There’s a lot to love about Maggie Beer. Her warmth, her charm—which I’m assured by people who have worked with her, is utterly genuine—and her taste buds.
Especially her taste buds. If Maggie says this ingredient goes perfectly with that one, you can believe her, and if you have any doubts, just buy me a tub of her Pheasant Farm Paté for a demonstration of how happy her flavour pairings can make someone.
So when a recipe in her recent cook book, Maggie’s Recipe for Life—a compilation of recipes aimed at reducing the chances of Alzheimer’s and other lifestyle diseases—called for dried mandarin-skin powder, I simply had to make this ingredient for my pantry.
#89 Make Maggie’s Dried Mandarin-skin Powder
Now this is where Maggie sometimes challenges her adoring fans. For example, her recipe for the delicious-sounding eggplant, tomato and feta salad begins with the words, ‘Some years I grow up to six different varieties of eggplant in our garden’.
Of course you do Maggie, but did you know that the rest of us consider ourselves very lucky if a bog-standard Solanum melongena bush gives us two or three eggplants?
So it was no surprise to turn to the back of her book for the dried mandarin-skin powder instructions to find this:
Oh Maggie, Maggie. What if we don’t have a ‘very old, very reliable bench dehydrator’, or even a very old, very unreliable one? Or indeed, any dehydrator at all?
So it looks like I’ll have to trust Maggie’s taste buds, accept that dried, powdered mandarin-skin is a worthy creation, and channel her thoughts to come up with my own method.
The first step, of course, is to grow at least two varieties of mandarin tree. Foreseeing this need, several years ago I planted both an Imperial and a Satsuma mandarin tree. The former produced pip-laden, dry, shrivelled fruits that weren’t worth the space they took up in the garden. But the latter? Deeply orange in colour, sweet as pie, not a pip to be found, easy to peel and abundant. Simply delicious!
Here are the steps to preparing mandarin skin for its journey into powder, what I like to call, ‘respecting the fruit’ by utilising a ‘head to tail’ approach.
- Peel the mandarin so the skin remains in largish pieces:
- Devour the fruit segments
- Gently scrape away the white pith from the skin. The end of a steel vegetable peeler works very well. It doesn’t matter if it tears a little.
- When you’ve finished, they’ll look a bit like this
- Store them in the fridge until you have enough to spread evenly on an oven tray
- Pre-heat your oven to low (90-100ºC) then place the prepared skins on their tray in the oven for 35-45 minutes. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn. They should look like this at the end of drying:
- When cool, pulverise in a whizzer till they have the luxurious appearance of gold dust
- Indulge your senses with the heady aroma of limonene, more glorious than saffron, more functional than real gold dust
- Store in airtight container
- And sprinkle on breakfast cereal or desserts to re-capture the aroma of your mandarins for months and months.Magical!