blood oranges in caramel with sour cream rice pudding

This is an elegant dessert which makes great use of blood oranges, which are currently in season.

I’m always excited when seasonal ingredients like this appear and want to take full advantage of them - as a way to notice the passing of time and an opportunity to enjoy the creativity that a fleeting presence can trigger. I’ve not been able to find any of the delicately-pink forced rhubarb that usually appears at the start of the year, so these oranges were doubly welcome, with their slightly floral flavour.

It’s quite an easy recipe to pull together and was a good reminder of just how subtly delicious rice pudding can be – the simple combination of milk, sugar and rice develops a perfume and flavour that always surprises me. In this recipe this is accentuated by the addition of sour cream, which adds a similar richness and a contrasting tang that I loved.

The oranges are marinated overnight in a liquid caramel, which adds a layer of bitterness to the dish; I forgot to make the shards of caramel that should be used as a garnish the dish but it was still delicious and I think I’ll just use that as an excuse to make an extra batch.

If you need other ideas for using blood oranges, how about a curd, a sorbet with rosewater, a jelly with rosemary or a cocktail? 

Diana Henry’s Blood Oranges in Caramel with Sour Cream Rice Pudding (serves 6)
Diana says: You can use double cream for this, but I love the contrast the sour cream gives. The oranges improve immeasurably by sitting in the caramel for 24 hours.

For the blood oranges:
225g granulated sugar
10 blood oranges

For the caramel chips:
125g caster sugar
For the rice pudding:
900ml full fat milk
150g shortgrain pudding rice
35g caster sugar
170ml sour cream

To make the liquid caramel for the blood oranges put the sugar and 175ml of water into a medium saucepan (this allows room for the contents to bubble up). Melt the sugar over a gentle heat without stirring, then turn up the temperature and boil until the mixture turns golden and then caramel (you'll know when by the colour – a dark tawny – and the smell – rich, slightly nutty). Immediately pull the pan off the heat and carefully add 75ml (2½fl oz) water. The mixture will hiss and spit at first. You may need to place the pan over a low heat to dissolve some bits of caramel. Remove from the heat and leave to cool completely.

The solid caramel chips involve a similar process. Heat the sugar with two tablespoons of water in a small pan until it melts. Turn up the heat and cook to the caramel stage. You can tilt the pan to ensure the sugar melts evenly, but don't stir.Instead of adding more water, dip the pan base into cold water to stop it cooking, then pour the caramel on to a lightly greased baking-sheet. It will set almost immediately. Let it cool, then lift the caramel off the sheet and break into shards. Keep these somewhere dry until you want to use them.

Slice the bottom and top off each orange so they sit flat. Using a sharp knife, remove the rind and pith in strips, slicing from top to bottom and working your way around each orange. Slice the flesh horizontally, removing any seeds. Put the rounds in a dish and pour over the liquid caramel. Cover and refrigerate, ideally overnight.

For the rice pudding, bring the milk, rice and sugar to a boil in a saucepan, then turn the heat right down, so that the mixture is just simmering. Cook, stirring from time to time, for 20 to 30 minutes, making sure the milk doesn't boil over. You should have a thick, but not stiff, mixture. Leave to cool, then stir in the sour cream.

Serve the rice pudding with the oranges in caramel and the caramel shards on top.