The Sweet Luxury of French Kings

Every time I come to Portugal one of the first things I want is a few glasses of freshly squeezed Portuguese orange juice. I could never imagine, that oranges can be so sweet and gentle, that I would be swallowing one glass after another until the juice almost starts pouring out of my ears. Any desert instantly fades in the shadow of this gorgeous, healthy and amazingly sweet orange juice. But one thing I could not understand: why I was not getting the same tasty and sweet like honey lollypops oranges in most of the other European countries. The answer was hiding in the history...

According to the world's famous professor of horticulture, Jules Janick (2015), oranges were brought to Europe by the Arabs in the XI century, however, they were sour and bitter. In the XVI century, during the Age of Discoveries, when Portuguese finally reached China, they found an absolutely different variety of oranges. These were so sweet, that immediately regained attention and spread over Europe. (Interesting note: as the word "orange" equalled "Portugal in those days, some of the countries used it to name the fruit: "πορτοκάλι" Greek, "portokall" Albania...)

Today the Portuguese still grow the same sweet varieties of oranges across the country, while many European countries modified the original plant much time, looking for a perfect shape, colour, etc.

It is so important to eat what is simply tasty and not what pretends to be more gourmet.

As this year Portuguese orange harvest has finally reached Paris, of course, I could not stop from buying a few kilograms. Luckily they are also priced as the cheapest in the EU - so I can benefit even more and enjoy the luxurious fruit, which five centuries ago only French kings could afford.

Carrot-Orange Soup Recipe

Cooking time: 35 minutes

Serves: 3-4 people


500g (1lb) juicy, sweet carrots

1 medium-size sweet potato

1 small onion

1 long stripe of zest from a Portuguese orange and 1/3 of its fresh juice

2-3 cloves

3 tbsp. coconut oil

piri-piri or ginger

freshly crushed pink pepper

pumpkin seeds

Making the soup:

1. Cut the carrots, the onion and the potato into big pieces. Put them into a pot, pour water and start boiling. I do not like watery soups, so I add a little bit of water just to cover 3-4 cm (1.5") over the vegetables but feel free to pour more.

2. Add pink/red pepper, coconut oil, cloves, zest, salt and piri-piri. Boil until the veggies are mushy.

3. Take off the heat, blend well into a puree and finally when you are sure you are not going to add anything else or cook more, squeeze the orange juice and gently mix with a spoon.

4. The soup is ready to be served. I like to add some crunchy pumpkin seeds to the bowl. You can also add mint leaves or a spoon of sour cream.

My soup was beautifully gentle. A little bit of coconut and piri-piri were almost not recognizable, yet added a bit of Asian "umph".. while Portuguese oranges made the soup deliciously sweet, aromatic and mouthful. Tomorrow my Asian-Canadian friend will get some to test for lunch.

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