The citrus family of ingredients is integral to most (all?) cuisines, and has qualities that suit every course of every meal — in fact, could the likes of lemon, orange and grapefruit form the modern cook’s most useful and used group of flavours? Catherine Phipps’s Citrus certainly points us towards that conclusion.
In her introduction the author notes how evocative, nostalgic and transformative these sweet, sharp and sour fruits can be. It’s hard to disagree. If someone ever mentions “the smell of lemon zest” and “baking” in the same sentence, my mind immediately flits back to the lemon drizzle sessions of my childhood; the task of juicing lemons for a pudding or a summer lemonade, must’ve been one of the earliest cookery jobs Mum entrusted to me and my brothers.
You only need to flick through the different sections of this cookbook to be reminded of the many and varied ways citrus fruits are used — the chapters cover dried, preserved and pickled (check out the ‘cheat’s preserved lemons’); piquant and zesty broths and soups; lively, sharp salsas, sauces and small dishes; main courses lifted by lemons and cut through by bitter grapefruits; inventive sides; classic desserts; baked goods and sweet preserves; and of course a handful of cocktails to finish.
When not the key flavour of a dessert or cake, the likes of lemons and oranges might be deemed a condiment, rather than a flavour. And a book based around citrus and looking to cover everything from canapés through to digestifs could fall foul of including a squeeze of lemon to lift flavour at the end, or perhaps be based on recipes ‘twisted’ by using yuzu where grapefruits are usually found, bergamot instead of orange. I don’t think that’s the case here. Though occasionally it feels like there’s another yuzu recipe to ensure the quota is met, ultimately the citrus theme is a legitimate hook for book hosting a plethora good recipes.
Ideas that caught my eye include: a salad of raw Jerusalem artichoke and preserved orange, Sautéed chicken livers with Marsala and orange and Grilled aubergines with mozzarella and yuzukoshu (a fermented paste of yuzu peel, chilli and salt, which Phipps provides a recipe for earlier in the book). As a fan of good sides, I’m excited by things like Fennel and lemon dauphinoise and Chicory braised with grapefruit, mandarin and soy. And the book feels at its most assured in the sweet section, with contemporary options like Blood orange and rhubarb meringue pie, and Blackberry and lemon steamed pudding with lemon and gin sauce, as well as essential classics such as Sussex pond pudding and Shaker lemon pie. The marmalade and sweet preserve section feels like a particularly useful resource.
Citrus provides plenty of inspiration for the home cook. Its theme allows the author to cover a wide spectrum of cuisines and styles, and to suggest recipes that are modern and inspirational, as well as a number of timeless classics. Definitely worth a squeeze.
Format and design
Classic Crown Quarto shape, thick uncoated paper, and photography covering around two thirds of the recipes. It’s a pleasing browse.
Recipes that tempt
Grilled aubergines with mozzarella and yuzukoshu; Chicory braised with grapefruit, mandarin and soy; Shaker lemon pie.
Who is it for?
Home cooks keen on the fresh and zesty. They’ll find both contemporary and classic recipe inspiration, without the aspirational lifestyle padding found in many of the books that pertain to cover the full range of our mealtimes.