Blood oranges are such a seasonal treat. Tarter than normal oranges, their colour once cut open ranges from tequila sunrise, through crimson to almost black. Scattered on a plate they look like circles of stained glass. Grab some while they're still in the shops.
Supermarkets, for some namby-pamby reason, have decided we can't cope with the word 'blood' so you'll often find them under the name of 'blush' oranges, sometimes sanguinello (one of their varieties) or even, ridiculously, 'reds'.
You can imagine the marketing team sitting round the table coming up with that one. 'We can't call them blood oranges 'cos, you know, that's a bit ick.' 'Yeah, but they aren't just orange oranges.' 'No.' Long pause while they all suck their pens. *Lightbulb moment* 'I know, let's call them red oranges!' 'Yeah, good one, Torquil, that's a winner.'
Whatever name you find them under, try them in this savoury salad, pared of all pith and sliced across, tossed with thinly sliced onion you've previously soaked in blood orange or lemon juice to remove the harshness, and a few pitted salty black olives. Dressed with a trickle of extra-virgin olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper and scattered with coriander leaves, it is lovely with oily fish like mackerel and salmon.
Chicken with Blood Oranges (serves 2-4)
Up to 1kg chicken thighs (1 or 2 per person), preferably free-range
6 blood oranges, 3 squeezed for juice, 3 cut into 50 mm slices
3 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
A small bunch of thyme sprigs
1 tsp coriander seeds, lightly crushed
3 tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp maple syrup
Pre-heat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5.
Crush the garlic and mix with the squeezed blood orange juice, olive oil, thyme, coriander seeds, a good pinch of salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Marinate the chicken thighs in this mixture for at least four hours, although you can leave it overnight if you're prepping ahead.
Put the chicken in a single layer in a large roasting tin (too small a tin and it'll stew instead of roasting) and tuck the orange slices around it. Pour over the marinade and drizzle the maple syrup over the chicken.
Roast for about 35 minutes, then remove from the oven and strain the juices into a clean pan. Put the chicken and orange slices, still in their oven tray, under a hot grill but not too close or they'll burn.
Cook for another 10 minutes or so to crisp up and brown the skin and finish the cooking. Make sure the juices run clear when you pierce the meat with a knife. The picture below is taken after the sauce has been reduced and returned to the pan.
Leave to rest somewhere warm while you skim any fat from the sauce and reduce it hard for a couple of minutes to intensify the flavour. Check the seasoning and serve poured over the chicken. Garnish with the roasted orange slices.
It's good with spiced roasted root vegetables: I used sweet potato, potato, parsnip and carrot tossed with oil, chilli, cumin and coriander (a teaspoon of each spice for up to a kilo of veg), with fresh coriander stirred through at the end. The chilli is a good counterpoint to the sweet and sour flavours of the chicken.