Sweet with a hint of sour that often works as yin and yang on the palate is a winning flavour profile
Sprinkle a dash of lemon zest to your sautéed greens and feta or brighten the flavour of a sugary treat by adding a sharp citrus fruit to it. And look how citrus can do wonders to your platter. Citrus flavoured desserts or simply citrus desserts are a winning flavour currently. From orange-scented olive oil cake to classic lime pie, citrus as an ingredient can be explored in a variety of new ways. Use it in summers for a refreshing punch in oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruits or add it to baked goods, confectionery and distillery. “Citrus is one of my favourite ingredients as it adds versatility to a dish. If I have to choose an element of citrus to highlight the inherent goodness from plate to the palate, I would either find a lemon or an orange to add some tang to an over-sweet dessert,” says Sandeep Saini, executive sous chef, The Westin Sohna Resort and Spa. “So I juice up a fruit to pair with homemade muffin for breakfast or simply use the flesh of an orange in a fruit or green salad. Or even if it is more complex dishes like cheese lemon crumble cake or mojito pastry with a punch of white rum and tangy lime, the sweet and sour combination always works,” he says.
Citrus fits well with sweet, savoury and botanical flavours or other natural fruits like strawberry, apple, blueberry, watermelon, adding freshness and taginess to a dish. It diversifies the taste instantly, giving the dish a new dimension. Chef Jatin Mallick of Tres, Delhi, feels that the sweet and sour combination often works as the yin and yang on the palate. “The key role is to provide a balance to a dish and at the same time heighten the overall flavour,” he adds, “For instance, botanical flavours are known for their rich aromas and citrus has its own distinctive aromatic flavours. Used in mild quantity, when added well, it gives the cuisine a strong yet aromatic flavour, thus complimenting the taste of botanical. Orange, sea buckthorn, lime or juniper pair well with citrus ingredients.
Our lemon and yogurt tart has balanced flavours of yogurt, lemon and jamun, while jamun gives a lingering aftertaste, the lemon provides a perfect tang to balance the dish,” he says. More so, fresh ingredients like citrus peel and lavender offer a sophisticated blend that chef Paul Kinny, director of culinary, St Regis Mumbai, thinks is ideal for those looking to cut down on alcohol consumption while cutting their calorie intake at the same time.
Citrus removes bitterness with maximum preservation of the sensorial, nutritional and healthy qualities. Chef Ajay Chopra, who hosts Northern Flavours on Living Foodz, feels that a large variation in terms of the produce can’t be limited to lemons but guavas too. “If you add anything citrusy to an extremely sweet dessert, it cuts down the sweetness and gives a unique flavour. In French cooking, chicken is spiced up with different flavours. It’s not about juice but the use of flavours in different popular segments like dressing or curry, and citrus is used all across.” For Kinny, citrus flavours are important in seafood and meats.
“If we add a dehydrated citrus fruit or a peel into a dish, it acts as a tenderiser. Since citrus is acidic , it has a softening and tenderising effect on meats,” he adds.
Other than lemons and oranges, pomegranate and tamarind are increasingly becoming popular ingredients to be used in dishes, mostly because of health reasons. “These fruits add to the health benefits by delivering a healthy punch of vitamin C and multiple antioxidants to a dessert. They also provide potassium, folate, calcium, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and fibre,” says nutritionist Kavita Devgan, who also feels that the consumers demand more back-to-nature flavours and ingredients probably because people are going back to nostalgic flavours and traditional diets, placing more importance on health than taste. “A greater demand for frozen fruits such as red fruits and citrus fruits is anticipated to be higher than other fruits owing to their increased application in dairy products, baked foods and confectionery items,” she says.
Matteo Fontana, corporate chef, Le Cirque, The Leela Palace, New Delhi uses a lot of citrus elements and components in Italian pastry. He says, “We are one of the few restaurants in India to procure lemons from the Amalfi Coast or oranges from Sicily. In our dessert menu, I have a popular dessert with Amalfi lemon parfait. The skin of the lemons is used in the famous Italian digestive called limoncello (limoncello is an Italian lemon liqueur mainly produced in southern Italy).