Oranges feature every bit as regularly as lemons in recipes: the famous French classic bigarade (orange and port) sauce served with duck, for instance, and my own favourite classic English sauce, Cumberland, which features orange and lemon, where the juices and finely shredded zest are combined with port and redcurrant jelly.

Then there is also, of course, that great British invention, marmalade, which no other country's preserve has ever been able to match. Made with the bitter oranges of Seville that arrive at Christmas, no marmalade made with any other citrus fruit has that tangy intensity of flavour, where the sharpness of the oranges wins hands down over the sugar, totally eliminating that over-sweetness that so often masks the true flavour of the fruit in preserves.

Buying oranges is such a hit-and-miss affair, and a dry, sour or extra-pithy orange is really not pleasant. So, for eating straight there's only one type of orange that never fails to please, and that's the Spanish navels.

They are distinctive in that they have a so-called 'navel', and inside there's a sort of baby fruit attached. I'm not saying other varieties of orange are not good, but with navels you're never disappointed. The good news here is that other countries are now growing them, too, so watch out for navelinas in spring and early summer, and the late-summer version from Argentina.

Seville oranges: Proper home-made marmalade really is one of the world’s great luxury foods. For, however good the shop-bought versions are, they can never match what can be made at home from just three simple ingredients – Seville oranges, water and sugar. Seville oranges are used because they are bitter and when combined with sugar the predominant flavour is that of the oranges, with a sharp tangy taste. No marmalade made with any other citrus food has that intensity of flavour, where the sharpness of the oranges wins hands down over the sugar, totally eliminating that over-sweetness that so often masks the true flavour of fruit in preserves. The Seville orange season is short, from December to February, so it’s best to make enough marmalade for the whole year while they’re available. But if you don’t have the time, you can still put some by, as Sevilles do freeze perfectly well.

Related Recipes
Traditional Seville Orange Marmalade Makes 6 x 450g jars

Traditional Seville Orange Marmalade

Once cooled the only thing to do is make some toast to try it!

Cranberry and Onion Confit Serves 8-12

Cranberry and Onion Confit

A confit, as the name suggests, is a kind of sauce reduced to a concentrated, jam-like consistency. This one is a good accompaniment for all kinds of things at Christmas, as it keeps well in the fridge for four weeks.

Mulled Wine Serves 12

Mulled Wine

This is a very flexible Christmas recipe, allowing you to adjust the quantities as you wish...and if unexpected guests arrive, just add more water and fruit to eke it out!

Chunky Marmalade Bread and Butter Pudding Serves 4-6

Chunky Marmalade Bread and Butter Pudding

Bread-and-butter pudding is one of the highlights of traditional cooking - and gives the family a cheap and filling finale to a meal. This version simply jazzes up an old favourite.

Suntina Marmalade Makes 2 x 1 litre or 4 x 0.5 litre jars

Suntina Marmalade

Suntinas are available from mid-December to the end of February and have a charming tangerine flavour which makes a delightfully different marmalade, and I think the nice thing about having a choice of marmalades is you never get bored.

Compote of Figs in Port Serves 4

Compote of Figs in Port

Dessert figs that have become too dry to eat as they are can be excellent made into a compote. This is superb served with ice cream, but failing that, try it with some Greek yoghurt.

Caramelised Orange Trifle Serves 8-10

Caramelised Orange Trifle

I have been making the same Christmas trifle for years on end – but recently I decided to experiment with something new, without totally sacrificing the traditional qualities we've grown to love. This fits the bill perfectly.

Chilled Rum Sabayon Serves 8

Chilled Rum Sabayon

Serve this lovely, light sauce with mince pies or Little Mincemeat Souffle Puddings for a true taste of France...or Italy, where it's known as zabaglione. Either way, it will soon become a firm favourite.

Tropical Fruit Salad in Planter's Punch Serves 8

Tropical Fruit Salad in Planter's Punch

Fruit salad with a kick, based on a Caribbean cocktail of rum, fruit juices and spice: a mouthwatering way to end a summer meal and a good recipe when entertaining.

Spiced Apricot and Orange Chutney Makes a 1¾ pint (1 litre) jar

Spiced Apricot and Orange Chutney

This is a superlative chutney: it makes an elegant accompaniment to the Terrine with Three Cheeses, is excellent with Pheasant Terrine and is the main ingredient for a wonderful sauce for Roast Loin of Pork.




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