As I poured my third cup of tea of the morning a few weeks ago, I realized that this cold season comes with a set of habits all its own.
Normally, tea holds little interest for me and I drink maybe two cups per week. But lately, the kettle has been getting a work out. As have my fingerless gloves, which are now an office necessity. I pile two duvets on my bed and pull on thick socks before I slide under them. Cycling has taken a back seat to staying warm and my consumption of soup has spiked. The winter of my thirty third year has turned into a rather involved search for warmth, warmth, warmth. I expect thermal underwear to show up in my drawers any day now.
As rituals go, boiling the kettle and layering aren’t particularly interesting, I know. But how about these: candied orange peel, grapefruit cake, blood orange granita?
Along with being the month of socks and blankets, January 2013 was the month of citrus sweets. It started with candied orange peel from the Canal House cookbooks. Rather moreish, and a breeze to make: slice thick swaths of peel from a few organic oranges, remove any rogue flesh that clings to them. Then simmer in a sugar bath with some vanilla and a sprig of rosemary for 2,5 hours before drying them and rolling them in sugar. You do need the patience to stay inside while the orange peel bathes in sugar, but what an excellent reason to stay close to the warm stove.
Then there was a grapefruit olive oil cake which the colleagues seemed to like quite a bit. I would have too, I suppose, but I kept waiting for the burst of “ruby red grapefruit flavor” the head notes had promised. It never came. However, there was a definite citrus tang and by skipping the grapefruit juice in the icing I was probably solely to blame for the disappointment. Next time I’ll stick to the recipe.
Not disappointing at all was the blood orange and Cointreau granita that made citrus sweets an honest-to-goodness habit. Adapted from a recipe by Janneke Vreugdenhill, this does burst with citrus flavor. It also dissolves into mouthfuls of sweet, icy deliciousness. Plus, it is easy. You take 250ml of orange juice (from 2 blood oranges and one large regular orange, in my case) and mix in a few splashes of Cointreau and enough sugar to make the liquid quite sweet (I used a heaping tablespoon). The hard bit over, you put the juice in the freezer in a wide container and stir with a fork after two hours or so. An hour later, you stir again, breaking up ice crystals as you go. An hour later, another good stir and your mixture should start to resemble a pile of fresh snow, in a flashy red color. Maybe you stir once more after another hour and then dessert is good to go.
Granted, it counters my stay-warm tactics somewhat, but that is why they make thermal underwear.