweeter than tangerines, satsumas or mandarins. And while it may seem hard if not impossible to improve an orange, the Moroccans have managed to do just that when coming up with one of their typical desserts, namely Moroccan orange salad.
It is deceptively simple. In fact, it seems a bit much to call this a recipe, when all it really is is a serving suggestion. But it is an outstanding one at that. And one my entire family rediscovered with pleasure over the Christmas break when we made this several times. To go with my dad’s homemade ginger ice cream one day. And then as a simple and light dessert, following rather generous servings of roast duck, dumplings and red cabbage. And it left us all wondering why we had allowed so much time go by since we all last made this.
If you have a bottle of orange blossom water lurking at the back of your pantry and you are wondering what to make with it, or you have always wanted to buy a bottle but are not sure you will ever be able to finish it, here are some more ideas for using orange blossom water:
- Add it to your regular fruit salad. It’s what my mum did when I was growing up and it is divine (it works particularly well with oranges, bananas, apples and pears);
- Bake with it: be it Gibassiers or Tarte Tropezienne, there are many recipes that either require or are definitely improved by a glug of orange blossom water;
- Make Turkish Delight;
- Make Moroccan Almond Milk;
- Stir it into things like porridge, rice pudding or semolina pudding;
- You can also add it to syrups for drenching baklava and cakes like sambousa or add it to your coffee (ideally a moka made with an ibrik or cevze).
Moroccan Orange Salad
Notes: This is just a serving suggestion really. But a lovely one at that. I have calculated roughly one orange per person, but feel free to increase or decrease the amount depending on whether you are serving this on its own or alongside something else like ice cream or cake.
Orange blossom water
To finish: a light dusting of icing sugar and cinnamon.
Top and tail the oranges. Using a sharp knife (a pairing knife is ideal for this) carefully cut away all skin and pith of each orange. Thinly slice each orange and arrange on a large platter.
Carefully drizzle orange blossom water over each layer of sliced oranges. Be careful here – orange blossom water can be quite overpowering. I find the best way to do this is to hold the bottle upside down, closing the opening of the bottle with my thumb, and shaking the bottle over the oranges – the few drops escaping as I make my way around the plate are the perfect amount.
Finish with a light dusting of icing sugar and cinnamon.