It's been a grey, wet, and still miserably cold day, in Leicester so I bought a new cook book. I'm currently reading the new Molly Keane biography, and one detail that really stood out was how much Molly and her hunting friends looked forward to winter, and how the rest of the year revolved around being ready for the hunting season and the racing calander.
Foxes everywhere are quite safe from me, I regard horses as being dangerous at both ends, unpredictable in the middle, and best avoided, but I do love this time of year. The dark nights and cold gloomy days stop me minding that I don't have a garden. I like the slack pace of January, the way it dawdles along until I feel like I've caught up with myself. The slow stretching of daylight hours is uplifting, and if I'm going to be broke it's as well that it's at a time when I have a flat full of new books to read and no particular desire to be out in the cold, wet, and grey. It's also the best season for citrus fruits and I love those to the point of obsession.
So far this month I've come home with Seville oranges, a lot of blood oranges, lemons, and bergamots. Tomorrow I'm going to get some sorrento lemons whilst they too are around. It's blood oranges that I'm really crazy for, I love the zingy intensity of their flavour, and the range of jewel bright colours. A book on citrus fruits was always going to be an easy sell to me, but even if I wasn't such an enthusiast the glowing orange gold colour would have attracted me (pictures don't do it justice, it feels like some sort of fabric, will probably get dirty far to quickly, and is gorgeous).
Now that I've well and truly run out of shelf space a new cookbook has to strike me as something special to make it across the threshold. 'Citrus' does that by taking a group of ingredients I love and suggesting all sorts of ways to use them (which is a lot easier than trawling through a couple of dozen books to find inspiration). Seville oranges are a case in point, they have a relativley short season and all I ever use them for is marmalade. One batch of marmalade is more than enough to see me through the year, but one box of sevilles doesn't seem like quite enough to come home with. Catherine Phipps takes the view that using them only for marmalade is almost a crime - I'm looking forward to having the particular horizon broadened.
Bergamots are another good example - they don't get a lot of recipes (only 2, I think) but maybe more to the point there's good advice on how to use them - it turns out there's a wrong way to juice citrus; too much pressure (or over squeezing/juicing) releases the bitterness from the pith. The bergamot and lemon chicken sounds excellent, the perfect incentive to get a few more bergamots whilst they're available (they smell so good) and make the most of them. The chicken, chard, and giant couscous soup with lemon (or lime) zest is a useful reminder to use up the left overs (instead of shamefacedly ditching them after a few days to long in the fridge).
There is a brilliant cheats version for preserved lemons (or any other citrus) which I think is going to be very useful, a chapter on small plates which all made my mouth water, some cinnamon and orange buns that remind me it's been far to long since I last made cinnamon buns... the list goes on. There are things here that are new to me, and things which are a citrusy twist on old favourites, everything looks good, and despite the weather outside my day has been immeasurably brightened.