IN AUTUMN THE STREETS OF ANDALUSIA FILL WITH THE SCENT OF AZAHAR. THE MOORS LEFT TO SPAIN NOT ONLY THE CITRUS, BUT THE WHISPERINGLY POETIC WORD TO DESCRIBE BOTH THE ORANGE BLOSSOM AND ITS SEASON. AZAHAR IS THE TIME OF THE YEAR WHEN THE PALE WHITE WAXY FLOWERS ERUPT, FILLING TOWN SQUARES WITH A HEADY SWEET PERFUME. A STROLL ON A WARM NIGHT IN CÓRDOBA OR SEVILLE DURING AZAHAR IS ONE OF THE MOST INTOXICATING EXPERIENCES. FUNNILY ENOUGH, IN SPRING WHEN THE FRUIT IS RIPE, NOBODY EATS THE ORANGES! CONSIDER USING ONLY THE BEST FRUIT FOR THIS DESSERT — BLOOD AND NAVEL ORANGES IN WINTER, OR VALENCIA ORANGES IN SUMMER. MAY I SUGGEST YOU ALSO SEARCH OUT HOJIBLANCA OLIVE OIL AS IT IS FRUITY, AROMATIC AND TRADITIONALLY USED IN DESSERTS IN SPAIN.
Infuse the olive oil the day before serving. To do this simply pour the olive oil into a glass jar, add the vanilla bean, then seal. Leave to stand overnight in a cool place, but not the refrigerator.
Also on the day before serving, prepare the mandarin sorbet. Place the sugar in a saucepan with
Slice the tops off six of the best-shaped mandarins. Carefully remove the segments from inside the cut mandarins (this takes a little skill), then put the skins on a tray and place in the freezer. These will become your serving receptacles for the mandarin sorbet.
Peel the remaining mandarins and juice them in a mechanical juicer along with the segments from the six hollowed-out mandarins. Add the lemon juice, strain, then measure
On the day of serving, make the citrus salad. Using a very sharp knife and reserving all the juices, slice away the tops and bottoms of all the oranges and tangelos. Working from top to bottom, remove the skin and white pith. Cut all the citrus in half widthways and remove the white pith in the centre, then cut the flesh into
Fill the frozen mandarin skins with the sorbet and place on chilled plates. Spoon a little citrus salad and juices around the sorbet and serve.
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