Guest blog by Sam Hadadi
With the festive season already a distant and lingering memory, many of us have turned to detoxing, shaping up and kicking those New Year’s resolutions into gear.
If you’re looking to shed those Christmas pounds or squeeze yourself back into those beloved skinny jeans, then short-term diets can seem like a great quick fix. Yet, all too often, you’ll be left with a flagging resolve and a hatred of scales – not a better body.
To us, nothing helps you to shape up better than to simply enjoy nature at its finest – think good, honest ingredients and plenty of mouth-watering, home-cooked dishes. Yet to really enjoy healthy, clean produce, it’s best to eat seasonally wherever you can.
You see, not only does eating seasonally mean you’ll be tasting a delicious rainbow of food but it also means you’ll enjoy dishes at their freshest and tastiest. Plus, you’ll be supporting farmers and local producers too!
If you want to join us in shaping up, then why not get on board with eating seasonally? This January, we’ll be injecting colour into those drizzly grey days with pomegranates and Seville oranges, while also enjoying the catch of the day – Sea Bass.
Like a little ray of holiday sun, these tart little oranges are perfect for brightening up a miserable January day. Winging their way from Seville, in Southern Spain, these fruits are renowned for making the very best marmalade and are also delicious when used in fragrances and aromas.
Sadly, the Seville oranges are gone almost as soon as they arrive, with the season running just from the end of December through until February, so make the most of them while they can!
Amazingly, despite their name and origin, these highly aromatic fruits actually come from China and India (their Indian name is "narayam", which means "perfume within") and were brought to Europe in groves by Arab traders. Of course, Seville is now famous for its oranges, with 14,000 trees decorating the streets and infusing the city with the smell of their blossom each and every spring.
However, these orange baubles only came to be popular over on our shores when a ship carrying a load was forced to pull into a harbour at Dundee to shelter from a storm. Following this, a local grocer by the name of James Keiller snapped up the fruit and gave them to his wife, Janet, who turned them into a delicious marmalade (if you’ve ever tried eating the fruit, you’ll know it tastes bitter without the addition of sugar).
Fast forward to 1797, and the Keiller family opened the first ever marmalade factory, leading to Dundee’s historic roots with marmalade.
Also known as bitter orange, the Seville orange has been linked to weight loss and dieting for many years, although there have been many warnings about using the fruit in this way. However, there are plenty of other health benefits to this orange jewel, including:
How to Pick and Store:
When it comes to buying your oranges, try to opt for fruit with plump, firm skin. Since Sevilles are often unwaxed, it’s also important to use them up fairly quickly as they lose their moisture quickly and become tough.
How to Prepare:
As anyone who’s tried to eat a Seville orange fresh and raw will tell you – it doesn’t taste good! These bitter fruits are at their best when cooked (especially with sugar in marmalade), including in dishes such as 'Duck à l’Orange'.
We also love to use thin strips of the aromatic zest, popping them into a cooled and dry oven, before using to flavour stews and other dishes. You could also have a go at replacing lemon juice with Seville orange juice in sauces and marinades!
As one of the superfood starlets of recent years, the jewel-like seeds of pomegranates now pop up on Instagram feeds across the globe. These ruby red, apple-like fruits (their name comes from the Latin for “seeded apple”) are often grown in America, Spain, the Middle East and India, although it’s thought they originated in Northern India and Iran.
You’ll recognise pomegranates by their round shape and shiny, blushed skins. However, it’s when you cut open these rich jewels that you’ll find the prize - scores of edible, juicy seeds held in sweet, red flesh.
Prized for centuries, pomegranates have long been grown across the Middle East, Asia and the Mediterranean. In fact, a large pomegranate was even found in the tomb of Djehuty, the butler of Queen Hatshepsut in Egypt. Meanwhile, in Ancient Greek mythology, the pomegranate was known as the "fruit of the dead" and was believed to grow from the blood of Adonis. They were even known in Ancient Israel as the fruits that the scouts brought to Moses to demonstrate the fertility of the "promised land.”
Of course, pomegranates have always been adored for their flavour but in more recent years, they’ve become prized for their richness in antioxidants, which make them a true (and wondrous) superfood.
Oh pomegranates, how much we love you…! Loaded with goodness, these sweet and delicious seeds come loaded with stacks of goodness. Don’t believe us? Here’s why a pomegranate a day will keep the doctor away…
How to Pick and Store:
When it comes to plumping for the perfect pomegranate, it pays to look for heavier fruits with unblemished and shiny skins. They should also be firm to the touch - soft patches are a no-no with your pomegranates!
To keep them as fresh and as juicy as possible, they should be stored whole in the fridge or a cool room, where they’ll last for several weeks.
As tempting as it may look, the skin and the pith of pomegranates shouldn’t be eaten. Instead, cut it in half and eat the delicious seeds straight from the shell for an easy health boost.
We also love scattering the juicy seeds over salads, sprinkling over soups and rice dishes, or using to decorate meats. They also taste wonderful when pared with spiced lamb! Pomegranates also work particularly well with bitter salad leaves, nuts, fresh cheeses, clementines and duck, aubergine or fried fish.
Want to up your dosage of pomegranate goodness? Try some of our delicious recipes:
Lucy’s Very Berry Smoothie With Chia Seeds
Rising out of the ashes, seabass has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years as budding chefs and home cooks fall for its versatility. As a sweet, white fish, even those who don’t enjoy fish can fall for its simple charms and juicy texture. Better still, it can really hold its own in many dishes, from punchier spices and flavourings to more subtle, simple meals.
Now a star guest on menus up and down the country, this fish is caught in the North Atlantic (you can find it anywhere from Norway to Senegal, although Cornish Sea bass is also popular!) and has a similar flavour to sea bream.
Unfortunately, the popularity of this silvery fish has seen it soar in price and it can now be seen as something of a delicacy. In fact, the marine fishing authority revealed that sales of bass have more than trebled since 2005, jumping from £7m to £22m in 20115, with TV chefs acting as this superstar’s PR team.
However, while there are many species of sea bass, the type you’ll find on our shores is often Dicentrarchus labrax, which can be found in the Mediterranean and the UK. The one problem? The soaring popularity of sea bass has threatened stocks in some areas and it’s now subject to a minimum landing size (it must have grown to a certain length before it can be legally caught).
Not only does this succulent fish taste delicious but it’s also good for you, too! Sea bass is:
How to Pick and Store:
You can pick your fish whole and un-gutted, or in prepared fillets. However, the skin is rarely removed, whichever way you’re buying.
Wherever you can, we’d recommend buying your sea bass fresh and not frozen, preferably from a fishmonger’s, where they can advise you on what you’re looking for. While farmed sea bass is available farmed all year round, we prefer to go for wild, which can be found from August to March.
How to Prepare:
As with most fish, whole sea bass can prove tricky to prepare so, if in doubt, simply ask your fish monger to help you!
If you’re buying your sea bass whole, bear in mind that they have sharp spines and thick scales which need removing before cooking. However, once the scales have been removed, the skin can be left attached – it’s a great source of nutrients and can also take on a lovely colour (and taste) once cooked.
Since sea bass has such a good flavour, it can be cooked as simply as you like. However, if you’re lucky enough to have a whole sea bass, then you could try baking in salt (especially our new Himalayan pink salt!), which tastes phenomenal and helps the fish to remain succulent but not salty. You could also simply try roasting or barbecuing your sea bass (wrap it in foil first as this prevents it from drying out) and then adding flavour with oils, herbs, veggies or citrus fruits.
If you’re looking for some inspiration, there are plenty of strong flavours which can draw out the deliciousness of sea bass, including Asian spices, or a simple chilli and oregano dressing.
Sea bass can be so simple to prepare that it makes the perfect mid-week meal – especially if you’re looking to detox this January! If you’re looking to try something new, then these Sea Bass Fillets With Spiralised Courgette and Carrot are a firm favourite in the Lucy Bee house.
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Lucy Bee is concerned with Fair Trade, ethical and sustainable living, recycling and eating close to nature with additive free products for health.
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Sam Hadadi is an ex-BBC journalist and now a freelance writer specialising in fitness and food.