Citrus as food and art


Citrus as food and art

LIENTJIE WESSELS says winter and citrus fruits are synonymous, and she shares easy recipes for two meals and a pudding.


WINTER has arrrived and I can't help thinking about the abundance of lemons, oranges, naartjies, limes, grapefruits and all the other citrus available at this time of year at the southern tip of Africa.

I use citrus fruits as decor all over the house, filling bowls full of shades of yellow and orange. These collections of summer colour and winter flavour are then systematically used for the preparation of sweet, sour and salty. Just before they start to go off or dry out, I will squeeze out every drop of juice and use it in products that I keep throughout the year.

Syrups, pickled lemons, salad dressings, jams, marmalades and much more are made. I have also recently started experimenting with natural sodas made by fermentation, which I will tell you more about in due course.

My decision on citrus for this week's story begins with a walkabout in my friend Hardus Koekemoer's art museum, the HK Contemporary Art Museum, Gallery and Studio, which he recently opened in Cullinan with an incredible collection he has acquired over the past 30 years  (check it out if you're in the area).

Lees hierdie artikel in Afrikaans:

Top left: Banele Khoza, oil portrait of my friend. Top right: Griet van der Meulen.
Top left: Banele Khoza, oil portrait of my friend. Top right: Griet van der Meulen.

What strikes me on this day are the lovely citrus colours all around me, and with them the aroma of someone peeling an orange or a naartjie nearby immediately comes to mind. My love of citrus in food is as old as I am: lemon curd spread on warm toast, my mother's lemon and herb chicken, citrus always being a memory trigger.

Today I want to share three easy, quick and delicious recipes: a carrot and naartjie soup, one of the most delicious fried fish fillet dishes (swoon) and a lemon custard slice (who can say no?).

Carrot and naartjie soup with a little kick

(serves 4 people)



  • 900 g carrots, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ¼ tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 80 ml olive oil
  • 1 l vegetable or chicken stock
  • zest and juice of 2 naartjies
  • salt and white pepper
  • cream or yoghurt, optional


1. Fry the carrots, bay leaves, garlic, chillies and onions in olive oil until golden brown, add stock and naartjie zest and juice and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.

2. Allow to cool, add salt and pepper and process in a food processor until smooth.

3. Serve with a little cream and yoghurt and shredded carrots baked in the oven with a little olive oil and salt.

Hake fillet with grapefruit and salsa verde

(serves 4 people)



  • 8 baby hake fillets
  • 100 g butter
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 ½ grapefruits in segments, as well as juice from the other half of the grapefruit
  • splash of lemon juice
  • handful of parsley
  • handful of spring onions
  • half jalapeno, pitted (optional)
  • 40 ml olive oil


1. Combine the parsley, spring onions, salt, pepper, jalapeno, olive oil, lemon juice and grapefruit juice in a food processor and pulse quickly for coarse salsa verde.

2. Melt the butter in a pan and let it almost caramelise. Fry the fillets about three at a time until just golden brown.

3. After all the fillets are cooked, fry the grapefruit segments for 10 seconds.

4. Serve the dish on rice with salsa verde.

Lemon custard slices



  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 70 ml lemon juice
  • 200 ml cake flour
  • 200 ml white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp icing sugar
  • 125 ml melted butter, slightly cooled
  • 450 ml slightly warm milk


1. Preheat oven to 180°C and heat butter well in a 20x20 cm cake pan.

2. Beat egg whites until stiff and set aside.

3. Beat egg yolks and sugar together until light yellow.

4. Add butter and vanilla and mix well.

5. Mix flour in well.

6. Add lemon juice and zest until well mixed.

7. Add milk and mix well.

8. Pour in egg white. You should still be able to see some of the egg white, so don't overmix.

9. Scoop into prepared pan and bake for 50 to 55 minutes — there should still be wobble in the batter, but it should be hard on top.

10. Allow to cool and place in the fridge for at least 3 hours, cut into slices and sprinkle with icing sugar.

Kitchen fact

White and black pepper differ not only in colour but also in taste. I prefer white pepper in many dishes such as the carrot soup above, as well as in dishes such as curries. Also feel free to try a fried egg with white pepper. If  you have never tasted lard on fresh bread, now is your chance with white pepper and a little Maldon salt.

The reason for the colour and taste difference is that white peppercorns have their skin removed before they are dried and ground. White pepper is more subtle, with more earthy aromas and not as hot. So the pepper you put on a dish definitely makes a difference.


Organic household cleaner

Combine in spray bottle and use on all surfaces:

  • 1 c white vinegar
  • 2 c water
  • ½ c lemon juice
  • 15 drops tea tree oil

♦ VWB ♦

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