Roasted Cauliflower Salad

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Is the humble cauliflower enjoying a new renaissance? Whether you work in food or simply enjoy your home-cooking time, it appears that this pearly white cluster of florets is now proudly sitting at the forefront of the pantry. We have devised creative ways to turn it into cous cous and have compounded it into pizza bases (although the jury is still out on that one…), we are using it as a potato substitute in thick, wintery soups and enjoy it raw, thinly sliced like a carpaccio. Is there anything cauliflower can’t do? It turns out, you can also roast it until deliciously caramelized and crunchy, but still tender to the bite. With the added nutritional boost provided by vitamin C, K, B6 and folate, I am pretty much convinced that cauliflower wears the crown as the healthiest cruciferous!

INGREDIENTS, SERVES 4

1 cauliflower heard, cut into florets

4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons of baby capers, roughly chopped

2 anchovy fillets, thinly chopped

1-2 French shallots, finely chopped

1 small chillie, finely chopped

2 tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar

2 more tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

salt and pepper for seasoning

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METHOD

1. Pre-heat you oven to 200 C (395 F)

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil  and cook the cauliflower florets for 5-8 minutes, or until soft but still retaining some firmness. Drain well then tumble onto an oven tray lined with baking paper. Season with oil, salt and pepper and roast for 30 minutes or until golden.

3. Make the dressing by mixing together baby capers, anchovies, chillies, vinegar and oil. Taste for salt and adjust accordingly.

4. Pour the dressing over the roasted cauliflower florets and scatter fresh herbs on top. Enjoy warm or at room temperature as a light lunch or a side dish.

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Almond, Pear and Olive Oil Cake

The seasonal change has hit our southern shores, swapping the warm breeze for a crisp chill. I have packed away my summer dresses and sandals to wrap myself in wooly layers, scarves and boots. To accompany the cooler weather, the stalls now abound with glorious winter produce, whose main purpose is to nourish and comfort. As I type this I’m embracing this sunny yet cool day, sipping tea and indulging in my second slice of this incredibly moist pear and almond cake, lightly scented by cinnamon and mandarine. Cold months to come, I fear you not! INGREDIENTS, makes1

3 small pears

3 eggs

1 cup of brown sugar (plus 2 tablespoons to sprinkle over the pears)

Cinnamon

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup of buttermilk

juice of 1 mandarine

1 cup of almond flour (almond meal)

1-1/2 cup of self-raising flour (gluten free flour will also work)

METHOD

1. Preheat your oven to 180 C (350 F)

2. Line a round cake tin with baking paper. Sprinkle the base with 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and a little cinnamon

3. Cut the pears into two, scoop out the core, then cut each half into two, lenghtways. Line the base of the cake tin with the pears.

4. Beat the eggs with sugar until fluffy, add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, oil, buttermilk and mandarine juice and whisk well. Add the almond flour and the sifted self-raising flour and gently incorporate them into the batter without over mixing. Pour the batter over the pears and bake for 40-45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake.

5. Turn up side down and leave to cool on a rack for 30-45 minutes before serving. Enjoy as it is or with vanilla gelato, cream or thick Greek yoghurt.

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Crispy Potato Skins

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo, you have peeled a gargantuan amount of potatoes to make your creamy Paris mash/chips/champs you name it…now what to do with the skins? The frugal Italian in me cannot bear the idea of wastage and I’m always eager to conjure up a way to give new life to left-overs and food scraps. A little research shows me that most of the nutritional virtues of potatoes (and there are very many, starch bashers out there….) are trapped in the skin. I am talking about super power boosters such as potassium and calcium, optimal for bone mineral density and protection against strokes. Match that with the everlasting benefits of every Italian’s best friend, extra-virgin olive oil, and you have got yourself a perfect, healthier alternative to potato chips that celebrates resourcefulness and flavor in one nimble move!

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INGREDIENTS, serves 6

The skin of 1 Kg (4-1/2 Lb) of potatoes

4-5 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

Salt, herbs and freshly ground pepper to taste

HOW TO

1. Place the skin in a large bowl, cover them with warm water and set aside for 20 minutes. In the meantime, heat up your oven to 200 C or 400 F.

2. Drain the skins and pat dry with a tea towel. Toss them with enough oil to cover them evenly (use your hands if helpful), season with salt and herbs and arrange them onto an oven tray lined with baking paper in one layer (bake them in batches, if need be)

3. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until crispy and golden brown. Cool at room temperature for 5-10 minutes to crisp them up further and serve topped with freshly ground black pepper and a few rosemary springs, if liked.

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Made in Italy with Silvia Colloca, the book and the show (and a recipe for you!)

6929132Yes, I do have a big grin on my face these days… And with good reason! My brand new TV show, Made In Italy with Silvia Colloca, premiers tonight at 8 pm on SBS 1 (Australia) and the tie-in book I wrote in conjunction with the show was released last week! Oh, what a week this has been. I’m happy. I am grateful I get to share this special moment with my friends and family. And I am most appreciative of you all, my readers. I am well aware that without your unwavering support and exceptional enthusiasm for my cooking, this would not be happening today. The last 12 months have been nothing short of adventurous and Made In Italy, the book and the show, are the culmination of such inspired time. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart! I would like to share with you a recipe from both the book and the show, in the hope that it will make your mouths salivate.

Buon Appetito!

Love

Silvia

APRICOT AND OLIVE OIL CAKE

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Olive oil is commonly used instead of butter in central and southern Italy, even in the baking of cakes and sweet pastries. It imparts a subtle touch of savoury, but also adds lightness to cake batters. However, the real secret to the ineffable fluffiness of this cake is that the sugar is first dissolved in warm milk and infused with lemon and vanilla. The apricots add a welcome touch of tangy tartness, making this cake impossible to resist for morning or afternoon tea.

Serves 8

170 g caster sugar
230 ml milk
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
100 ml extra virgin olive oil
3 teaspoons mistrà or sambuca (optional; see Note)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/3cups (200 g) self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
7–8 apricots, cut into quarters
flaked almonds, for sprinkling
fresh ricotta and honey, to serve (optional)

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Grease and flour a 27 cm x 21 cm rectangular or 21 cm square cake tin (or line it with baking paper).
  2. Place the sugar, milk and lemon zest in a medium saucepan over low heat and cook for 3–4 minutes, stirring regularly, until the sugar has dissolved. Do not let the milk come to the boil. Turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla seeds, olive oil and liqueur (if using), then let the mixture cool for 5–10 minutes.
  3. Add the beaten egg, flour and bicarbonate of soda and whisk to form a smooth batter. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and arrange the apricot quarters on top any way you like. Sprinkle with the flaked almonds and bake for 30–35 minutes or until pale golden and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the tin for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool at room temperature for 1 hour before cutting. Serve just as it is or with honeydrizzled ricotta.

  • Mistrà is an aniseed-scented liqueur often enjoyed in Marche. For an alcohol-free version, replace the liqueur with milk.
  • If you are using very small apricots, they may plummet to the bottom of the tin during baking. To avoid this, make a double layer of apricot quarters.

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Watch Made in Italy with Silvia Colloca, Thursday nights, 8 pm on SBS 1!

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Overnight Healthy Rye and Spelt Loaf

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I would love to make you believe that I spent days elaborating a new recipe for a healthy and delicious bread. That I experienced, tried and tested various formulas until one day, exhausted but elated, I triumphed…Alas, the truth about how this bread came to be is that a few weeks ago, as I was setting up to mix a loaf, I realized I only had near-empty packets or various flours! Then epiphany hit me: mix them together and hope for the best! My, was I happy with the result! A crusty, dense and flavorsome loaf, perfect for sandwiches, divine with jam!

INGREDIENTS, makes 1 loaf

300 gr of spelt flour (2-1/4 cup)

200 gr of rye flour (1- 1/4 cup)

70 gr of wholemeal spelt flour (1/3 cup +2 tablespoons)

1 teaspoon of dry yeast

1 pinch of sugar or 1 teaspoon of honey

370 ml (1-1/2 cup) of water, at room temperature

2 teaspoons of salt flakes

HOW TO

1. Start this recipe a day ahead.

2. Mix the three flours together in a large bowl, add the dry yeast and sugar (or honey) and gradually add the water, mixing with a spoon until a soft dough forms. Try not to add all the water at once. As flours always vary, it is better to start with 2/3 of the water and only then you can decide if you need the extra liquid. You are after a rather sticky dough, but not a wet one. If your dough feels too dry after you have used all the liquid, add 1-2 extra table spoons.

3. Once the dough has been mixed (you can easily do this by hand as it requires no kneading, just mixing until combined), add the salt and mix until well incorporated.

4. Cover the bowl with plastic film and leave at room temperature for 6-8 hours, then move to the fridge to rest overnight.

5. The next morning, take the dough out of the fridge and let it rest at room temperature for 2 hours.

6. Heat up your oven to 220 C (430 F)

7. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and very gently shape the dough into a loaf, being mindful not to knock out the air. Prove at room temperature for 40 minutes, then score the top with a sharp knife, sprinkle the loaf with a little water and place the tray into the oven.

8. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the top is crusty and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. Cool at room temperature on a wire rack for 1 hour before slicing.

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Watch Made in Italy with Silvia Colloca, Thursday nights, 8 pm on SBS 1!

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Silvia’s new book Made in Italy with Silvia Colloca will be on sale now!

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Almond and Pomegranate swirl Meringues

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My undeniable attraction for whipped egg whites has struck again! Yes, I am not new to posts dedicated to the ineffable and weightless world of meringues. The truth is that I can barely contain my excitement when recipes call for egg yolks only because I know I can turn the leftover whites into whimsical, frothy creations, so irresistible in their snow white perfection, or eager to be enriched by a vibrant touch of pink. And if you don’t feel confident whipping a batch of these, here are my top tips on meringue making:

1. Make sure your egg whites are at room temperature

2. Mix them in a clean and dry bowl

3. Add a pinch of salt to encourage the frothing action

4. Don’t over whip

5. Weigh the egg whites (I know, a little bit of a pain in the neck, but well worth it)

6. Be patient, bake them in a really slow oven to keep their pristine white shells

7. Store your cooked meringues in an airtight container for up to 3 days (less in very hot and humid weather)

Off you go!

INGREDIENTS, makes 10-12 medium sized meringues

100 g (just over 1/3 cup) egg whites, at room temperature

pinch of salt flakes

75 g icing sugar (1/3 cup), sifted (icing sugar is the same as confectioner sugar or powdered sugar)

75 g (1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon) caster sugar

1/4 teaspoon lemon juice or cream of tartar

2 tablespoons of flaked almonds + more for sprinkling on top

3 tablespoons pomegranate juice (you can either squeeze it yourself or buy it in conveniently packaged bottles!)

HOW TO

1. Preheat your oven to 100°C (212 F). Line a large baking tray with baking paper.

2. In a large, clean, dry bowl, whisk the egg whites with the salt until frothy and very soft peaks start to form. I always do this do with hand-held electric beaters on low speed as it gets the job done in 90 seconds, with no sore wrist. But feel free to do it by hand if you missed a day at the gym and need to burn off some calories. Gradually increase the speed of your beaters (or your biceps) to medium and start adding the icing sugar then, slowly, the caster sugar. Keep beating for 1–2 minutes (or 5–6 minutes by hand) or until the egg whites are shiny, smooth and stiff.

3. Add the lemon juice or cream of tartar and gently fold it in with a metal spoon, taking care not to beat the air out of the meringue mixture. These few drops of acid will neutralise the eggy flavour that meringue can have, and will also keep them stable and preserve their crisp whiteness.

4. Add the almonds and mix gently. Swirl the juice in. Don’t over mix!

5. Dollop teaspoons (or tablespoons, if you like them larger) of the mixture onto the baking tray, about 2 cm apart to allow for spreading. You can use a piping bag if you prefer, but I love a more whimsical, free-form meringue.

6. Gently place the tray in the oven and bake for 11/2–2 hours. If they start to colour, turn the heat down to 80°C (175 F). You know the meringues are cooked through when the base is touch-dry.

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Cool at room temperature and enjoy as they are or accompanied by whipped cream, sweetened mascarpone, gelato…I could go on and on…

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Ravioli di Zucca, Cannella and Amaretti (Pumpkin, Cinnamon and Amaretti Ravioli)

DSC_2737A large platter of home-made filled pasta, such as ravioli, tortelli and cannelloni, is always on offer at the Italian Christmas table. Any pasta that is home-made requires that extra amount of labour in the kitchen, and Christmas is the perfect occasion to show your love for friends and family by treating them with the fruits of your work. Or, you can share the load and create a beeline of helpers to roll, fill and shape these delectable nuggets.  If the idea of making your own pasta still scares you, you can use store bough egg wanton wrappers. I won’t judge! You will need about 60 squares. Tortelli with roasted pumpkin and cinnamon, topped with crushed amaretti cookies have been on my family Christmas eve table for as long as I can remember. Yes, this is a laborious dish to prepare, so make sure you are armed with plenty of love, dedication and, most importantly, Christmas spirit!

Love,

Silvia

INGREDIENTS

For the dough (serves 4-6)

4 eggs

400 gr (3- 1/2 cups) of 00 flour

a pinch of salt

For the filling

500 gr (1 pound) of pumpkin (skin on), cut up into chunks

4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar

2 cloves of garlic, skin on

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

salt and pepper for seasoning

3-4 sage leaves

100 gr (1 cup) of breadcrumbs

50 gr (1/2 cup) of grated parmesan

For the sauce

120 gr (1/2 cup) of butter

8-10 sage leaves

a pinch of salt

freshly ground black pepper

8-10 crunchy amaretti cookies (from Italian delis)

(You can make the filling up to 1-2 days as head and keep it in the fridge)

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HOW TO 

1. Preheat the oven to 200 C, 390 F

2. Place the cut up pumpkin in an oven tray lined with baking paper, season with oil, cinnamon, salt and pepper, scatter the garlic and the sage leaves and bake for 45-50 minutes or until soft

3. Scoop out the pumpkin flesh, squeeze the garlic out of its skin and pulse in a food processor until smooth. Add the breadcrumbs, the parmesan, taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly. At this point I always like to add a little extra cinnamon, but it it entirely up to you to do so or not.

4. Rest the filling in the fridge for up to 48 hours.

To make the dough:

1. Place eggs, flour and salt in a food processor fitted with blades and pulse for 10-12 times or until the mixture resemble wet sand.

2. Tip the mixture onto a floured surface, press it together with your hands and knead it for a few minutes or until smooth

3. Cover the dough with plastic film and rest for 30 minutes to relax the gluten

4. Cut the rested dough into quarters. Work with one piece at a time and keep the rest wrapped in plastic film to prevent it from drying out. Flatten the piece of dough with the palm of your hand, then pass it through the machine’s widest setting three or four times, folding the dough into three each time. Continue passing the dough, each time through a thinner setting, until you get to the second-last setting or the sheet is roughly 2.5 mm thick

5. Dust your working bench with semolina, lay the long sheets of pasta onto it then dot them half way through with one teaspoon of the filling. Make sure to leave about 3 cm between each dollop.

6. Brush around filling with water to moisten. Fold sheet over; press down to seal.

7. Press around each mound to get rid of air bubbles (or the tortelli may burst when you cook them)

8. Cut into 4×4 cm squares with a pastry wheel. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.

9. Lay the tortelli onto a platter dusted with semolina and try not to over lap them

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10. You can cook the Tortelli straight away or freeze them for up  to two weeks.

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To assemble the dish

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil

2. In the meantime, brown the butter with sage and a pinch of salt in a large heavy-based pan until the butter is a pale caramel color and the sage is crispy

3. Cook the Tortelli for 2-3 minutes or until ready and still nicely al dente

4. Using  a slotted spoon, lift them from the water and drop them onto the brown butter pan and sautee for 2-3 minutes or until all the torelli are nicely coated and slightly caramelized. Season them with freshly ground black pepper

5. Arrange the tortelli onto a large serving platter and top them with the fried sage and the crushed amaretti cookies. Serve hot!

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Paste di Mandorle (X’mas Almond Pastries)

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And so, the long-awaited jolly season officially begins at my house, with a tray full of these colourful, soft almond cookies, heralding the impending gluttonous days that this time of the year invariably brings. And although it only feels it’s been a couple of months since my last Christmas, which I spent back home in Milan with my folks, I cannot help feeling comforted by the glorious festive spirit that my children and I exude as we set off to the kitchen to shape these traditional Italian cookies. Some call them Paste di Mandorle, others call them Amaretti, but Raffi and Miro have duly renamed them Rudolph’s nose cookies!

INGREDIENTS, makes 18-20 cookies

275 gr (1 – 1/3 cup)of caster sugar

300 gr (2- 1/2 cups) of almond meal

2 egg whites

1 teaspoon of vanilla essence

1/4 teaspoon of almond extract

glaceè cherries

 HOW TO

1. Place sugar, almond meal, egg whites, vanilla and almond extract in a standing mixer and beat together for 2-3 minutes or until a sticky dough is formed.

2. Roll bits of dough the size of a large walnut and place them onto an oven tray lined with baking paper.

3. Make an indent in each ball of dough with your index finger, then sit a cherry onto each dimple. Shape the rest of the dough into small rectangles (this is the typical Ricciarelli shape), cover them liberally in icing sugar and place them onto the oven tray with the rest of the cookies.

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4. Bake at 180 C, 350 F for 18-20 minutes of until the bottom is firm, but the cookies are still pale in colour

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5. Allow to cool and further firm up at room temperature before serving

They will keep for up to 1 week in an airtight container

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Salad Double Bill! Cucumber, Mint and Radish/Roasted Greens and Chickpeas

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Italian feasts are well known for the opulent abundance of festive food, ranging from delightful and varied antipasto spreads, to falvoursome pasta dishes and robust and delectable meat of fish courses. No matter what the occasion, vegetables always make a notable appearance at the table, may they be part of a main dish or served as sides. It is a lesser known fact that Italians consume greens and pulses more than they eat meat and this is probably why we can choose from a nearly endless treasure trove of recipes when it comes to those nutritious goods. The following two are some of my personal favorites, especially served together as a side for roast chicken or lamb. The peppery and refreshing bite of cucumber and radish complements the richer and more complex texture and flavour of chickpeas, gently roasted with with zucchini and capsicum. Open yourself a Pinot and you can’t go wrong!

Cucumber, mint and radish salad

INGREDIENTS, serves 4

5-6 medium pickling cucumber

1 bunch of radishes

1 generous handful of mint leaves

3 tablespoons of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

juice of 1/2 lemon

salt  for seasoning

HOW TO

1. Slice the cucumber and radishes as thinly as you can lengthways. I use a mandoline (or V slicer) to get the job done neatly and fast.

2. Season with salt, oil and lemon just before serving, or the cucumber will get too soft.

3. Add the mint and enjoy!

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Roasted greens and chickpea salad

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INGREDIENTS, serves 4

3 zucchini cut into small chunks

1 green pepper (capsicum), cut into strips

1 onion, sliced

1 tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar or verjuice

salt for seasoning

a pinch of sugar

HOW TO

1. Bring your oven to 180 C (340 F)

2. Arrange the prepared vegetables onto a roasting tin lined with baking paper

3. Season with oil, vinegar, salt and sugar

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4. Bake for 20 minutes, then add the chickpeas and bake for a further 15-20 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked through

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Chocolate Covered Candied Orange Peel

To be quite frank, I never thought I’d be making candied peel from scratch. I assumed this was a job best left to professional cooks, who know their way around pots of lava-scaulding syrups and get the job done with minimal bodily harm. This was until I went to buy some…A bag of (I counted them!) 9, thin, slivers of delightfulness…16 $! When I figured out that each little candy cost 1.77 $ I was quickly convinced to have a go. Turns out my chef brother was right when he told me that, albeit a little laborious, the recipe is really quite simple. The following ingredients will yield about 50 pieces …at 1.77 each… That would be 88.50 $! Convinced yet?….

INGREDIENTS

3 Large Organic Oranges

750 gr of caster sugar

25 ml (1/8 of a cup) white wine vinegar

200 gr 70% Dark Chocolate

HOW TO

Start this recipe a day ahead.

Day 1

1. Carefully peel your oranges, scraping off all of, or at least most of, the white pith (it’s very bitter)

2. Cut into long strips, place them in a pot with enough water to cover them and bring to the boil.

3. Boil them for 1 minutes than drain the water out, fill the pot with fresh cold water to cover the peel strips, bring to the boil for 1 minutes. Repeat this (yes, quite tedious) procedure 5 more times (7 in total)

4. Place 500 gr of sugar in a pot with 750 ml of water, stir until sugar is melted and it comes to a boil, then add your peel, the vinegar and a pinch of salt. Simmer on low heat for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, or until the peel is translucent and the syrup has thickened.

5. Remove peel from the syrup* and place on a wire rack over a plate (to collect any drippings) to dry. This may take up to 8 hours.

6. When the peel is dry to the touch, dust in the remaining sugar.

7. Melt the chocolate in your preferred way  (I always use the double boiler method, but if you are confident with a microwave, you have my blessing). Half dip the peel in chocolate, the place them to set on a plate lined with baking paper.

You can store peel in an airtight container layered between sheets of baking paper for a few months. In very warm weather, keep them in the fridge and allow the strips to sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before offering them.

They go down a treat with espresso coffee, tea and, for the brave ones, Grappa.

* Reserve the orange scented syrup to make Granitas, Sorbets, Cakes, Daiquiri,  you name it…

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