It’s blood orange season. Which means I’m busily making the most of one of the truly seasonal citrus fruits. I feature blood orange on the dessert menu, use blood orange segments in salads, and make copious amounts of blood orange cordial. I’m using it in as many ways as possible, but also trying to preserve it for the months ahead. So every time I make cordial or use the segments, I keep all of the peel.
Last year around this time, I wrote about two versions of candied peel: one for when you have half-skins left from juicing, and one for when you have taken the peel from the citrus fruit to make either segments or denuded slices. My store cupboard is pretty full of candied peel now, so I am making something much more delicate and special. Something I remember from my time as an apprentice at Stephanie’s. Eugénies.
I got on the internet to find out exactly what a eugénie is, but I failed. I did get a lot of pictures of bad royal hats, however. A quick call to Stephanie Alexander provided the answer. “It is in Michel Guérard’s Cuisine Gourmande,” she told me. I felt pleased but silly in equal measures, because a couple of years ago I had the huge pleasure of staying at Guérard’s for a couple of nights. His restaurant is situated in the little town of Eugénie-les-Bains in south-western France, and is named Les Prés d’Eugénie. I was actually travelling with Stephanie on a French gastronomic tour when we stayed there. The penny dropped and I realised how the name eugénies came to be.
All this took me back to sitting in the garden of this extraordinary establishment. Stephanie and I had the time and space to discuss the beginnings of the restaurant “scene” in Australia, and how a revolution of brilliant young chefs in France in the 1960s had inspired the world. Michel Guérard – along with luminaries such as Paul Bocuse, the Troisgros brothers and Joël Robuchon – was a brilliant French chef. It is fascinating to me to go back and read Cuisine Gourmande today. It is an extraordinary volume, first published in the late 1970s, from which each and every one of us can glean an enormous amount. While I’m enjoying Niki Segnit’s Lateral Cooking immensely, particularly for its humour, Guérard’s volume explains cooking, and all its techniques, in brilliantly simple detail.
But back to the eugénies. This chocolate orange treat surpasses all others. Fine, surprising and delicious, eugénies will delight your friends and family, either as a treat or as a gift. You can, of course, use standard oranges for the peel, but while I am getting the most out of my blood oranges, I may as well use their skins.
– 2 oranges
– 650g castor sugar
– 150g dark chocolate
– 60g Dutch cocoa
With a sharp vegetable peeler or a small, sharp knife, remove the peel from the orange. Be careful to remove it with no pith. (If you do have white pith on the peel, it can be removed with a very sharp knife.)
Place the peel in a small saucepan, cover with cold water, bring to the boil and boil for three minutes. Drain and repeat this process another three times. This removes the bitterness from the peel.
Put the sugar and 500 millilitres of water in a saucepan, place over medium heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and add the orange rind. Michel Guérard says, “Cook for three hours on a low heat; the surface of the liquid should be barely shivering.” With modern stoves you may be hard pushed to have it cooking so slowly, so simmer gently until the peel is translucent.
Take the peel out of the syrup and drain on a wire rack for three hours in the air.
Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a double boiler, then carefully coat each piece of rind and place on a sheet of baking paper.
When the chocolate is set, dust with cocoa. These store well in the refrigerator.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Aug 24, 2019 as "The art of the peel". Subscribe here.