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Why You Shouldn’t Throw Away Naartjie Peels

We asked several home cooks how they use their naartjie peels in the kitchen.

Ideas for using naartjie peels

Cariema Isaacs

You might see naartjies and clementines, but I see an opportunity to make koe’sisters.

Naartjie peels drying on the windowsill in preparation of making aromatic koe’sisters is one of the fondest food memories I have of growing up in my grandmother’s house in Bo-Kaap. So when I see naartjies, all I can think about is making koe’sisters.

I love this time of year when the local UAE stores receive their Clemengolds stock. I usually stock up on boxes of these because the fruit is consumed within minutes in our home. However, I keep the peels – it’s like gold at this stage. I would lay it skin-side down on a cooling tray and allow it to dry out completely in a sunny spot. This process usually takes about 10 days to two weeks.

Once dried, it goes into a blender or pestle and mortar to be ground until it’s a fine, crumbly powder. This gold dust is then added to the rest of the ingredients when we make our traditional Cape Malay koe’sisters. It enhances aromatics like cinnamon, cardamom and the dried, powdered ginger used in making this treat. The dried naartjie peel also provides the koe’sister with its distinctive aroma once it’s been fried.

The tradition is to have a warm cup of cardamom tea with your koe’sisters on a Sunday morning – the aromatics in the koe’sister complementing the cardamom infused tea.

More ways to use the peels

  • “I make orange pepper with half of it (the other half is used for koe’sisters). The orange pepper is mostly used for salmon.” - Zerina Parker

  • “I keep two jars of dried naartjie peels and they have the most aromatic smell. I use it when cooking stewed sweet potato, like my mom and granny used to do. Do try it the next time you make sweet potatoes. Add some to the butter/sugar mixture and also squeeze some juice onto the sweet potatoes. I also love dried naartjie peel in yellow rice and adding them to sauces and syrups. A naartjie sauce is lovely over malva pudding, buttermilk pudding, and even sago pudding combined with dollops of apricot jam. You could even place a piece of naartjie peel in gin and infuse it for a few days.” - Surita Riffel

  • “I’m never without them. I store the dried peel in a glass jar and I just add a piece whenever I feel it’s appropriate to a dish.” - Sahra Ryklief

  • “My grandmother used to put dried naartjie peel in her sweet potato pudding. It just took that divine pudding to the next level. Mama Joe Zyster gave me so many beautiful food memories.” - Jo-Anne Mettler

  • “I like to add it to my pumpkin fritters.” - Wyomia Mouwers

  • “I infuse the dried peels in the milk for a melktert, along with a vanilla pod.” - Anna Langley-Poole

  • “It’s lovely in tamatiebredie!” ­- Errieda du Toit

  • “I roast the peels and mix them with salt and then use with fish.” - Phumlani Malinga

  • “If you’re concerned about using non-organic naartjie peels, wash it with baking soda and water.” - Nathalie Dietrich

  • “Naartjies are definitely a two-for-the-price-of-one kind of deal deal! I stick the dried peels in sugars, cocktails, desserts, when cooking quinoa and rice, as well as in poached dishes and stews. I also love to simmer it in a pot on my stove as a fragrant potpourri.” - Reinette Swartz


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