For a long time we have been arguing that some of the best tomatoes are grown in the cooler months. Every year, this conviction is reaffirmed as soon as we taste the first ones coming into season in late January. The small, ribbed Marinda tomatoes grown in Sicily are one of these winter and spring varieties, and arguably one of the most interesting tomato varieties currently grown in the world.
Some truly fantastic pink produce is now in season, bringing a bright note to the grey winter days: pastel-coloured pink radicchio, vibrant forced rhubarb, blushed garlic from Lautrec… The newest entry is perhaps the most interesting: ever heard of pink oranges?
We source them from a citrus grower, Carmelo, with whom we have a long-established relationship. His farm is based in Scordia, near the Sicilian town of Catania – widely known as one of the best citrus growing regions in the world. There the microclimate provided by the volcano of Mount Etna, with warm days and cool nights throughout the whole winter, gives way to some excellent citrus.
Carmelo’s are simply the best we have ever tasted. His family has been growing outstanding citrus fruits for generations, and we started to work with him for the consistent quality he produces, as well as for a common interest in innovation. Pink oranges are his latest, fantastic discovery – one that we fell in love with at first bite.
A cross between a navel orange and a grapefruit, pink oranges combine a lightly acidic kick with a delicious, sweet juiciness and an easy-to-peel unwaxed skin. They are delightful simply juiced, but they also make for a fantastic alternative to more common oranges in most recipes.
Or in a medley of oranges for a new take on the classic marmalade.
Of course, they work great in most citrus-based desserts, like a moist and decadent Flourless Orange Almond Cake…
…or a dense, crumbly Polenta Upside Down Orange Cake.
Katherine from Natoora
Who said broccoli couldn’t be exciting? When we first tasted the purple sprouting broccoli we get from a small farm in Worcestershire, we were mesmerised by the beautiful appearance – tight, deep-purple florets – and the fantastic, intensely nutty flavour.
It all comes by virtue of the seeds. The grower specialises in cultivating only purple sprouting broccoli, and dedicates himself to selecting the best seeds for the next year. This enables him to improve the quality of his broccoli year after year. Although it is hard to believe they can get any better…
A simple way to enjoy them is by tossing them in oil, salt, pepper and fresh herbs and roasting them until crispy. You can make it even better with a topping of slivered almonds, pine nuts, or crumbled cheese, like this recipe, which takes just 30 minutes:
For something heartier, turn them into a creamy gratin, topped with delicious crunchy breadcrumbs…
Just make sure those tasty florets are the star of the show!
It was love at first taste for us at Natoora when we first sourced the beautifully floral bergamot fruit. We had uncovered a phenomenal citrus fruit, which at the time was used almost exclusively in essence form only (particularly known for flavouring Earl Grey tea). Now, in our fifth season, it is in widespread use in the professional kitchens we supply across the country, and through Ocado, an exciting new ingredient for home cooks to experiment with too.
We work with a consortium of growers, which guarantees that the bergamots we source are grown in the calcareous clay soil of the Ionian peninsula. Their flavour is one of a kind – intense, sour but floral, alluringly versatile.
The best way to get to know the bergamot is perhaps to try using it in place of lemon. It works incredibly well in savoury dishes involving fish and bitter salads, it will liven up any fruit salad, and also works wonderfully in creamy desserts and cakes.
We also love it used in place of lemon in cakes and desserts, or to add a twist to a classic Victoria Sponge…
Hop you enjoy it as much as we do!
Follow @natoorauk on Twitter for tips and ideas on seasonal ingredients.
From top London chefs to passionate home cooks, Natoora has a dedicated following. They source fantastic produce from markets and growers across France, Italy and the UK.
Here’s our one-on-one with Managing Director, Franco Fubini, to find out how they do it.
Ocado: Of all that delicious produce, if you could only eat one fruit or veg for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
Franco: Marinda Tomatoes – a green and red winter/spring variety from Sicily with a thick skin, wonderful crunchy texture and salty yet sweet flavour. By far the best tomatoes I have ever eaten.
O: You have such a diverse range from around Europe. How do you find new produce?
F: We look for the new by searching for the old and ancient varieties! By working with small, passionate growers, who care about the flavour of the produce rather than the yield of the plant, we are able to get our hands on a wonderful array of beautiful produce that consumers have lost touch with.
O: So what’s the furthest length you’ve gone to, to source produce?
F: We often find great produce comes from smaller scale growers, and it is a leap of faith for them to start supplying us. One of our varieties of tomatoes comes from a grower that we had to visit five times over a year before we finally persuaded him. Every year it’s a negotiation to get started again once the season begins.
O: Only an Italian can answer this next question… Fresh or dried pasta, and why?
F: I love fresh pasta but they are very distinct products, each with its own use.
O: If you were a super hero, what would be your special power?
F: I travel a lot and airports and flying are the worst part whether you are travelling for business or holidays. So being able to teleport myself instantly to where I need to be would be very useful.
O: Thanks for your time
On the sofa with… The Collective Dairy
On the sofa with… Painted Wolf Wines
On the sofa with… Organic Burst
We hope you’ve had a chance to look round the beautiful Natoora shop we launched at Ocado last week. At Natoora, we’re proud to sell the very best fresh produce Italy, France and the UK have to offer, and in celebration of National Artichoke Day this Friday, have put together a simple step-by-step guide to help you make the most of this versatile vegetable.
Deliciously tender when cooked, artichokes can be the perfect addition to stews, or enjoyed on their own with just a drizzle of butter melted with lemon and herbs. And don’t be put off by their spikey appearance. They are actually really easy to prepare ̶ try it for yourself!
- Check the artichoke is fresh. It should be firm to touch and the leaves should be well attached to the heart.
- Start by cutting the head away from the stalk, and put the stalk to one side for later.
- Next, tear off the outer leaves, watching out for the spikes! Keep peeling off the leaves until you reach the lighter leaves underneath.
- Cut the artichoke horizontally, using a sharp knife to remove the tips of the remaining leaves.
- Get rid of any rough sections of stalk that are still attached to the head by gently slicing horizontally from the base of the leaves.
- Cut the head in half lengthways, or quarters if you prefer
- Scoop out any choke (the fluffy bit in the middle) with a spoon.
- To stop the head discolouring, pop it in a bowl of water with a squeeze of lemon.
- Now take the stalk and trim the toughest part off the bottom. You should be able to see a lighter coloured section in the middle of the stalk. This is the tender part, so peel it away and slice it. This is tender enough to eat raw if you like.
- Don’t throw away the discarded parts. Boiled in water, they will make a wonderful vegetable stock.
Katherine Miller from Natoora