Sugared Orange Peel

makes about 50 pieces

  1. -4 sweet oranges

  2. -1.2 l (5 cups) water 675 g (11⁄2 lb) caster

  3. -(superfine) sugar

  4. -extra caster (superfine) sugar for dusting

Wash the oranges carefully to remove any wax, rinsing thoroughly with cold water. Using a sharp knife, score each orange from stem to tip into 4 equal segments, cutting the skin but not the fruit inside.

Carefully remove the peel from the orange in 4 pieces, leaving behind as much of the bitter white pith as you can. Square off the end of each piece of peel and cut it into 3 or 4 vertical strips about 1 cm (1⁄2 in) wide.

In a large saucepan, dissolve the sugar in the water by heating gently and stirring continuously. Bring the sugar syrup to the boil, then add the orange peel. Simmer uncovered on a low heat for about 2 hours, checking from time to time that the peel is still covered with the sugar syrup. During this time the liquid will reduce until it barely covers the peel.

Once cooked, lift out the peel with a slotted spoon, drain, and allow to cool.

Dust the orange peel pieces by rolling them while still sticky in a bowl of sugar, then spread them out individually on baking paper to set.

Once dried, the peel can be stored in jars in a dry place for at least 3 months. It is delicious as a candy substitute, or can be used for many different Christmas recipes, such as decorating a chocolate mousse, making orange ice cream or apple mousse, or flavouring a Polish cheesecake or the special Christmas Eve poppy-seed pasta.

‘My grandmother hid the preserved orange peel, gliterring with sugar, in large glass jars on the highest, unreachable pantry shelves. No chances were taken in our house with a candy-loving child about. Even in Australia where oranges seem to grow in front of every house I need to hide these tempting treats. My children love them, leaving behind empty jars bespeckled with orange crystals. As they grow taller it becomes harder to find shelves high enough on which to conceal my precious peel.’