As many of my food-minded readers might know, Saturday 14 March was Pi day – officially a day to celebrate the mathematical constant (the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter), but also appropriated by the food blogging community as pie day (geddit??). They are probably also familiar with pancake day and Nutella day – but what of the more obscure world days out there? The quirky Days of the Year website has made me aware of such classics as Manatee Appreciation Day, Find a Rainbow Day, Scrabble Day, and Take Your Dog to Work Day. Any takers? You probably also were not aware that last Friday was the United Nations International Day of Happiness – I certainly wasn’t until I opened my newspaper. It seens that the UN in 2012, having recognised the pursuit of happiness as a fundamental human goal, established an International Day of Happiness, to be celebrated each year on 20 March starting from 2013. The idea is for individuals and groups to raise awareness of factors inhibiting our search for happiness (alienation and loneliness are rife in modern society) and to take part in small or large actions to increase the collective level of happiness.
Happiness is something that I spend a lot of time thinking about. Am I happy? How would I define happy? Could I be happier? And I was thrilled a couple of years ago to find I was not the only one asking these questions – Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project became my constant companion for a few months and I still quote from it. Survey after survey has been done to try and distill what it is that makes people happy and the results are remarkably consistent: good health, fulfilling relationships, meaningful work, optimism, gratitude, religion and forgiveness. (Also, hilariously, watching TV!). But all of these are fairly long-term goals or habits that have to be learnt and practised over time – I am perhaps even more fascinated by the small, everyday things that we can do to instantly and massively boost our happiness. For me, that would include a walk in the fresh air (beach preferable!); a long hot scented bath; listening to my favourite music; taking a beautiful photograph; or sitting in the sun with a good book. How about you? What everyday things make you happy?
Something else that makes me happy is the arrival of seasonal produce that I have been longing for all year. Yes, I like my Granny Smith apples and I eat them all year round, but only the rarity value of produce with a very defined season really sends me into raptures: figs, rhubarb, Jerusalem artichokes… and blood oranges. The blood orange is a natural mutation ofthe common or garden variety orange which as resulted in the flesh of the fruit ranging from… well, orange with tiny flecks of red, to a uniformly deep, ruby colour. The red colour (caused by antioxidant anthocyanin pigments) needs cold nights while the fruit is developing and because this process can’t be fully controlled, you never know what you will find when you cut into a blood orange. Of the small bag I had, one was proper red while the other two came in various degrees of red streaks. Who can resist this touch of anarchy in today’s world of cookie-cutter identical fruit?
When I spotted these blood oranges at the supermarket, I already knew what I wanted to make with them: blood orange posset. A posset is a rather quaintly archaic dessert which started off its life as a hot drink of milk curdled with wine or ale, often spiced – something which was popular in Britain from medieval times until the 19th century. More recently, the term has come to refer to a dessert rather than a drink, consisting of sweetened thickened cream usually flavoured with lemon. It contains no gelatine so it lacks the wobbliness of a panna cotta, tending instead towards the sheer decadence of clotted cream. Swapping the lemon for blood oranges means that you can reduce the amount of sugar somewhat, and if your blood oranges are a deeper red than mine, it also means a beautifully pink dessert. Either way, its a decadent seasonal treat that’s perfect for making the day before a dinner party – and I promise that eating it will make you happy!
In other news, I wanted to share with you my new publisher page on Yummly. Yummly is a website that allows you to discover recipes from all over the web and to save them in a virtual recipe box – it’s as easy as clicking on the Yum button on your toolbar to add a recipe! Once a recipe is saved in your recipe box, you can connect with Facebook and share it with your Facebook friends, or you can divide your recipes up into collections, rather like mini recipe books. So, for example, you can have a Yummly collection of only soup recipes, or only cake recipes – or even heirloom recipes. Another nifty feature is Yummly’s use of recipe filters – rumour has it that the company was born out of the founder’s frustration at being unable to search ONLY for recipes without mustard. The site’s unique filters allow users to find the perfect recipes by holiday, cuisine, taste, diet, nutrition, allergy, cook time, technique etc and also allow you to filter by “with” or “without” a particular ingredient (in my case, “without banana”!) Sign up today to start creating your own recipe box and collections – you can easily add any of my recipes by clicking on the orange “Yum” button below each recipe post. And if you want to see all Cooksister recipes that are already on Yummly, have a look at my publisher page. Happy Yumming!
If you love blood oranges, you might also like:
- my fennel and blood orange salad with toasted pistachios
- Charlie’s blood orange posset with candied peel
- Bintu’s roasted blood orange and asparagus
- Kellie’s creamy blood orange smooothie
- Aniko’s blood orange tart
- Laura’s brown sugar meringues with grilled blood oranges and rhubarb
- David’s blood orange sorbet
- the juice and finely grated zest of 2 blood oranges (you can use ruby grapefruit too but may need to add extra sugar) plus an extra orange for garnish
- 600ml double cream
- 120g caster sugar
- In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the cream and sugar to a boil. Allow to bubble gently for 3-5 minutes, then remove from the heat.
- Stir in the zest, then whisk in the juice until well mixed. Allow to cool for half an hour or so, stirring from time to time, then divide the mixture between four pretty glasses.
- Cover with clingfilm and allow to set overnight in the fridge. Serve topped with peeled segments from the remaining orange.
Want to learn to style and photograph food like a pro? I am hosting a 2-day hands-on food styling and photography workshop together with photographer Meeta K Wolff in London on 1-2 May 2015. Get your ticket now!
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