Citrus sunshine

If you need a ray of sunshine in the depths of a dark and stormy winter in Perth, simply plant citrus trees. Ripening throughout the winter season, the fresh, sweetly acidic, zinging flavours dance across your tongue and seem almost incongruous with the heavy comfort food most bodies crave in the colder months.

But nothing brightens your day more than a slice of Lemon Orange Coconut Cake with a mug of hot tea or a tangy Lemon Pickle on the side of roast chicken, baby potatoes and garden greens. And my favourite cocktail of the winter months: the divine Rangpur Lime Gimlet.

I count myself supremely lucky to have inherited a mature citrus grove that circles the backyard of the original house we bought on Edgefield. Now a rental property that we manage privately, we share the fruit and the work with our tenant neighbours. It is a fruitful relationship indeed! These huge old trees definitely supply more than one household could ever eat.

Groaning under the current glut of lemons, oranges, limes, mandarins and grapefruit, I recently enlisted the help of my kids and we spent a Sunday with our cooking mojo in full swing. I pulled out my trusty tome – Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Companion (KGC) – opened the ‘Oranges and Lemons’ chapter and we proceeded to work our way through it, with a few additions. I wish I could add the recipes but surely that’d be a copyright infringement?

Here’s what we made:

  • Lemon and Date Chutney (KGC)
  • Lemon Pickle (KGC)
  • Lemon Orange Coconut Cake (KGC)
  • Orange and Mandarin Jellies (KGC)
  • Lemon Curd (Thermomix recipe)
  • Lemon Butter Biscuits (Jamie Oliver recipe)
  • Rangpur Lime Syrup
  • Bags of lemon and lime frozen ice cubes
  • Orange and mandarin juice frozen in bottles

The jellies were a MASSIVE hit with my kids and so much better than nasty, preservative-laden store-bought jelly. Citrus tangy and full of flavour, they were easy to make and so worth the effort.

Lemon butter or curd is always a favourite and my 8yo son made a double batch all on his own. My kids spread it on everything!

Tom Jaine’s Lemon Pickle recipe from the KGC was absolutely sensational, especially when paired with roast chicken as suggested.

The older I become, the more I appreciate the complexities and layered richness of unusual condiments. I’m not interested in drowning my palette in sugar-laden sauces or boring chutneys. But when you preserve the harvest with batches of homemade condiments that then store happily on the shelf for months, you can add a combo of spicy, tangy, interesting flavours to enhance a simple dish with no more effort than opening a jar.