Acidity is an element in cooking that can make the most significant difference to a dish when controlled. It’s a specific art in its own right. There’s a shift in interest towards central American food preparations that lean heavily on the use of various citrus fruits. The marinade for Cuban sandwiches often incorporates the fresh juices of oranges and limes, the latter of which is a key component in a whole swathe of regional Mexican cuisines.
Acidity can be well managed through the use of citrus, delivering a natural concentration of sugars at the same time. Fruit harvests can vary from region to region and depending on the temperatures of a season, the sweetness levels can fluctuate too. Perhaps this is why blood oranges have come to the fore as a major ingredient in the past two years. The supple bitterness tempered against the vibrant natural sugars of this juicy orange, is what makes it so versatile in salad dressings and house cures for fish such as salmon, trout and hake.
In fact ceviche style dishes, are another iconic dish getting serious attention at the moment. Away from traditional ceviche, or aquachile bowls, small plated cured fish dishes are increasingly being garnished with segments of alternative citrus fruit. Brett Sutton at Somerset’s The White Post is currently offering a ceviche-inspired dish garnished with the Asian grapefruit pomelo and monksbeard. “It embraces the seasonality at this time of the year, adding a touch of lightness to the menu,” he says.
Another obscure citrus fruit that’s getting some action right now is the finger lime. Due to its unique structure, the interior of these slim limes is home to a large group of small spherical segments that are being used like a citrus caviar.
Buddha’s hands are the strange fruits that look like a bunch of gnarled fingers, much like a group of jalapeño chilies. Peelings of this fruit can be used in a variety of salads and are also being utilised by some chefs in vibrant salsas and fresh chilled sauces.
The sharp, dry flavour profile of the kumquat makes it an ideal choice for cocktails front of house, while sorbets made from this little oval fruit can be a sleek, slightly bitter palate cleanser. A popular way to use the kumquat is in simple syrups that can help to strip down sweetness in desserts.
Of course, the reliable zestiness of the lemon should never be overlooked – it’s not always a case of forging new paths or exploring Asian and Latin American cuisines. The pureness of Amalfi lemons, with their alluring backnote of sweetness in the finish, is what made these remarkable lemons so famous.
From robust savoury dishes, to sweet juicy desserts, the balancing act of acidity is what transforms a dish from being more that just the sum of its parts, and a reminder of just how versatile citrus can be.