Zest is a nice added extra when you buy citrus fruit, almost like a bonus ingredient.
It gives a far more pungent flavour to cooking and baking than the juice of the fruit does.
With a sharp grater you can remove this layer of bright bold colour from the fruit quite easily.
Pith, the white layer below the zest, separates the fruit from its skin, it is bitter to taste.
When grating it is best to stop after the first bright layer and leave the white layer of pith on the fruit.
This pith does have its use in the making of marmalade, it lends a nice bite and helps the marmalade to set.
Traditionally in Ireland we would think of zest as added to baking, stirred into a Christmas fruit cake perhaps, but it can also liven up countless savoury dishes, some which you might not expect.
A sprinkling of freshly grated lemon peel works very well with creamy pasta either stirred in at the end or zested straight over, as you would with Parmesan.
It also perks up a vinaigrette salad dressing or can be added to salt mixes.
Toasted cumin seeds, lemon zest and cracked black pepper stirred into some sea salt is a handy condiment for eggs or rubbed into meat before cooking.
Bread crumbs toasted golden with a light dash of oil and lemon zest also have many good uses.
Most citrus fruit in Ireland have a light coating of wax so I rinse the fruit in boiling water and wipe them down with a cloth to make sure it is removed before zesting the peel.
If you come across unwaxed citrus fruit it is worth buying them if you intend to use the zest.
Citrus fruits have never grown in our temperate climate, unless in the very exceptional glasshouse or conservatory, they have always been brought over the sea.
I think it is almost impossible for us to understand the excitement that the arrival of a beautiful, bright, sweet orange must have brought, the fact that they were only available in certain seasons adding to the mystique.
With modern farming and container shipment we now have almost every fruit at our fingertips year round and in with this a myriad of citrus fruits, grapefruit, tangerines, satsumas, limes, lemons, Saville oranges from Spain, and sweet juicing oranges from north Africa or California.
Once washed you can use the zest of all of these and it is worth experimenting.
There is quite a difference in the flavour between tangerine and orange zest.
Here I have used the more traditional fruits in the recipes but feel free to experiment and substitute one for another.
QUICK MID-WEEK MEALS
50g of breadcrumbs
the zest of two lemons and the juice of one
a small bunch of parsley, chopped
a small bunch of tarragon, finely chopped
30g of parmesan, finely grated
4 fillets of pollock
a dash of rapeseed oil
green leaves for four
1 tbs of vinaigrette dressing
Toss the breadcrumbs with lemon zest, parsley, tarragon, parmesan and seasoning.
Use a pan that you can put under a grill. Heat the oil and fry the fish skin side down for two minutes.
Sprinkle the fillets with the breadcrumb mixture and place under a grill, heated to medium.
Grill until the fish is cooked through.
Toss the leaves in the dressing and serve on the side.
Some nice boiled baby potatoes work well with this also.
300g of quinoa
150g of halloumi, in four slices
60 mls of olive oil
3 tbs of lemon juice and the zest of 3
1 small cucumber, finely diced
4 ripe tomatoes, finely diced
1 small red onion, finely diced
a bunch of parsley, finely chopped
a bunch of tarragon, finely chopped
a large handful of almonds, chopped
Cook the quinoa in boiling water until the seed begins to separate slightly.
If it is soft enough to easily bite through drain it and set aside.
Grill the halloumi until golden and turn over and grill on the other side.
Whisk the oil, lemon juice and zest with some seasoning.
Toss the cucumber, tomatoes with all the juice and red onion through the quinoa. Add the herbs and stir in the dressing.
Serve with the halloumi on top.
SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND
110g of butter
55g of icing sugar
110g of flour
25g of corn flour
a pinch of salt
the zest of 3 large limes
Put your oven to 160°.
Cream your butter and sugar until they are pale in colour.
Meanwhile sieve your flour, corn-flour and salt.
Add these ingredients and the lime zest to your butter and sugar.
I find it best to combine all of these with my hands until they form a dough.
Roll your dough into 12 walnut sized balls and place on a baking tray lined with parchment.
Press each ball with the back of a fork or spoon and place your tray into the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
Leave to cool for a few moments when they come out of the oven then transfer them onto a wire rack.
250g of softened butter
the zest of 5 large oranges
300g of caster sugar
225g of self raising flour
75g of plain flour
180g of orange juice
120 g of dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
120 mls of cream
Preheat your oven to 170° and line an eight inch round tin.
Beat butter, zest and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs while beating slowly, one at a time.
Slowly mix in the flour and juice.
I weigh the orange juice in this recipe to make sure it is accurate each time.
Scrape the mixture into your tin and bake for one hour.
Check with a skewer to see if it needs more time.
While the cake is baking heat the cream until it is starting to shiver.
Take it off the heat and stir in the chocolate until it has melted.
Set aside to cool.
Allow the cake to cool on a wire rack then spread the chocolate on top.
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