Photo: Jan Bartelsman
This is a recipe from my childhood and from my second cookbook "Cucina di casa mia - Recepten van een Italiaanse familie". To me this little treat really embodies THE taste of Christmas.
During winter my Grandma Isa and Grandpa Angelo always ate lots of citrus fruits, especially oranges. After dinner there was always a bowl of fruit on the table, even after the big Christmas lunches where we had more than enough to eat. Oranges were their favourite fruit. I think they ate quite a few kilos per week, the two of them together. Their house always smelled of orange peel, a wonderful smell for my young nostrils.
These fragrant orange peel balls are a great example of 'recycling' in the kitchen: my grandmother made them before Christmas with all the left-over orange zest which would otherwise be discarded.
Nowadays I make them with organic oranges but then there was no choice: they were just oranges from the market.
My grandmother soaked the peel in cold water for a few days to remove the bitter taste of the white, softer part, then it was chopped, cooked in a water and sugar syrup and then rolled into little balls.
You can store these balls in a glass jar or a tin. They get harder with time but they stay very tasty and are great as a digestif - very handy after those heavy Christmas meals! - thanks to the essential oils in the orange peel.
When I was young I made them for my friends as a Christmas present because they all loved them.
If you store them in a pretty glass jar or tin they are very nice as a gift.
To make them even better, dip them in melted dark chocolate (just half of their surface, so that you can still see the beautiful orange colour of the peel) and let them dry on a sheet of baking parchment.
Serve with a cup of strong espresso. Perfect combination!
Preparation: 40 minutes – makes about 30 balls
500 gr organic orange peel, white part included
500 gr sugar + some extra sugar for rolling the balls in it
a little water
Soak the orange peels for a few days in a bowl with cold water and change the water regularly.
Remove the peel from the water, chop finely and bring slowly to the boil with the sugar and a little water. It is best if you use a non-stick pan.
If you notice that the mixture is too dry add a little bit of water and let it boil down further. The mixture should remain fairly soft so you can roll into balls after cooling it.
When the mixture has cooled, roll into balls the size of a walnut then roll the balls through the extra sugar.
Leave the balls to dry for half a day on a baking sheet.
Store them in glass or tins.