Orange and lemon salad – Sicilian style

Oranges, lemon, olive oil, white wine, parsley, onion, salt and pepper.  Chop a bit, soak, cut, faff quite a lot, mix, drain, squeeze, mix a bit more, pour, sprinkle, grind and scatter.  That pretty much sums up how to make my current favourite summery salad side dish.

I first made this in Sicily from a recipe in a Sicilian cookery book, on holiday in an apartment with a well-equipped kitchen and having bought all ingredients except the salt that same day.  In fact, only the black pepper and possibly the salt were not grown or produced in Sicily.  Deep down, I know it will also taste great when I make it back in London where probably only the flat leaf parsley and onion will be non-imported, but there is something special about being able to buy fresh, local produce from an everyday market with almost entirely local, seasonal produce at everyday prices rather than a fancy market with a lot of imported produce and fancy prices (such as Borough Market) or an everyday market with slightly less-fresh produce, mainly imported at everyday prices (such as Lewisham market, my local market).  There is also the elusive added ingredient that comes merely from the fact of it being food eaten on holiday in the sunshine with a view of the sea.

Do not be put off by the thought of eating lemons and pulling an involuntary “Oo, that’s acidic” face or eating raw onions and the onion taste and smell lingering until the next day.  The lemon face is somehow not required and the raw onion thing seems fine as the onion is soaked in water for about 15 minutes before using and makes a far bigger difference than I would have expected – I know that onion soaking is a “thing” but I usually just eliminate the onion entirely; for this recipe it wouldn’t be quite the same without the onion taste and crunch.

The recipe is from Katie & Giancarlo Caldesi in their lovely cookery book, “Sicily – Recipes from an Italian island”, the method is my interpretation, which incorporates the unintentional feature of making the dish look messy, possibly bypassing the aesthetically pleasing element, but still tasting great.

Orange & lemon salad (insalata di arancia e limone)

Serves 4-6

1 large red or white onion (or 5 spring onions), finely chopped

4 oranges

1 large lemon

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons white wine

small handful of flat leaf parsley, thin stalks and leaves finely chopped

salt and freshly ground black pepper


Soak the chopped onion in cold water for 15 minutes – surprisingly effective at eliminating both onion breath and tastebud overpowering

Cut the skin and pith off the oranges then halve each orange along a natural segment divide – if that is confusing or seemingly unnecessary, don’t bother; I seem only to progress with the following faffy element when the oranges are halved, thus making me feel I’ve made more progress than I have.

You basically want the orange flesh out of the papery membrane segment dividers and in small bite-sized pieces.  I am unable to do this without mess, sighing, uniformity and the odd profanity but, really, it’s worth it.  I kind of slide my thumb through the middle of each segment and the juicy bits kind of come out.  Do this over your serving bowl as the juice is free-flowing at times.

Sorry, but the same process with the lemon.  Honestly, persevere, the texture and juiciness is so, so much better without the segment membrane.

Mix the oranges and lemons around and admire their shiny jewel-like non-membrane colour.

Drain the onion water, put the onions on kitchen paper, squeeze the water out and scatter over the fruit.  More mixing.

On the home straight now.  Pour over the oil and white wine, add a bit of salt and pepper, mix, then scatter the parsley over the top.

Don’t be put off by my picture, it tastes wonderful, even better if you leave it for an hour or so at room temperature.  Very tasty with baked sea bass, as part of a salad and surely with anything that goes well with citrus, which to my mind covers a lot.  Also goes very well with the leftover wine (three tablespoons for dinner, the rest as accompaniment!)