Sarah's superfoods: blood orange recipes

The recipes in this article first appeared in Country Living in February 2015. 

Blood oranges

February to March is the best time to make the most of the Sicilian blood orange (tarocco, sanguinello or moro). Small fruit crammed with huge flavour and a soft texture that almost melts in the mouth, they are always juicy, a little sharp with a lot of acid, but this is balanced by their sugar content.

There’s pleasure in consuming as many as you can, and for important health reasons, too. Blood oranges are super-rich in nutrients, in a different league to other citrus fruit. Like the rest, they have high levels of immune system-boosting vitamin C (one medium blood orange will provide over 100 per cent of your daily needs), but they have other healthy strings to their bow as well. They contain a group of antioxidants called anthocyanins, the pigments responsible for giving this orange its intense ‘blood’ colour. Acting as a natural sunscreen for the plants, it helps to protect them from UV light; this property is passed on to us when we eat them, so they also score highly on the antioxidant scale.

Blood oranges are also a good source of fibre, with one providing 28 per cent of our daily requirement, plus calcium and thiamine.

Increasing numbers of laboratory and clinical trials are turning the blood orange into a superfood hero. One recent study found that drinking this juice with a full English breakfast reduced the harmful effect of the fat-laden fry up. It’s also been suggested that regular consumption of the fruit may affect our metabolism and help with weight loss.

You have to be quick to find these rich-looking, crimson fruit; some supermarkets have taken to calling them blush oranges, perhaps thinking we will be confused or offended by their proper name. They’re delicious peeled and eaten as they are or juiced for breakfast, but with the recipes on these pages, why not turn them into a daily treat while they’re plentiful?

This article includes five recipes:

  • Bircher muesli
  • Coconut panna cotta caramel
  • Sangria chicken
  • Blood orange, lemon and pink grapefruit marmalade
  • Blood orange sorbet

bircher muesli

Preparation 15 minutes.

Packed with antioxidants, this authentic Swiss recipe is the ideal, slow-release start to the day, with enough nuts and seeds to keep hunger at bay until lunchtime. Prepare a double portion and keep half of it in the fridge for the next day.

serves 2

  • 1 blood orange, squeezed
  • 1 good handful of finely rolled oats
  • half an apple, grated finely, peel left on
  • 2 tbsp almonds or hazelnuts, chopped into 2-3mm pieces
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tbsp sunflower seeds
  • 1 tbsp currants
  • 2 tsp linseed oil
  • 1-2 tbsp quark (or crème fraîche or Greek yoghurt)

Stir the orange juice into the oats until well-mixed.

Stir in the finely grated apple (use a microplane if possible – the finer it is, the gentler the taste). Add the nuts, seeds, currants and linseed oil.

Finally, add the quark (or crème fraîche or yogurt) and stir well to combine. When in season, add strawberries, raspberries or peaches.

Coconut panna cotta caramel with blood oranges

coconut panna cotta caramel

Preparation 15 minutes. Cooking 20 minutes.

This classic pudding is lower in fat than the usual panna cotta, as it is made using yogurt and coconut milk instead of cream. Make it the day before so the caramel is absorbed overnight.

serves 6

For the caramel

  • 140g golden caster sugar

For the panna cotta

  • 20g gelatine leaves
  • 400ml tin coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp golden caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped out
  • 400ml natural Greek yogurt
  • 4 blood oranges, peeled and divided into de-pithed segments

Start by making the caramel: put the sugar with 5 tbsp water into a heavy-based saucepan over a low heat. Stir slowly until the sugar has dissolved, then allow the syrup to boil without stirring. Take off the heat when the syrup starts to turn brown – take care not to burn it. Divide among six ramekins put on a tray. Set aside.

Now make the panna cotta. Soak the gelatine in cold water. Meanwhile, put the coconut milk into a pan over a low heat (scrape it all out of the tin), adding the sugar, vanilla extract, pod and seeds.

Stir until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is gently simmering.

Squeeze the water out of the gelatine, add to the pan and stir until dissolved. Take off the heat and allow to cool slightly, then stir in the yogurt.

Ladle the mixture into the ramekins and, when cool, transfer to the fridge to set.

To serve, loosen the sides of each panna cotta with a small knife. Put a small plate on top of each one, turn upside down and turn out. Serve with the blood orange segments.

sangria chicken

Preparation 20 minutes, plus marinating. Cooking 1 hour.

A recipe inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi’s roast chicken with clementines – one of my daughter Molly’s favourite meals. It’s all the healthier with the blood oranges included.

serves 4

  • 6 blood oranges (2 zested and juiced, and 4 cut into 1cm slices)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 150ml fino sherry (or dry white wine)
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1.3kg free-range chicken jointed into 8 pieces or equal weight of chicken thighs, bone-in and skin on
  • 1 bunch celery, sliced into 3cm diagonal pieces
  • 2 bulbs fennel, sliced
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves

In a bowl, mix together the orange zest and juice, lemon juice, sugar, oil, sherry, mustard and salt to taste.

Put the chicken, celery, fennel, orange slices and thyme into a roasting tray. Pour over the marinade. Mix and leave overnight in the fridge.

Heat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan oven) / gas mark 6. Put the chicken in the oven and cook for 1 hour, basting a few times, until the juices run clear and the skin is brown and crispy.

Drain off the fat from the tray and pour the cooking liquid into a pan. Reduce a little if too runny, or serve as it is. Serve with black or red rice and a green salad.

Blood orange marmalade

blood orange, lemon and pink grapefruit marmalade

Preparation 45 minutes. Cooking 1 hour 40 minutes.

A wonderful rich, tart marmalade, which you can eat for breakfast on toast, or stir into a blood orange salad to give a greater depth of flavour.

makes about 4-5 x 450g jars

  • 1.5kg blood oranges
  • 2 lemons
  • 2 pink grapefruit
  • 1 tsp salt
  • about 2kg sugar with pectin

Drop the fruit into boiling water and scrub to de-wax the surfaces. Put them into a heavy-based stainless-steel pan, cover with 3 litres water and add the salt. Put a lid on the pan and bring to the boil, then simmer for about 1 hour until soft, turning the fruit once halfway through.

Strain, reserving the liquor, and allow the fruit to cool. When cold, cut the fruit in half and scoop the flesh and

pips into a metal sieve set over a bowl. Reserve the rinds.

Using a metal spoon, stir and push the flesh through the sieve. Discard the membrane, pith and pips.

Cut the rinds into chunks, then into thick or thin slivers depending on your preference.

Add the rind to the sieved pulp and weigh it. For every 450g, measure 450ml of the cooking liquor (if not enough, make up the amount with water). Mix together, then weigh again and for every 450g, measure out 400g sugar.

Put the pulp, rind and sugar into the heavy-based pan. Heat slowly, stirring, to dissolve the sugar. Increase the heat and bring to a rapid boil, then boil for 30-40 minutes, stirring only occasionally.

Pull the pan off the heat and test for setting point, 105°C-106°C, with a jam thermometer. Or put 1 tsp of the marmalade on a cold saucer, put in the fridge for a minute, then push with your finger – if it wrinkles, it has set. When ready, take the marmalade off the heat and allow to rest for 20 minutes.

Stir to distribute the peel evenly before pouring into dry, warm, sterilised jars. Cover with a waxed disc, seal immediately and label when cold with the date.

blood orange sorbet

Preparation 15 minutes, plus freezing. Cooking 5 minutes.

One of the best drinks on the planet is a blood orange and Campari soda, but this is a healthier way of upping your blood orange intake, with no alcohol involved. I have used palm sugar (made from coconut palms) to sweeten the sharp juice in this sorbet; it gives a slightly treacly flavour that works well with the red juice.

serves 6

  • juice of 8 blood oranges
  • 100g palm sugar
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon

Put the orange juice into a saucepan over a low heat. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Do not heat for longer than necessary – it will spoil the flavour of the sorbet. Take off the heat and allow to cool.

Stir in the lemon zest and juice. Pour the mixture into an ice-cream machine and churn for 20-25 minutes according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Turn into a plastic container and put into the freezer. If you don’t have a machine, pour the mixture into a plastic container and freeze for 1 hour. Remove and fork through, mixing the frozen edge into the middle to break up the ice crystals. Repeat twice.

Before serving, allow the sorbet to soften in the fridge for 20 minutes.