Blood oranges are citrus royalty in my book. My local food store has to stock up again after my visit, as I piled my brown bag to tearing point. That is how much I love their crimson beauty and sweet raspberry taste. Anthocyanins are the red flavonoid pigments contained in blood oranges, unlike other citrus fruits, loaded with antioxidants and Vitamin C. Blood oranges appear to have originated in Sicily or Malta. The best way to enjoy them is to simply peel and eat. They are very generous juice producers too. I also enjoyed them in a cake and as a gin cocktail. See recipes below. My family especially loved the dairy and gluten free cake, which uses 2 whole boiled blood oranges, skin and all.

Blood orange and almond cake – Adapted from Jean Michel.

[Gluten and dairy free]

Ingredients

2 whole blood oranges

300g almond meal

1 and a half tsp baking powder

3 eggs

200g castor sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

To decorate  – candied blood orange slices

Method:

Place the whole oranges in a saucepan with cold water, cover and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes . Drain and let them cool. When cool enough to handle, break them open and remove any seeds and the stalky bit. Place the oranges in a food processor and purée until smooth.

Preheat oven 170 deg C

Lightly grease and flour your cake/loaf tin, 8 x 25cm or use smaller ramekins or a 12 hole muffin tin. I used 12 cm little cake tins and made a little cake for two along with a bigger cake. Combine the almond meal and baking powder in a large bowl. Mix the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer on high speed for 10 minutes. Add the orange purée and stir to combine. Pour the egg  and purée mixture onto the almond meal mixture and gently fold in until combined. Do not over mix. Pour the mixture into the prepared moulds/tins until 3/4 full. Bake on the bottom shelf for 35-45 minutes, insert skewer and if it comes out clean , the cake is ready. Remove and let it cool completely before refrigerating it in the tins for an hour. Place in a hot oven for 5 minutes if necessary to unmold. My little cakes were in a springform, so it was easy getting them out.

If you don’t mind dairy – I used mascarpone between the two layers as a filling with syrup from the candied orange slices, which also crowned the cake.

Candied blood orange slices : cut 2 washed oranges in thin slices, place in a small pan. Cover with 2 cups of boiling water and 3/4 cup brown sugar. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 30-40 minutes, until a shiny syrup forms. Let it cool and use as garnish. [recipe -Tracey Sunderland]

Blood Orange and Thyme Gin & Tonic :

Makes 1 cocktail

45ml gin

60ml fresh strained blood orange juice

120ml tonic water

1 and a half teaspoons thyme syrup -chilled

Thyme syrup :

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup water

4 sprigs thyme

Add the water and honey and thyme to a small saucepan, simmer over low heat for a few minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool for an hour. Strain the thyme out of the syrup. It can be stored for several weeks in the fridge.

Making the cocktail :

Add the blood orange juice, gin, tonic water and thyme syrup to a chilled glass. Stir to combine, add ice. Garnish with blood orange slices and fresh thyme.