I have rules when it comes to buying fruit. Vegetables too, if it comes to that. As much as possible I like to buy produce that is grown locally, and therefore in season, for a number of reasons. Firstly, fruit and vegetables which have been harvested as close as possible to ripeness and which have traveled the shortest possible distance to get to your table tastes better. It's a no-brainer really. I mean, let's face it, you know that you feel like c**p after spending 14 hours on a long-haul flight to the other side of the world, so why for a moment would you think that something as delicate as a strawberry flown all the way from Chile in the middle of our winter is going to cope with long-haul air travel any better than you do? Secondly, avoiding out of season produce imported from the other side of the world is one way of making a small difference to my carbon footprint. Admittedly, however, I am not fanatical about this. I do buy imported specialty goods from time to time - cheeses, olives and olive oils, for example - but I do try not to overdo it on the imports. And, lastly, I like to give as much support as I possibly can to local producers.
So you won't find me buying peaches, strawberries or tomatoes in the middle of winter. And you won't find me buying lemons in January. In short, if something grows here in New Zealand I won't buy an out of season import. I do, however, make an exception of buying imported fruit on rare occasions when it is fruit which doesn't grow here - pineapple, bananas, papaya, mango, for example - and even though I know that here, far from where they have grown, they are not truly at their best, there is nothing quite like indulging in some tropical fruit for the occasional special treat.
With that in mind, I was faced with a bit of a dilemna this week. At I Heart Cooking Clubs, where we are cooking with Tessa Kiros, our theme for the week was "Fight Scurvy - Eat More Citrus" - a theme I normally would have been super-excited about, except that it's so definitely not citrus season here in New Zealand right now. I definitely wasn't about to rush out and buy up bags of lemons or oranges imported from the US. So, just as I was wondering if I might be able to adapt something to perhaps use some of my homemade marmalade, I came across bags of blood oranges on special at the supermarket. Now blood oranges are one of my favourite fruits, and since we don't grow them here (as far as I know) I don't feel too bad about buying imported ones.
As I've done so often over the last few months, I turned to Tessa's book, Falling Cloudberries: A World of Family Recipes, which I think by now has actually become the most used cookbook in my collection.
From there it was a breeze to turn Tessa's Little Lemon Cakes into Little Blood Orange Cakes.
These little cakes are utterly, utterly delicious. They are light, beautifully moist, and the delicate, slightly "perfumed" flavour of the blood orange makes them seem ever so slightly exotic. These are pretty much perfect any time of day, but I think would be especially good for dessert on those occasions when you are looking for something that is not too rich or heavy. A dollop of creme fraiche or Greek-style yoghurt would be a good addition on the side.
Tessa suggests making these in individual 3/4 cup ramekins, or a single 20cm (8 inch) cake tin. I definitely wanted individual cakes here, but my ramekins weren't quite big enough - note to self, get some bigger ramekins. As it turned out, Texas sized muffin tins worked perfectly.
Little Blood Orange Cakes
Adapted from recipe by Tessa Kiros
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe
100g (3-1/2 oz) butter, room-temperature
100g (3-1/2 oz) caster sugar
1 large, free-range egg, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 blood orange, grated zest and juice
60ml (1/4 cup) milk
1-1/2 tablespoons blood orange juice
50g (1-3/4 oz) icing sugar
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F).
Lightly grease and flour the base and sides of four 3/4 cup ramekins, or Texas muffin tins.
Cream the butter and sugar, until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla, and beat well.
Add the sifted flour and baking powder, together with the grated zest of the blood orange. Fold in with a metal spoon, just until combined.
Add the milk and blood orange juice, and stir well until fully incorporated.
Using clean beaters, beat the egg white in a small bowl until white and fluffy and holds soft peaks. Add one large spoonful of the egg white to the cake mixture, and mix well to loosen the cake batter. Add the rest of the egg white, and fold in gently using a large metal spoon.
Divide mixture evenly between ramekins or muffin moulds. Put into the preheated oven and bake for about 30 minutes - until the cakes are golden, and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Remove from oven and place ramekins or tin on a wire rack to cool completely. Run a knife around the sides of the cakes to loosen and remove from their moulds.
Make the icing by whisking the icing sugar and blood orange juice together until smooth, adding more of either to achieve the consistency you want. (I kept mine fairly runny as I wanted more of a glaze than a thick icing.)
Put the cooled cakes onto a plate, make a few holes in the top of each cake with a skewer, and dribble the icing over the top. I topped mine off with a garnish of the Seville Orange Spoon Sweets I made a few months ago.
If you would like to get to know Tessa a little better, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and see what they've all cooked up ...
... or check out Falling Cloudberries and many of Tessa's other great titles available from Amazon or Fishpond NZ.
I hope you'll give these wonderful little cakes a try - I'm sharing them this week at Cookbook Sundays, where my friends are delving into their cookbook collections and sharing some of their recipes. Do stop by to see what they're cooking - you might even feel inspired to link up a recipe from one of your own cookbooks.
I am also sharing this post with Sweet New Zealand, a monthly blog event created by the very lovely Alessandra Zecchini, and which this month is hosted by the equally lovely and incredibly talented Emma at My Darling Lemon Thyme. This is an opportunity for all Kiwi bloggers (whether you are living in New Zealand or overseas), as well as for non-Kiwi bloggers living in New Zealand, to connect and share some of those sweet treats from your kitchen. So, head on over to Emma's and share something sweet.