For a few brief weeks at the beginning of each year, boxes of seville marmalade oranges arrive in the shops from southern Spain. At first sight, they are an unpromising fruit, coarse skinned, with wincingly tart juice and meagre, pip-filled flesh. And yet, cooked until the skin turns soft and with their bitterness mitigated by sugar, they become that deliciously sharp-sweet, peel-flecked jelly that has been part of British breakfasts for more than two centuries.
Marmalade isn’t the Seville’s only use, however. It has a flavour that combines elements of orange, lemon and lime and can often, if you make allowances for its sharpness, be used as a substitute in cakes, biscuits, puds, salad dressings, stews and sauces. Even a spritz of juice over a fish fillet at the end of cooking is subtly transformative. The acidity also means it works wonderfully well in the South American dish, ceviche, which quickly “cooks” (or, if we’re being pedantic, lightly cures) raw fish in a combination of salt and citrus. I’ve given you a recipe here. The flavour is bright, fresh and, I think, particularly uplifting at this time of year.
Serves 4 as a generous first course or light main course
600g very fresh sea bass fillets, pin-boned (if buying from a fishmonger, get them skinned at the same time)
1 red onion, very finely sliced
2 ripe, but not mushy avocados
1 ¼ tsp fine sea salt, plus more to taste
Juice of 4 Seville oranges
1cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and very finely grated (you want a generous ½ tsp ginger purée)
1 small clove garlic, crushed to a paste
¼ tsp caster sugar
2 medium red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
2 big handfuls coriander leaves, roughly chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp coriander seed, bashed to a coarse powder in a pestle and mortar
If the fillets still have their skin on, lay them skin down on a board. With a very sharp knife, cut into the flesh at the tail end, stopping before you get to the skin. Angle the blade so it is horizontal and parallel with the board, then grip the skin at the tail end and shuggle the blade back and forth along the fillet to separate the skin from the flesh. Discard the skin and cut the flesh into 2cm squares, then put in the fridge until needed.
Put the sliced onion in a bowl of cold water and let it soak for 10 minutes. Drain well.
Cut the avocado in half, remove the stone and carefully scoop out each cheek of flesh using a dessertspoon. Cut the flesh into 5mm cubes.
In a mixing bowl, stir together the salt, Seville orange juice, ginger and garlic purées, sugar and three-quarters of the chilli. Add the fish and toss together well, then leave to stand for 5 minutes. The juices will start to “cook” the fish, turning it opaque.
Add the onion, avocado and most of the coriander and fold through gently. Taste and add a bit more salt if needed, then divide between 4 plates and scatter with the remaining chilli and coriander leaves. Add a trickle of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with some of the ground coriander before serving.
Lucas Hollweg is an award-winning food writer, cookbook author and cook. A former Sunday Times journalist and cookery columnist, he writes for a wide range of food publications. His most recent book is Good Things to Eat.