Spain – Valencia Oranges in Moscatel and Orange Marmalade
Valencia is the easternmost province of Spain, hugging the Mediterranean coast between Catalonia in the north and Murcia in the south. We drove down the coast of Valencia along highway N-322 en route to the Costa Blanca, a region lined with resort towns nestled between the mountains and the Mediterranean. The resorts are interspersed with sleepy fishing villages that once used to dominate this coastline. The name Costa Blanca was an airline marketing term that took hold, depicting the chalky geology and the whitewashed houses cascading from the hilltops to the blue sea.
The roads are as good as any I have seen, mostly toll roads. We drove on a double lane divided highway the whole way through that was easy to navigate and a pleasure to drive on. We stopped to take pictures every now and then, I had to photographs the orange trees laden with oranges, the olive tree, bare of fruit this time of year but still looking so interesting with their gnarled trunks and branches and silvery leaves.
This is off season and many of these resorts are shut down. We drove into a couple on the way down and they were eerily vacant. Thousands of condominiums and probably hundreds of thousands of hotel rooms were closed, lying dormant until they reopen in the spring when mostly European tourists swarm the area seeking sea and sun.
We settled in the villa which we will use as our base for the next few weeks to explore the coastal towns before turning inland and driving a few hours to spend a week in Sevilla and two weeks in Marbella in the beautiful province of Andalusia. I hope to learn as much as I can about the food of both Valencia and Andalusia while we are here.
Valencia is the land of oranges, you must have heard of the Valencia oranges that rival only the ones from Jaffa (in my not so humble opinion). This is winter and it is orange season and orange groves line both sides of the roads, interrupted only by olive groves and field upon field of artichokes, also in season now.
The oranges are spectacular and I have piles of them on my kitchen counter. They are thin skinned and juicy and you buy them often with the green leaves still attached. How fresher can they be? It’s like you just picked them off the tree. Orange trees are de rigueur here and you see them laden with fruits wherever you look. Oh, my kind of living. When you ask for a glass of orange juice for breakfast here you don’t even have to ask if it’s freshly squeezed. Of course it is, and absolutely delicious. I am dying to make orange cakes, flans and many other desserts with them but the kitchen is limited so it will have to wait. In the meantime I am saving the orange peels to make either candied orange peel or maybe even a quick orange marmalade.
I thought I’d offer an easy recipe celebrating the beautiful Valencia oranges that are everywhere now. The recipe is adapted from Claudia Roden’s book The Foods of Spain, a must purchase if you want to learn about Spain and its cuisine. I have it in hard cover at home and here with me on my iPad and I consult it all the time.
1 1/2 cups Moscatel (sweet Spanish wine)
1 cup orange marmalade
1 small cinnamon stick
Cut a slice off the top and the bottom of the oranges
Stand each orange on the flat cut edge and using a sharp knife slice off the peel together with pith, following the contour of the orange.
You should be left with a whole orange and no pith or peel.
Slice the orange into slices, about 1/3 inch thick, then cut each slice into pieces. If you don’t want the orange membrane skins in your dessert you can cut the flesh segments out of the orange by slicing along the membrane between the segments.
Place the orange pieces in a bowl.
Combine the Moscatel and orange marmalade in a small pot and bring to a boil.
Lower heat and continue boiling until the sauce become somewhat reduced and syrupy.
Pour the warm sauce over the oranges and let macerate for a couple of hours before serving.
You can garnish with toasted sliced almonds or a sprinkling of cinnamon.
Spoon into a dessert glass and serve with a spoon.