This is a lovely refreshing salad which I like to serve when the new season oranges from Italy, and dates from Morocco arrive in the shops in December. I scramble around in the garden trying to find a few surviving mint leaves to freshen it up. If the mint has all been scorched by the frost, I substitute it with a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds. This dish can be served on its own with perhaps a little yoghurt or with yoghurt and vanilla ice cream.
- 5 oranges
- 12 dates
- 1 tblsp mint leaves
- 1 tblsp caster sugar or 1 dessertspoon of honey
- 2 tblsp orange flower water
- 2 tblsp pomegranate seeds, optional
- In the shops here, oranges start to get good in early December as the Italian oranges arrive on the market. These oranges are usually around for a couple of months and are sweet and full of juice and light years away from the hard little scuds we have to put up with for most of the rest of the year. Colour in oranges is not an indication of quality and avoid rock hard light ones in favour of firm and heavy feeling fruit.
- Medjool dates - fat, meaty and shiny - arrive in the shops in December, usually the same time as the good oranges, a fortuitous bit of timing. Watch out for another wonderful variety of date called, Barhi, which Alice Waters introduced me to at the Berkeley farmers market in California.
- Orange flower or orange blossom water, is a perfumed distillation from the fresh blossoms of Seville oranges and can be found in good food shops and chemists.
- Remove the zest from one of the oranges with a fine grater or a micro plane. Juice the zested orange.
- With a sharp knife, remove the skin and pith from the remaining oranges. Slice or segment the oranges and add to the juice and zest with the caster sugar or honey.
- Halve the dates lengthways, remove the stones and add to the oranges. Sprinkle on the orange flower water.
- Chop the mint leaves and gently mix all of the ingredients together, being careful not to break up the orange pieces. If using the pomegranate, add now. Cover and chill before serving.