How to get the smell of oranges without using fruit

Our panel of chefs had no problem suggesting a myriad of alternatives to citrus fruits that still deliver the tangy, tangy flavor you crave...

I have a citrus intolerance, so a lot of recipes are off limits. What can I replace?

Jane, Hoole, Chester

Citrus brings a welcome tanginess, sweetness, and freshness to foods, cutting through the rich, buttery dishes winters often need. But when life doesn't give you lemons (or limes, oranges, and grapefruits), Ravinder Bhogal suggests looking for the Middle Eastern spice sumac. "It's tangy and sherbet in a similar way to a lemon," says regular Guardian columnist and chef-patron of Jikoni in London. "If you're making a sauce, for example, and can't use lemon, finish with sumac and you'll get the same level of acidity."

Peter Sanchez-Iglesias, chef-founder of Casa and Paco Tapas in Bristol, and executive chef at Decimo in London, agrees. She drizzles sumac (and a little olive oil) over the cooked fish: “That, to me, comes closest to mimicking that citrus taste. I put it on top of everything: rice, eggs, salad…” The latter pairs especially well with sumac, says Chaya Pugh, development chef at Ottolenghi Test Kitchen, either in a dipping sauce or mixed with seeds to sprinkle on top. (Spoiler alert: "Later this year, we're doing a newspaper recipe for watermelon where, instead of using orange juice, we blend sumac with sugar, salt, and chili for a tangy, sweet, spicy, and sprinkled taste.") As alternatively, Sanchez-Iglesias season the salad with pickle juice, whether it's from kimchi, pickled onions, or even pickled eggs: "Use a little liquid to make the dressing."

Tamarind can also be used to get the citrus-free sharpness that Jane is looking for. Bhogal says: "If you're making a curry that calls for lime juice, say, you can add a teaspoon or so of tamarind instead – but still taste as you add it."

Another small amount of fruit to explore is pineapple juice, which is an "amazing tenderizer" that is "perfect with meat, especially pork belly"; sour plums (pickled or Japanese umeboshi), which are chopped or Pugh blitzed before adding to soups, stuffing, and grilled meats; and passion fruit juice – “Use it to make curd, so you don't miss it.”

Meanwhile John Javier, executive chef at The Tent (at the End of the Universe) in central London, is a fan of verjus, which is made by pressing underripe grapes. It's tart and sour, but less so than vinegar (which we'll get to), and, for Javier, more than a citrus substitute: "In some cases, it's better," he insists. “I season cold broth and raw fish with it, and it's also great for sauces [think beurre blanc]. Verjus has a strong taste, so start with a small amount.” It also serves as a dream on the granita. (Speaking of dessert, if you're craving drizzle cake, Pugh suggests swapping the orange for the pomegranate molasses in the icing.)

Vinegar, of course, is another useful tool for bringing acidity, contrast and balance to a party – and there are so many options. "If you're looking for a sweet sharpness, go for red wine or sherry vinegar," says Bhogal. “For something fruity, try apple cider vinegar. And if you're making mustard sauce, opt for champagne or white wine vinegar. Or, he adds, simply open a bottle of white wine to cut through risotto or fish soup, and pour yourself a glass while you're at it.

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