The columnists find ways to use up Mandarin oranges.

MANDARIN oranges usually make their appearance a couple of weeks before the Lunar New Year celebrations begin, and no doubt by now, some of us would have reached saturation point after enjoying kilos of the fruit.

While they are great to eat fresh, we wanted to find ways to include Mandarin oranges in cooking before they shrivelled up. Here are three recipes with a citrusy kick using the fruit of good fortune.

Cool comfort
By JANE RAGAVAN

BRAISED dishes and stews are often referred to as cold-weather food. That’s never sat well with me – so what if we’re this warm-all-year-round little country, why shouldn’t we get to enjoy heavier meals more suited for temperate zones?

And so I braise and stew whenever I like and eat my stodge without it having to be fuel against the cold – I get the occasional night sweats, but I’m none the worse for it. But with the cold north-easterly winds blowing in from Mainland China and the Sleeping Sun phenomenon causing temperatures to drop to a chilly 25°C in Petaling Jaya, there’s no better time for me to get out the old cast-iron Dutch oven and braise away!

I have used whole Mandarin oranges in my beef dish to get every bit of citrus flavour from them, after which they are discarded. They are studded with cloves, which helps to corral the spice – cloves are flavour bombs but I find it unpleasant to bite into one when I am enjoying my meal.

A note about the cut of beef for this dish: use braising steak, such as topside or some of the fattier parts. Short ribs are good too.

Asian-style Braised Beef With Orange

Serves 5-6

2 Mandarin oranges

15 cloves

450g braising steak (see intro above), cut into 3cm cubes

1 tbsp all-purpose flour

2 tbsp black vinegar

2 tbsp soya sauce

1 tbsp Chinese rice wine (optional)

1 tsp whole Szechuan peppercorns, ground

1½ tbsp tomato purée

1 large clove garlic, minced

2 medium onions, peeled and cut into wedges

2 cinnamon sticks

4 whole star anise

1 beef stock cube

300g yam (taro)

Cooking oil

Celery leaves (daun sup), finely chopped

Wash the oranges well. Dry them and stud with the cloves.

Dab the beef cubes with paper towels to dry them. Dredge them in the flour.

In a bowl, combine the vinegar, soya sauce, rice wine (if using), ground peppercorns and tomato purée.

Heat two tablespoons of cooking oil in a large heavy pot. Fry the beef cubes so they are brown all over. Do this in batches and do not crowd the pan. Remove beef from the pan and set aside.

Drain most of the oil from the same pan and add the garlic and onions. Sauté briefly, then add the combined sauce, cinnamon and star anise. Let it come to a boil and return meat to the pot; add just enough water to cover the cubes.

Stir in the stock cube and drop in the two clove-studded oranges. Cover the pot, bring to the boil, then turn down the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the meat is tender and the sauce has thickened, 60 to 90 minutes. Scrape the bottom of the pot now and then so there’s no sticking.

Meanwhile, peel the yam and cut into 1cm-thick wedges.

Scoop out the oranges into a large sieve placed over the pan. With the back of a wooden spoon, press them to extract the juice. Discard the mashed oranges. Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning.

Add the yam to the pot, cover and cook until tender, another 10 to 15 minutes.

Sprinkle beef with celery leaves and serve with steamed rice.

Drink it up
By S. INDRAMALAR

THE good thing about living in multicultural Malaysia is that we feel a part of each others’ cultures without even having to make an effort.

As the Lunar New Year approaches, I find myself getting into the spirit of the celebration … I’ve spring cleaned my house and have my small change ready for the upcoming gambling sessions. Of course, the house is also stocked with traditional cookies like kuih kapit (love letters) and pineapple tarts.

And then there are the oranges … lots and lots of oranges. For a person who, regretfully, doesn’t eat much fruit, I find that I actually have too many oranges than I know what to do with! It’s easy to get rid of the excess Mandarins by making all kinds of cake, but realistically, how many orange cakes can one person eat, right?

So, the best way that I thought of to use up the oranges was to make different kinds of orange-based smoothies. Orange and coconut, orange and yoghurt, orange and ginger … thinking of variations to try is quite fun.

I love smoothies and end up paying an insane amount of money on store-bought ones. So I suppose I should be thankful for the overflow of oranges as it has prompted me to make my own.

Smoothie

2 Mandarin oranges, peeled and taken apart

¼ cup oats

¼ cup Greek yoghurt, chilled*

1 cup coconut water

1 tbsp honey

Pinch of turmeric

1 tbsp unsweetened desiccated coconut

If you prefer an icy-cold smoothie, freeze the orange segments at least two hours ahead of time.

Whizz up the oats till they become powdery. Then add the rest of the ingredients and blend till smooth.

* If you don’t have Greek yoghurt, wrap 3/4 cup regular yoghurt in cheese cloth and leave it over a bowl for the whey to drain. What will remain in the cheese cloth is thick, creamy yoghurt, just like Greek yoghurt.

Eating Lunar-cy
By IVY SOON

I LOVE Chinese New Year and look forward to gatherings with my family and relatives. Aunts, uncles, siblings, nieces and nephews will start arriving at my mother’s house early in the morning, and they will be greeted with a bowl of sweet ginkgo and longan (for a sweet beginning to the year).

Then, they will all gravitate to different parts of the house. Aunts and uncles will plonk themselves in front of the television or start a poker or cherki session. The children will have the run of the house; checking out each other’s tablets and often ending up in the inflatable pool in the garden by late afternoon. Cousins will find a nook to chat and catch up on each other’s lives.

Wherever we are and whatever we do, we all eventually end up around the dining table – not once but many times throughout the day.

There will be my mother’s signature asam fish and prawn curry, jiu hu char (sengkuang with cuttlefish), tu tor t’ng (a soup with pig intestines) and various other dishes for lunch.

The table will then be cleared for spring rolls and pie tee.

We will be kept busy rolling up spring rolls to serve those busy gambling or tending to the little ones, and supervising kids intent on making their own helpings.

And there will of course be a free flow of Chinese New Year goodies – love letters made by my cousin (not store-bought), melt-in-the-mouth kuih bangkit and peanut biscuits.

The feasting usually ends with a quick dinner as everyone gets ready to go home. Chances are we will meet again in following days as we will take turns visiting each other … and eating together.

So, maybe when I come back from the Chinese New Year holidays, I will need a break from all that gluttony and eat a salad … like one with a light orange vinaigrette and Mandarin oranges. It will be a comforting reminder of the Chinese New Year revelry.

Roast Chicken And Mandarin Orange Salad

Serves two

150g mixed mesclun leaves

8-10 cherry tomatoes

Segments from 1 Mandarin orange

1 boneless chicken thigh, roasted and sliced

1 tbsp roasted sesame seeds

½ cup orange vinaigrette dressing

Orange vinaigrette dressing

Juice from 1 orange

2 tbsp rice vinegar

1 tbsp castor sugar

½ cup vegetable oil

1 tsp grated ginger

Salt and black pepper to taste

To make vinaigrette, mix all the ingredients in a jar and shake vigorously.

To assemble salad, mix all the ingredients in a big bowl, drizzle with vinaigrette and toss.