Tangerine dreams

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 February, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 February, 2002, 12:00am

Fruit vendors have many colourful citrus fruits for the first weeks of Lunar New Year - oranges, tangerines and kumquats chief among them. I love tangerines because the loose skins are easy to peel and the fruit is so fragrant. They make a wonderful and distinctively flavoured fruit juice, which is a good alternative to orange juice. You can also dry the skin of tangerines - just leave the peel at room temperature until fully dried, then store in an airtight jar. This is good for flavouring congees and stews.

Candied segments of tangerine make an easy petit four to serve with coffee. Peel the fruit, separate the segments and remove all the loose threads. Lay the fruit on a rack to dry for about 15 minutes. Line baking sheets smoothly with aluminium foil and spray very lightly with pan coating. Lightly spray the tips of a pair of chopsticks with pan coating and have these and the pans ready by the side of the stove.

Pour granulated sugar in a small, heavy saucepan and moisten the sugar with a little water and a teaspoon of strained fresh lemon juice. Heat over a low flame, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon until the sugar is dissolved. Using a wet pastry brush, remove all sugar crystals on the sides of the pan - this prevents the caramel from crystallising. Cook without stirring over medium heat until the caramel turns amber, then remove from the heat. The caramel will continue to darken.

Working quickly and carefully, dip the tangerine segments into the caramel, remove and lay them on the baking sheet with the chopsticks (the oil will prevent the caramel from sticking, but you'll have to spray the tips occasionally as you work). Allow the segments to cool until the caramel hardens, then ideally serve within two hours. Do not refrigerate.