I adore blood oranges; it feels like I always have. It started in the 1970s when I lived in Italy with my parents and sister. I couldn’t quite believe that in Italy they had red oranges (I mean, weren’t they meant to be orange hence the name?). We didn’t have any in Australia. Now we do, though it hasn’t been that many years, and in late winter, we can find blood oranges at most fruit shops. They have a lovely taste, not as sweet as Navels or Valencia, but with a slight bitterness and a rich sweetness that some say is like raspberries, and ruby red streaked flesh that stains the white pith when they are cut in half (and your marble work bench if you are not careful). I remember sitting on my father’s knee when I was 4 or 5; he would slices oranges for me to eat while we watched TV. He would peel them, removing all the white pith and cut them into thick pinwheel-like slices ready for me to eat. When I was a bit older (and still a bit fussy), I refused to eat the orange segments that were handed out at half time during netball matches. Segments seemed so utilitarian compared to colourful pinwheels, and the texture seemed wrong as you had to bite through the membrane to get to the sweet juicy inner flesh. Even nowadays I peel then slice regular oranges into pinwheels. But my favourite oranges are the blood variety. Cut one open and you get a stunning array of colours, from orange to deep red, you never quite know how deep the red will be. You wouldn’t see this if they were in segments.
I was inspired to make this crostata after seeing an image on the instagram feed of Red Belly Citrus where slices of blood orange were laid on a freeform tart base and served with a salted caramel sauce. It sounded way too rich for me but I loved the colourful wheels of blood orange that made a beautiful pattern in the image. I toyed with the idea of making shortcrust with almond meal (only to find I didn’t have enough of it in the pantry) and decided to make a not-too-sweet slightly salted shortcrust base in a tart tin, place a layer of sweet orange jam (left over from recipe testing for my new cookbook Adriatico; but apricot jam will do as well) and layer on slices of blood orange; to make a simple, very pretty and delicious crostata. I put them in a colour gradient – deeper red slices on one side and paler orange slices on the other. Once the crostata was baked and had cooled overnight, I got the Greek yoghurt out of the fridge (it is so thick that it is more like labne) and served a slice of the crostata with a large dollop on the side. Fruit and yoghurt? It was practically breakfast!
I have been making my own yoghurt for a few months, after watching documentaries about the waste problems of the world and wanted to reduce our use of packaging and cling film as much as possible. I am very fortunate to live in the inner city suburb of Fitzroy (in Melbourne) where St David’s Dairy is within walking distance of my home. There you buy one litre glass bottles of milk with a resealable lid, and once you have used up the milk, you wash the bottle and take it back to the dairy for refilling. Zero waste and even better when I walk there and back. That got me thinking that I should make yoghurt with the milk in the refillable glass bottles from the dairy. Mark and I eat rather a lot of plain yoghurt, well over a kilo a week and that means more containers that go into waste/recycling. So I bought a yoghurt-maker online. Essentially it maintains the milk at a constant warm temperature for ten hours so that it curdles and thickens; you just need to add some culture/starter (in this case, 150g of Schulz organic yoghurt) and 1.3 litres of milk and it turms into yoghurt. One of my school friends says she makes yoghurt by putting a container of milk in a warm place for half a day or until it thickens (it is the same principle clearly, but I would rather make mine be in the maker!). I make mine overnight so that in the morning, I have a yoghurt that is thick, sweet and rich (not that it contains any sugar, just naturally sweet). I then separate it in half – I chill one half and let it drain in a fine mesh basket for 3-5 hours to make about 250g of super thick creamy labne-style yoghurt (which can be easily shaped into stiff quenelles). I simply chill the other half and get about 600g of thick yoghurt that we eat with our breakfast. The labne is divine with blood orange crostata, I would have this over double cream any time, and over salted caramel sauce too.
A quick reminder of my up and coming events for my new cookbook ADRIATICO:
- READINGS: 30th August 2018 at 6.30pm I will be launching the book at Readings Bookstore in Carlton, Melbourne. No booking is required, it is free, and there will be wine (yes! Thanks to my publisher Paul McNally at Smith Street Books). I will be interviewed by Claire Davie, restaurant reviewer, food writer, and author of the (retired) popular Melbourne Gastrome blog. She also happens to be my niece so it will be loads of fun chatting with her, signing books, and meeting all of you.
- BOOKS FOR COOKS: Tuesday 4th September at 6.30pm – I will be giving a book talk at the new Victoria Market shop of this speciality book store. I am thrilled to be invited here to chat and share food and wine with you, I LOVE this shop! A small fee with be charged and you can book via this Eventbrite page.
- RECREATION HOTEL NORTH FITZROY: I will be collaborating with The Rec who will be cooking a 5-course Adriatic themed dinner (recipes from my book) on Sunday 16th September at 6pm. There will be optional matching regional wines with each of the courses. Books will be available for purchase and I will be signing them (if you want me to!). Places are strictly limited and two-thirds are sold, so you will have to be quick; click here for more information and to book.
If you live in Melbourne, I hope to see you at one of the events. Books will be in shops in Australia in a few weeks and elsewhere in mid September but you can pre-order them via a number of sites: Amazon, Booktopia and a whole lot more (just search online). I will also be selling them during my cooking classes.
blood orange crostata
250g plain flour
big pinch fine sea salt (to taste)
125g unsalted butter, cut into small dice and cold from the fridge
1 egg, lightly whisked and mixed with
1/2 tsp pure vanilla essence
1/3 jar sweet orange jam (not marmalade) or apricot jam
2-3 blood oranges, peeled and cut into slices
1 – 2 teaspoons sugar extra
Extra thick Greek yoghurt or creme fraiche to serve
To make the pastry, place the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl and give a quick whisk to combine. Alternatively you could place it in the bowl of a food processor and pulse briefly. Drop in the cold butter and rub into the dry ingredients with your fingers tips until it resembles wet sand. Add the egg and vanilla, gently bringing the pastry together into a ball. Add a teaspoon or two of cold water if the mixture does not come together easily. You could also make the pastry in a food processor by pulsing the butter into the dry ingredients then dropping in the egg (and cold water if needed) until the dough comes together. Flatten the pastry into a thick disc with the palm of your hand and wrap in baking paper or cling film and place in the fridge for at least an hour (overnight is fine).
Turn the oven on to 180C conventional. Roll your pastry out between two sheets of baking paper (or cling film or just using a floured work surface) until it is slightly larger than the base of your tart tin. I use a 24cm diameter tin with a removable base lined with baking paper. Place the rolled out pastry on the lined tin, pressing it down and halfway up the sides of the tin. Trim the pastry sides with a sharp knife until they are even and no more than 1cm higher than the pastry base. Prick the base with the tines of a fork, cover with baking paper and place in the freezer to chill for 15 minutes.
Place the jam on the pastry base so that it is covered by a thin layer. Assemble the blood orange slices so that the edges of the slices touch, trimming them to fit if necessary. Sprinkle 1-2 teaspoons of sugar evenly over the blood orange slices.
Bake for about an hour or until the edges of the pastry are golden. Allow to cool in the tin completely before serving with thick Greek yoghurt or creme fraiche.