Oranges and Lemons
The other day I asked my sister Sabrina what came to mind when she thought about Provence and she said lemons. Everyone loves lemons, especially this time of year, she said and urged me to write about them. Coincidentally, David Lebovitz had just written a piece about citrus fruits, so I forwarded her that, as lemons don’t actually grow in Provence. (We have a lemon tree, but it is covered in fleece against the cold, I also have two little Seville orange trees that I grow from pips and they are indoors.)
However, the Moroccan grocery shops in our town have plenty of oranges, piled high outside their stores, “ils sont de Maroc” the store owner will tell you with pride. The bright orange of the fruit, contrasted with the green leaves brings a sense of sunshine and warmth into an otherwise cold and grey February day, (yes even in Provence!).
I have always loved oranges and when I was a teenager I would eat an apple and orange a day. Not because I was told to, but because I actually liked fruit and there was always plenty to hand (and I was no doubt on a perpetual diet!). One day, I was at someone’s house and there was a bowl of fake fruit on the dining table and the woman of the house said “I used to buy real fruit, but the kids just used to eat it all!” This puzzled me. Was the fruit bowl just for decoration? Why did she not want her kids to eat fruit? Did she prefer them to eat sweets, or was the fruit for adult consumption only? These questions have stayed with me ever since.
Having said that, there are things that I won’t buy, because I’ll just eat them all. One of them is Bahlsen croissant de lune, as they are called in France, (now I have to go out and buy a packet to photograph for you all to see!). It is impossible not to eat the whole lot in one go; I don’t mind sharing, but I just can’t leave any of those crumbly, nutty crescents, lightly dusted with sugar all snuggled up in their box, be. They all have to go!
The other day, The Artist was looking for a biscuit to go with his afternoon cup of tea, “Are there any of those biscuits you bought yesterday?” he asked referring to the above packet and I had to confess that they had all gone (well it had been a good 24 hours). So he said, “I don’t know why you don’t make that lemon cake of yours anymore….”
For a moment I had a strange sense of timelessness; you see, when I was a teenager (alot about my teenage years today) I used to bake cakes to avoid doing my homework (I know the rest of you were dropping acid and eating daffodils, but I liked baking OK?) and my pièce de résistence was a cake I concocted made with hazlenuts and lemons and for a brief moment I thought The Artist was referring to that, (but how could he, I didn’t know him then?) But no, he was talking about Nigel Slater’s Lemon syrup cake that I sometimes make, which is made with polenta and almonds, and is covered in a syrup made with oranges and lemons and a good glug of limoncello! Everything I love and totally moreish!
Speaking of moreish, another favourite of mine for a dull February day, is a carrot and orange salad. The orange adds a zing to an otherwise slightly soggy vegetable (at least when grated). If you use Argan Oil, it will give a nutty flavour and add to its Moorishness (‘scuse the pun)! By the way did you know that Argan oil is extracted from the pips of the fruit that grows on the Argan tree, a species that grows only in southwest Morocco? The fruit is very popular with goats, and you can see them actually standing in the trees eating the berries (I didn’t believe it until I saw it with my own eyes!)
Traditionally the Berbers would then extract the pips of the fruit from the goat’s excrement and grind it down to produce the oil. Nowadays they also use mechanised methods, but the traditional way is still considered the best. The oil is very expensive and greatly coveted, both for cooking and as a skin moisturiser, but if you take into account that it takes 20 hours to make a litre of oil, the price is certainly justified (compared to a Chanel handbag for instance!).
For those of you who thought this was a lazy blog as all I did was link to others, here’s my recipe for a carrot and orange salad to brighten up your day.
- Carrot and Orange salad
A very Moorish salad that will last a couple of days. Its best made 1/2 an hour to an hour before you want to eat it so the juice of the carrots mixes with the orange juice.
- 500g/ carrots
- Peeled and coarsely grated (organic if poss)
- 1 orange, unsprayed, juice and zest
- 1/2 juice of lemon
- 1 tbls Moroccan Argan Oil (optional)
- 1 tbls Olive Oil
- or 2 tbls if not using Argan Oil
- 2 tsp poppy seeds
- I sometimes use mustard seeds instead and dry fry them in a pan to make them pop
- Sea Salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp. Mustard
- Chopped fresh coriander or parsley
Grate the carrots and the orange peel.
Stir the mustard into the orange and lemon juice. Add the oil, salt and pepper and whisk together and pour over the carrots. Add the poppy seeds, add chopped coriander or parsley. Leave for 1/2 an hour or so for all the flavours to infuse and then serve!
Please leave a comment telling me what you think of when you think of Provence. Merci et à bientôt!
Where to get Argan oil in the UK http://www.myarganic.co.uk/