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Blood Orange Compote

Blood Orange Compote
Susan Russo for NPR /

A fruit compote is a dish of fruit cooked or stewed in a syrup. Though it can be enjoyed on its own, it's a delicious dressing for ice cream, pound cakes and cheesecakes. Here, tart blood oranges are mellowed by sweet honey and aromatic cloves and star anise. The compote pairs beautifully with vanilla gelato or subtly sweet cakes.

Makes 6 servings

1 1/4 cups water

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (or half of a vanilla bean, split lengthwise)

4 whole star anise*

4 whole cloves

8 medium blood oranges, peeled and sliced crosswise into circles

In a medium pot over high heat, combine water, honey and sugar; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and add lemon juice, vanilla, star anise and cloves. Simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes, or until a syrup forms. Add oranges and simmer 5 minutes more.

(Note: The longer you simmer the oranges, the softer they will become. For firm orange slices, simmer no longer than 5 minutes; for softer slices, simmer up to 10 minutes. Any longer than that, and the oranges will begin to break down. They will still taste good, but their appearance won't be as attractive.)

Remove the star anise and cloves before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The star anise make an attractive garnish; however, remind your guests that they are inedible!

*Star anise is the seed pod of an evergreen tree. As the name implies, it is a brown star-shaped pod. The highly fragrant spice typically is used whole, immersed in a dish to infuse it with licorice flavor, but it's removed and discarded before serving. It is available in the spice section of Asian specialty markets, as well as many organic markets and online.

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