When I was growing up my mother loved to host dinner parties. This was in the 70’s and not the era of dialling in a caterer, ordering in pre-cooked meals or even driving to the local deli for an antipasto platter. That isn’t to say that some didn’t take a few shortcuts. I remember being taken to plenty of parties where the appetisers were bowls of pimento stuffed olives or salted peanuts and my favourite, potato chips.
Those who went the extra mile prepared things on toothpicks. You weren’t a proper housewife unless you had a drawer full of toothpicks. Cubed cheese and pieces of tinned pineapple were stabbed onto a toothpick then poked into a naval orange. Or it could have been cabanossi and cheese or olives and cheese, or for the adventurous, a combination.
My mother was a DIY entertainer and loved to prepare everything from scratch. Mum’s appetisers were usually straight from the oven and were prunes wrapped in bacon and fastened with a toothpick, (she had a drawer full), mini-quiches with homemade pastry (pastry sheets not yet available and there were just two types of quiche, Lorraine and Florentine), and my favourite, slices of bread with the crusts removed pushed into muffin tins then filled with a variety of fillings usually including chicken, mushrooms and asparagus. Wonderful but as these were served hot, you had to be careful the heat didn’t take burn the skin off the roof of your mouth!
Not everything emerged from the oven. On the one or two days temperatures in New Zealand soared, there was a cooling handmade cheese ball that had been rolled in parsley and finely chopped walnuts and served impressively with a variety of crackers. Must find that recipe!
And the canapes were just the start of the everything-made-by-hand dinner party. Progressing to the ‘something sweet’ to serve with coffee, mum had a variety of chocolate creations and one of them was candied citrus peels dipped in chocolate. These were considered sophisticated dinner party fare as the bitterness from the peels mixed with the richness of the dark chocolate made these very ‘adults only’.
And considering they are ‘adults only’, they’re surprisingly easy to make, have only three ingredients and are pretty much made from what is usually considered throw-away scraps (unless you’re making marmalade).
I found these very easy to make however there is some time involved so you need to start making them a day ahead. With the candied citrus peels having such a dominant orange colour, these would be wonderful to serve not only at dinner parties but also on Halloween. Once you become addicted to these, you’ll never want to throw away citrus peels ever again.
I used a combination of oranges and lemons but you can also use grapefruit. I had oranges in my fruit bowl but also had some lemons that had been ‘cheeked’ and I used the leftover centres to make citrus peels.
- 4 oranges
- 2 lemons
- 4½ cups white sugar plus extra
- 1½ cups water
- 300gms dark cooking chocolate
- Begin this recipe a day ahead.
- Wash and dry the fruit.
- Top and tail the fruit.
- Cut each orange and lemon into quarters and carefully remove the flesh without tearing the skin.
- Cut each quarter of peel into slices about .5cm thick - about 6 slices/qtr orange.
- Combine sugar and water in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Stop stirring.
- Using a candy thermometer, bring to 110C (230F).
- Add peels. To coat the peels, agitate the pan gently.
- Continue to simmer until peels are translucent - about an hour.
- Strain peels but keep syrup (good for cocktails, cakes etc).
- Sprinkle a tray lined with baking paper with extra sugar and spread peels onto tray and coat well. Leave overnight to dry.
- Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and stir until melted. Dip one half of each peel into chocolate and place on a tray lined with baking paper. Refrigerate until set.
- To store the candied peel, place in an airtight container and leave in a cool place.
- Serve with coffee or wine or port and cigars.
Perfect for dinner parties.