This winter beauty is indeed named for its belly button, which is actually a ‘twin’ fruit that never fully develops and is the reason that this variety of orange is seedless.
Certain parts of New Zealand boast the perfect conditions for growing navel oranges – high sunshine hours, warm days and cooler nights. Poverty Bay, around Gisborne, is where most of our navel oranges are grown commercially and the fruit makes it onto the shelves at Farro very soon after picking – bursting with Vitamin C, as well as Vitamin B, Folic acid, and calcium. Aromatic, sweet, and juicy, navel oranges lend their qualities to so many dishes, both sweet and savoury. Here are some ideas to whet your appetite.
- Peel and slice into very thin rounds and pair with shaved fennel, thinly sliced shallots and discs of radish, and toasted hazelnuts, dressed with olive oil and lemon juice and topped with burrata, if you like.
- Slice into thin wedges and gently remove the flesh from the outer membranes and add to a salad of cooked wheat berries, currants, thinly sliced kale massaged in olive oil, and toasted pine nuts, with a dressing of olive oil, orange juice, sherry vinegar and sumac.
- Make a winter slaw with thin segments of orange, julienned raw beetroot and carrot, mung bean sprouts, very finely sliced silverbeet, and toasted sesame seeds, and shake up a blend of rice bran oil, fresh ginger and garlic, and lemon juice to dress it.
Peel and all, marmalade made with this variety of orange isn’t overly bitter. Orange and lemon with the addition of chopped dates and cayenne pepper makes a beautiful chutney for pairing with cheeses. Or you can candy the peel in thick strips, then melt the best dark chocolate you can get, coat half each strip of peel and leave for the chocolate to set.
Nothing smells better coming out of the oven than an orange cake, and perhaps the most seductive is one made with whole fruit – a traditional Jewish approach made famous by the late food writer Claudia Roden. Boil two cleaned, whole navel oranges until tender (a couple of hours!) and pop in a blender to blitz with half a dozen eggs, and equal amounts of ground almonds and either honey or sugar. Bake until the merest wobble remains in the centre and leave to cool to fully set then dust with icing sugar. We also highly recommend our Sicilian Orange Cake with Pistachios - Citrus fruits feature strongly in Sicilian cuisine. This beautiful cake is an excellent keeper thanks to the puréed whole orange in the mix. To make a dairy-free cake, use a delicate flavoured olive oil in place of the butter.
Add thin rounds, skin-on, to Moroccan tagines and other North African and Middle Eastern bakes. Glaze duck, chicken, pork or veges like carrot and kumara with a blend of orange juice, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and sesame oil before baking. Make a Mexican-style braising liquid with orange juice, chilli, cumin, cinnamon and garlic to a crockpot or Dutch oven in which to slow-cook a pork shoulder or beef cheeks – once tender, pull apart and stuff into tacos with shredded red cabbage, coriander and pickled red onion.
It’s the perfect time to bask in the brilliance of navel oranges. Make a smoothie by blending peeled navel orange, frozen banana, cinnamon, honey, a little fresh ginger, a spoonful of cashew or almond butter, and ice. Simmer segments of orange in a little raw sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg to infuse the flesh then use to top cooked oats, granola, pancakes or crepes – great with a dollop of thick yoghurt. Along similar lines but a tad more luxurious as a breakfast topper are slices of orange, skin-on and covered with a smattering of dark cane sugar, baked until caramelised.