The bitter-sweet smell of Seville oranges

The English love their Seville orange marmalade on toast for breakfast. Every January and February, the cooking pages of magazines and newspapers, as well as the fast-growing food blog sector, are filled with recipes using the famously bitter naranjo amargo. And Sevillanos can't help but fall about laughing when they see an unwitting tourist pick up an orange from the floor and try to eat it, screwing their faces up as its sour juices give their taste buds a nasty shock.
For, if you weren't already aware, those beautiful shiny citrus aurantium which you see adorning the trees of Sevilla - one of the city's icons, along with the Giralda, tapas and flamenco - are not table oranges. Noone (in their right mind) eats them straight off the tree, not the Sevillanos, not the tourists, noone. No: they're used to make Seville orange marmalade.
Until now, the Sevillanos have found this fondness for using their tree-decorations to make mermelada rather strange. Now, in an effort to embrace the foreigners' unfathomable tastes, they have decided to celebrate the Seville orange, with a week-long festival, the 1as Jornada Gastronomica de la Naranja de Sevilla. Restaurants in Sevilla capital and around the province will produce dishes in a competition, from 12-18 March, to find the best use of this distinctive local ingredient. Here are a few of the dishes from the 38 participating establishments, to tickle your tastebuds and fire your imagination: * salmorejo de naranja con bacalao confitado y almendras fritas (orange soup with cod and fried almonds) * torrija caramelizada con toffee, cítricos y naranja amarga (caramelized nougat with toffee, citrus fruits and bitter orange) * foie a la plancha, galleta y naranja amarga (fried liver with biscuits and bitter orange) * canelones de chocolate y leche frita a los aromas de Sevilla (chocolate and fried milk rolls with Seville aromas) * garbanzos fritos con chorizo, col y naranja amarga (Fried chickpeas with chorizo, cabbage and bitter orange) * crepe relleno de mermelada casera de naranja y helado de nuez de pecan maridado con vino dulce de naranja del aljarafe (pancake filled with homemade orange marmalade, sweet orange wine-marinated pecan nut ice-cream) * ajofrito con gajos de naranja, espárragos trigueros y tallos de tagarnina (garlic soup with orange segments, asparagus and nettle stalks) Making the most of visitors' afición for a famous, visually arresting and emblematic local ingredient - not just the English, but Americans and other nationalities like their mermelada de naranja amarga too - seems like a complete no-brainer to me. Most Spanish towns are experts at promoting their own seasonal produce, whether wine, jamón, olives, chestnuts or mushrooms. Not a case of a great idea, but more like, why on earth haven't they done it before? For a full list of participating restaurants and their chosen dishes - starters, main courses, desserts and drinks - see 1as Jornada Gastronomnica de la Naranja de Sevilla.
Blog published on 12 March 2012