The citrus trees are heavily-laden as winter draws to a close in southern Australia. As the Washington-Navel oranges sweeten up they become easier to peel and break apart into juicy segments, just like mandarins. The oranges taste great, but the peel makes something even better – chocolate-coated orange-peel snacks.
We have two types of orange trees in our kitchen garden – the other type (Valencia) is a juicing orange that is not easily peeled, and whose skin is too thin for this recipe. Nor will they be ripe until sometime in summer, when they last for months on the tree, and make a wonderfully cool and refreshing drink of a sunny morning.
Typically, two large Washington-Navel oranges are peeled, and this peel is then cut into strips one centimetre wide. These are placed in a saucepan, covered with water, then brought to the boil before draining with a sieve. This process is repeated three times to take the bitterness out of the peel. Then a cup of sugar is added to a cup of water and heated until the sugar is dissolved. The orange slices are then dropped into the sugar-water and the whole mixture brought to the boil and simmered for a further 5 to 10 minutes. Strips are then removed from the water and allowed to cool and dry overnight on a cake rack.
125g of dark chocolate is then melted inside a metal dish which is itself placed inside a saucepan of gently boiling water; this method prevents the temperature of the chocolate rising above the boiling point of water (100C). The cool orange strips are dipped in the melted chocolate and laid out on a piece of aluminium foil to cool and set. If it’s a warm day, place them in the fridge to cool.
At this point the cook would prompt me to add that these chocolate-coated orange strips don’t keep very long, so they ought be stored in the fridge regardless.
But we don’t actually know how long this optimum storage period might be, as they disappear well before their use-by-date in some other mysterious and stealthy fashion, marked only by the smile on the face of the gardener.