January: Eating Seasonal Citruses as Part of a Halal Diet
Brighten up a dull January with the golden, bittersweet, flaming colours of seasonal citrus fruits like blood oranges, Seville oranges, grapefruits, pomelos and mandarins. (‘Mandarins’ is a general term that includes clementines, satsumas and tangarines, which can all be worked into a delicious halal dinner too). Citrus fruits don’t just belong in the fruit bowl. Here are some ways to add jewel-like citrus fruits to your meals for more zing and zest this winter.
Winter citruses in salads
You can use oranges, peeled and sliced or segmented, in a salad of rocket or another green salad, flavoured with piquant or aromatic spices like cumin and dried or fresh coriander, and some freshly ground black pepper. Black olives add a bitter, salty dimension to the sweetness of the oranges, while raw, thinly-sliced red onions set off the zestful orange flavour with a cool sharpness. We love this recipe, a ‘carpaccio’ of citruses (blood oranges or grapefruits) flavoured with orange flower water. Try serving it with halal chicken, lamb or beef. Why not also throw in some sparkling ruby-coloured pomegranate seeds for extra punch? We know orange flower water for its use in certain sweets, desserts and drinks, but it’s also an excellent addition to fruit-based salads, and also to chicken and meat…
Winter citruses to flavour halal chicken
We’ve all heard of duck à l’orange. We are more familiar, though, in our day-to-day cooking with the use of lemon and lime juices. But orange juice and sauces made from it are underused, and a wonderful way to give meat a zesty, sweet, fresh flavour. An orange sauce works equally well for chicken and game birds, as it does for duck. For a delicious orange sauce (or grapefruit or mandarin sauce), try adding some soy, ginger, chili, garlic, honey and/or brown sugar. You can coat halal chicken breasts in it, whole, or dice them to make a stir fry, served with rice or egg noodles. Use the zest too, and even reserve some of the colourful flesh, sliced thinly, to add to the final dish. We love the idea of adding nuts to these meals: cashews to a Chinese-inspired recipe, set off with some star anise; or almonds for a taste of Persia dusted with sultanas, cinnamon and saffron.
Winter citruses to flavour halal meat
Orange juice, and the orange flavour found in the water from its blossom, work brilliantly with beef and lamb. Try adding orange flower water to meat dishes like Ottolenghi does here with lamb, crested with almonds. (You don’t need to barbecue the meat as Ottolenghi does, unless you’re happy to brave the cold! Instead, oven-cook diced halal lamb (or use a smoking gun for a barbecued flavour), being inspired by the recipe’s flavours.) Why not enhance the taste of the oranges by serving the lamb alongside one of the delicious citrus salads?
As for beef, grapefruit is delicious as a sauce or sliced accompaniment. You can skewer diced halal beef with chunks of grapefruit and red onion, being sure to add lots of garlic to an olive oil-based marinade. Or, why not marinate diced halal beef in grapefruit juice with soy, ginger, garlic and honey, and then stir fry and serve with noodles and green veg? You can mix the grapefruit juice with lime juice for a beef marinade and turn it into fajitas, with floury tortillas, red bell peppers, onions and a side of and guacamole. (You can even add grapefruit juice to the guacamole for a tangy alternative.)
The importance of Vitamin C in the winter months
Most of us have already suffered a ‘winter bug’ this season. It’s no grand revelation that vitamin C strengthens your immune system during the winter months, but it’s easy to forget or disregard when we’re busy. Most of us get a good amount of vitamin C from the fruit and veg we eat day-to-day (we aren’t the scurvy-ridden pirates of the days of old!) but it wouldn’t hurt us to add more. Vitamin C is water soluble, and so is lost by the body rather than stored, which means we need a continuous supply through steady daily intake. Signs of vitamin C deficiency include dry and splitting hair, gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and bleeding gums, rough, dry, scaly skin, decreased wound-healing rate, easy bruising, nosebleeds and a weak immunity. Vitamin C it is an antioxidant that helps protect cells and keeps them healthy. It is needed by the body to make collagen, which is the most plentiful protein in the body which helps keep bones, skin, teeth and blood vessels healthy, and while it won’t cure a nasty cold, it does strengthen the immune system.
Of course the rawer the fruit and its juice, the better as the vitamins are killed off by cooking, which is why we recommend making salads as the best way to reap the benefits of vitamin C-rich wintery citruses. If you do heat them, the best way to keep as much of the vitamin C as possible is to steam or grill, as we might for, say, lamb chops, or fish like salmon, which is delicious with citrus flavours. Of course adding a final squeeze of the juice to the finished meal ensures retaining goodness, and always adds extra flavour.
Let us know if you have any tasty ways of injecting citrus fruits into home-cooking. We’d love to hear from you.