Sweet, sharp and fresh – th­ese hy­brid cit­rus fruits bring an un­mis­tak­able bright­ness to light spring dishes, from a pop of orange in a tasty salad to a de­li­cious zing in a Span­ish stew and much else in be­tween.

Dish - - Contents - Words — JULIE BIUSO Pho­tog­ra­phy — JOSH GRIGGS

In sea­son: tan­ge­los

Tan­ge­los are my pick of cit­rus fruit. Yes, I love lemons for their fresh scent and use­ful­ness in the kitchen but when it comes to eat­ing cit­rus as a fruit, it’s not much fun suck­ing on a lemon. Tan­ge­los, a hy­brid be­tween a sweet man­darin and a grape­fruit, are gor­geously sweet and sharp at the same time. The acid gives a height­ened mouth-puck­er­ing thrill, to the point where it al­most in­duces a sweat, but man­darin’s sweet­ness takes off the acid edge keep­ing the over­all ef­fect bal­anced. Just! When squeezed, the juice is bright in colour, tastes deeply of orange and is fresh and pleas­antly sweet.

There are sev­eral va­ri­eties of tan­gelo. Top of the pile is the Min­neola with its deep orange pock­marked skin and distinc­tive elon­gated neck and nip­pled top. It’s easy to peel – just get your thumb un­der the bump at the top – and has gen­er­ous amounts of juice. Other va­ri­eties in­clude Or­lando and Semi­nole.

It’s the acid in tan­ge­los cou­pled with the fruity orange taste that makes them so ver­sa­tile in the kitchen. They al­ways look great, too, with their deep orange juicy flesh. A bowl of straw­ber­ries and seg­mented tan­ge­los makes a light and fresh end to a spring meal. Tan­ge­los also go with pears, peaches, ba­nanas, grapes, guavas and rhubarb. And then there is the heav­enly com­bi­na­tion of orange and choco­late. And orange and ginger. Tan­ge­los do the busi­ness here bet­ter than an orange, I think.

Per­haps my favourite way to use tan­ge­los is in savoury dishes. Juice or seg­ments should be added to­wards the end of cook­ing be­cause tan­gelo juice looses its fresh notes when heated and seg­ments lose their bright colour and struc­ture. They’re a flavour cor­rec­tor, too. A good squirt of tan­gelo juice can level out the oili­ness of a dish, and help sup­press salti­ness (add a dab of honey to mute ex­cess salti­ness).

Add a cup of seg­ments with juice to a Span­ish chicken, red pep­per and green olive stew just be­fore serv­ing, and you’ll cre­ate a flavour bomb. Spoon them through a Moroc­can chick­pea, chorizo and harissa dish and sprin­kle the lot with chopped co­rian­der, and you’ll cre­ate a stand­out re­sult. The acid­ity will make the red pep­per in the stew seem sweeter, and will help de­fine the spices in the chick­pea dish.

I love them in salsa and fresh rel­ish, too. Any com­bi­na­tion of chopped white peaches or

nec­tarines, green or yel­low pep­per, red onion or shal­lot, chopped co­rian­der, mint or basil, chopped olives or ca­pers, will work. As will chopped av­o­cado, tan­gelo seg­ments, red onion and hot red chilli and fresh mint. Try this with a black bean salad topped with sour cream, and fill tacos, adding shred­ded pork belly, pan-fried or bar­be­cued fish fil­lets, or chopped char-grilled chicken, to make it more sub­stan­tial.

Fen­nel and orange is another cu­ri­ous combo that works. Trim and finely slice fen­nel, dress with ex­tra vir­gin olive oil, tan­gelo juice, flaky sea salt, crushed gar­lic and tan­gelo seg­ments. The fen­nel can sit around for 30 min­utes or so once dressed (with the tan­gelo juice), but add seg­ments just be­fore serv­ing. Gar­nish with a shower of chopped chervil or fresh tar­ragon. Add small black olives if liked, or fin­ish with ca­pers siz­zled in brown­ing but­ter. Once you get on a roll, the pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less. What you are look­ing to cre­ate is a bal­ance of acid­ity, a tad of sweet­ness and a dol­lop of fruity flavours. Spices like ginger, and herbs like mint and tar­ragon, and ex­tras like chill­ies, ca­pers and olives, add another di­men­sion. You can make tan­ge­los work with fish and shell­fish, and with pork, tur­key, chicken, duck, ham and lamb, and with many fruits and some veg­eta­bles. It’s the other in­gre­di­ents that will pull it all to­gether.

Sub­sti­tute tan­gelo juice for lemon in most desserts. Think lemon tart, gelato, ice cream, granita, cus­tards and the like, and in nut cakes or sponges soaked in syrup, and other syrupy desserts like baklava. Some or­anges don’t have enough acid­ity to bal­ance th­ese sweet dishes, but tan­ge­los with their bitey lit­tle zing do the job well while adding a no­table orange pres­ence.

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