Tom Kitchin: Sea kale and orange salad | Carrot soup

Tom Kitchin. Picture: TSPL

Tom Kitchin. Picture: TSPL

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BLOOD oranges make a wonderful match to the season’s best vegetables, writes Tom Kitchin

Blood oranges are in season, but they are at their best only until the end of this month, so it’s worth taking the chance to try them now. Blood oranges are easy to identify, because they have a distinctive crimson skin. Inside, they are a vibrant reddish orange and taste much sharper than a regular orange, with a spicy, unique flavour.

Look out for oranges that are heavy for their size and quite firm to the touch. It’s best to avoid any with blemishes or that feel soft or spongy as they may not be as fresh as they should be. To keep your blood oranges really fresh, you can store them in the fridge rather than the fruit bowl, but try not to store them for too long or you will lose some of their fantastic flavour.

If you’re cooking with them, the obvious recipes will be for desserts. They certainly work well and can be used instead of ordinary oranges in tarts, soufflés and sweet sauces. But because blood oranges taste a bit more bitter, they can make a wonderful match to the season’s best vegetables.

Don’t be afraid to try them in hot and cold savoury dishes too. The bright, vibrant, fiery colours can result in dishes that look fantastic on the plate. Matching them with fresh seasonal vegetables – particularly root vegetables such as celeriac or carrots, can also balance out the sharp flavour and the combination can be really tasty.

Blood oranges tend to be smaller and juicier and can give fresh seasonal salads a lovely flavour and also add a little zing to dressings. Adding a smooth, soft cheese or goat’s cheese can also work well to balance the whole dish so you get a wonderful combination of sweet, earthy, creamy flavours and lots of different textures coming together.

Carrot and orange soup is a tried and tested flavour combination, but substituting ordinary oranges for blood oranges can give your soup a little more of a spicy-sweet kick, which the star anise in this recipe only brings out even more.

Next time you buy blood oranges, give some savoury dishes a try and you’ll be pleasantly surprised and delighted by the results.

Sea kale and orange salad with goat’s cheese

Serves four

100g walnut halves

20g caster sugar

1 large bunch of sea kale (if you can’t find sea kale use celery instead – just make sure you peel the celery before you start to steam it)

1 whole blood orange, segmented and cut into dice

200g goat’s cheese

1 carrot – cut into strips

few sprigs of dill

olive oil

salt and pepper

Method

To make the candied walnuts

Heat the oven to 170C/Gas Mark 3. Shake the walnut halves in two tbsp of water, then toss in the sugar. Scatter over a baking sheet, and bake in the oven for six to eight minutes until the walnuts are golden brown. Remove them from the oven and allow to cool.

To make the salad

Fill a medium saucepan with two inches of water, and fit with a steamer insert. Bring the water to the boil. Place the sea kale on grease-proof paper, drizzle with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper, and place in the steamer. Reduce the water to a simmer, then cover and steam for around eight to ten minutes. Remove the sea kale and begin to build the salad.

To serve

You can build up the salad on each plate like a game of Jenga – criss-crossing the ingredients, layering them in between as you go – adding sea kale, diced blood orange, cheese, nuts, and strips of carrot to create a pyramid salad. Garnish with a few sprigs of dill.

Carrot and Blood Orange Soup

Serves four to six

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 onion, peeled and sliced

2-3 whole star anise

10 carrots, peeled and sliced

300ml orange juice

1 whole blood orange, segmented and cut into dice

500ml chicken stock

150ml whipping cream

salt and pepper

6 sprigs of chives

tbsp of crème fraiche

Method

Heat the vegetable oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan and cook the onion over a medium heat until very soft. Add the star anise and some salt, then sweat gently for three to four minutes. Add the carrots to the onion and sweat gently for two to three minutes. Add the orange juice, chicken stock and cream to the pan and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes until the carrots are soft. Remove the star anise and blitz the soup in a blender until it is smooth and silky. Check the seasoning.

To serve

Pour the soup into bowls and garnish with sprigs of chives, diced blood orange, a spoon of crème fraiche and a star anise.

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