It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that zing ... and here are your best citrussy specialities
Everyone knows the sweet pleasures of a juicy orange, but the more adult attractions ofits aromatic skin can be harder to appreciate. However, even if you prefer Marmite to marmalade on your toast, citrus peel is a powerful tool in the kitchen, especially at this time of year, when bright, fresh flavours are at a premium.
Ruth Joseph and Sarah Nathan's crumbly little almond and lemon tarts are the perfect example of its charms, to my mind - not too sweet, not too sour, just intensely, deliciously zesty.
The winning recipe: Zesty lemon and almond and vanilla petits fours
I've just tried out a new luscious petit-four recipe, based on a Moroccan idea I saw, which has to be the epitome of zesty. There's fragrant lemon zest in the pastry, and lemon juice in the tender almond filling and the icing. Ruth Joseph and Sarah Nathan, Cardiff, veggischmooze.blogspot.com
100g butter or margarine, softened
140g plain flour
1 tbsp vanilla sugar
50g icing sugar
1 egg, beaten
40g ground almonds
50g icing sugar
10ml lemon juice
Remaining zest of lemon (about 2 tsp)
1 Grate the lemon zest into a small bowl.
2 Add 60g butter to 70g flour. Mix with the vanilla sugar and most of the zest to make a light, soft dough. Leave in the fridge for 30 minutes.
3 Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. For the filling, cream the remaining butter with the sugar until very creamy. Add the beaten egg, the almonds and 20ml of lemon juice.
4 Flour a board or your kitchen surface, then carefully roll out the pastry. Cut out 6cm rings. Gently manoeuvre these into greased mini muffin tins and top with 1 tsp filling. Bake for about 20 minutes but check after 15. When golden brown and risen, leave to cool slightly.
5 For the icing, mix the sugar and lemon juice until spreadable. Add a splash of water if necessary. Glaze your cake, then decorate with lemon zest.
Leek and white bean soup
This is a soup that zings with flavour, even in the middle of winter. The tartness of the lemon and vinegar give it a lively flavour, enhancing its tantalising lemony green colour.
Marmaduke Scarlet, via GuardianWitness
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 leeks, well washed, white and green parts finely sliced
400g can of white beans (butter beans, haricots or cannellini)
900ml vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
Fresh thyme sprig
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
Herb pesto or gremolata, to serve
1 Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the butter, then the onion. Gently fry with a pinch of salt for 5 minutes before adding the garlic and leeks. Continue to fry for 5 minutes before adding the drained beans. Stir well.
2 Add the stock, bay leaves and fresh thyme. Bring to the boil and then cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
3 Allow to cool slightly, remove the bay leaves and thyme and whizz with a blender until smooth.
4 Return to a clean saucepan. Gently reheat the soup, adding the lemon juice and vinegar. Season generously with salt and pepper. Pour the hot soup into bowls, and top with a dollop of herb pesto (I used a lemony nettle and hazelnut pesto) or gremolata.
Chocolate orange sorbet
This dessert has a very rich flavour so one scoop should be enough with a couple of ginger snaps. Remove the sorbet from the freezer about 15 minutes before serving.
MizPepperpot, via GuardianWitness
Makes 1 litre
Zest and juice of 2 oranges
250g caster sugar
150g cocoa powder, sifted
1 Add water to the orange juice and zest to make up 900ml of liquid. Pour into a pan, add the sugar and cocoa and mix well.
2 Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir continuously. The end result should be thick and rich.
3 Cool, chill and then churn in an ice-cream maker for 20 minutes. Place in a plastic container and freeze.
St Clement's cakes
The idea for this recipe comes from my husband's love of lemon drizzle cake and the orange cakes of Spain, which use the whole orange and ground almonds. The addition of a little polenta gives these cakes a light, fluffy texture. Laona Latham, Hayle, pilgrimskitchentales.com
Makes 6 mini loaves or 12 muffins
1 large orange and 1 lemon, 350g in total, preferably organic and unwaxed
60g instant polenta
60g ground almonds
40g buckwheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
100g-150g honey (to taste)
90g olive oil
For the syrup
2-3 tbsp honey
1 Preheat the oven to 170C/335F/gas mark 3½. Scrub the fruit thoroughly using either bicarbonate of soda and water, or vinegar and water, and rinse well. Roughly chop and place in a saucepan. Cover with boiling water, return to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes or until tender. Drain, leave to cool then transfer to a blender and puree until smooth.
2 Meanwhile, mix together all the dry ingredients. Whisk together the honey, oil and eggs in a large bowl for a minute or so, then stir in the dry ingredients and fold in the fruit puree. Spoon the mixture into 6 mini silicone loaf pans or 12 muffin cases, and bake for 30-40 minutes, checking after 25. Remove from the pans/cases and transfer to a wire rack with a tray underneath.
3 Make the syrup 10 minutes before the cakes come out of the oven. Peel the zest from half the lemon and half the orange and cut into thin strips. Place the juice of the whole fruits and the zest in a small saucepan and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
4 Add 2 tbsp honey and taste; add a bit more if you wish. Increase the heat and boil for a minute or two, then spoon over the cakes. Serve warm or cold.
Mixed salad with lemon and smoked trout
This summer we were lucky enough tojoin a crowd of brocante stallholders for a rustic lunch in rural France. The glorious mixed salad starter, with locally caught and smoked trout and a creamy, yettart dressing, inspired this recipe.
Val Pendleton, Brackley
Assorted green salad leaves, eg spinach, lettuce, rocket, mizuna, watercress etc.
Cooked beetroot, cut into matchsticks
Cabbage, white or red, finely shredded
Preserved lemon segments, pulp removed, rinsed, peeled thinly, cut into matchsticks
Red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
Hot-smoked trout or salmon fillets, cut into strips
For the dressing
1 small pot of sour cream
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp milk
¼ tsp caster sugar
1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
1 Arrange your salad ingredients on a large platter or individual plates, leaving the fish until last.
2 Whisk the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and pour over the salad. Serve with any leftover dressing in a separate bowl.
In the highly subjective area of sweetness and sourness, I think this ratio of lemons to sugar is bang on. You get a great sour hit with enough sweetness, but not so much that you feel like you're having a liquid pudding.
Richard Camps, yumblog.co.uk
4 unwaxed lemons
175g caster sugar
1 litre chilled filtered tap water
1 Cut each lemon into eight pieces. Put in a blender with some ice cubes, half the sugar and half the water. Zap into a thick pulp. Strain through a sieve into a large jug.
2 Return the pulp to the blender and add the remaining water, sugar and ice. Zap again until it can't be blended any more, and sieve into same jug/serving receptacle.
Photo: Zesty lemon, almond and vanilla petits fours. Photograph: Jil Mead for the Guardian