|Perfumed winter kumquats|
It doesn't help to spell it 'kumquat', with a 'k', or to know that its Cantonese etymology is entirely innocent: it's the sound of the word colliding with my brain-bank of slang words that makes my ears shrivel.
It reminds me of that apparently innocent yet raspingly vulgar-sounding name, 'Slartibartfast'. Invented by the late, great Douglas Adams, this is a word that one really cannot say out loud in polite company. (Here, by way of contrast, is my post about evocative food words.)
I always know that winter has arrived in Johannesburg when I visit my greengrocer and find mountains of beautiful little oval citrus fruits, each one a dazzling orange and about the size of a quail's egg. Thin-skinned and wonderfully aromatic, these little
I used a small quantity of whole spices in this dish (all of them warming spices that pair nicely with citrus flavours) because I wanted the sharp citrus fragrance of the orangey rind to predominate. You can add whatever spices your heart desires, but I would advise against cinnamon, which, in spite of its gentle, woody, spicy name, is just too aggressive a flavour.
If you like kumquats, try my recipe for Chocolate-Dipped Half-Candied Kumquats.
Spiced Kumquat Compote
1½ cups (375 ml) water
1 cup (250 ml) white granulated sugar
a 10-cm strip of thinly pared lemon rind
juice of half a lemon
1 blade of mace
8 whole coriander seeds
6 whole peppercorns
1 cardamom pod, lightly crushed
300 g ripe kumquats
Put the water, sugar, lemon rind, lemon juice and whole spices into a saucepan. Bring to the boil, stirring now and again to dissolve the sugar. Cook briskly for 5 minutes. Now tip in the whole kumquats, reduce the heat, and simmer gently for 25 minutes or so, or until the fruit is soft, slightly transparent and beginning to look wrinkled. Remove from the heat.
Set aside and allow to cool completely. Remove the spices and lemon rind, decant into a lidded container or a glass jar, and place in the fridge.
Makes about two jars.
Cook's Note: if you'd like a really spicy compote, leave the whole spices in the syrup.