The West

Chef Massimo Mele in the kitchen.

There's something exciting about breaking apart a succulent orange in the middle of winter.

The peel's bright colour and aromatic oil prepare the tastebuds for a feast for the senses.

Inexpensive and versatile, the fruit can be used on its own or as a sweet or savoury dish.

MORE FOOD NEWS: Food lovers' guide dishes up the best

Some say oranges complement dark chocolate perfectly. As much as I love both chocolate and oranges, I think the two work best separately. But hey, each to their own. (Chocolate and mint, however, are a match made in heaven and no one can tell me otherwise.)

Sydney-based Italo-Australian chef Massimo Mele is among those who enjoy the combination of citrus and cacao, judging by his decadent recipe for chocolate gateau.

Mele is an ambassador for Citrus Australia, an organisation representing the country's commercial citrus growers.

The Hugos Group executive chef is a proponent of the "farm-to-table principle".

Citrus Australia said the 2012 crop had produced the best size and quality fruit in years - with an estimated 385,000 tonnes of navels expected to be harvested for local and international markets including Japan and Hong Kong.

One orange could provide adults with "116 per cent of their daily intake of Vitamin C", the organisation's chief executive, Judith Damiani, said.

"Which is great for keeping your immune system in top shape during the cold and flu season," she said.


RECIPE: Fettuccine with Oxtail Ragu, Pecorino & Orange Gremolata
1.5kg oxtail
salt and ground pepper
flour, for dredging
1 onion, diced
2 cups red wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup tomato sauce
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
Pecorino Romano, for grating
500g fresh fettuccine
2 tsp grated orange rind
2 tsp garlic, minced finely
1/2 cup minced flat-leaf parsley

Add salt and pepper to the oxtail and dredge the pieces in flour. Add oil to a pot and sear the meat until well-browned on all sides. Remove oxtail.

Add onion and cook until lightly browned - a few minutes. Add the red wine (scraping up the browned bits), followed by the chicken stock, tomato sauce and fresh thyme. Bring to a boil.

Return the meat and its juices to the pot and place into a 375C oven for three hours.

Once the oxtail is tender and falls off the bone, remove from the sauce and allow to cool. Pull the meat from the bones and shred into small pieces. Place the meat in the sauce.

In a separate pot, cook your pasta for three minutes and drain.

Place the hot meat and sauce in a saucepan and add the pasta with enough of its cooking water to maintain desired sauce consistency. Cook the sauce and pasta together until well-incorporated and pasta is done. Plate and grate cheese over the top. Mix parsley, orange rind, garlic and salt together and scatter over the top of the fettuccine.

Fettuccine with Oxtail Ragu, Pecorino & Orange Gremolata, left, and Herb-crusted Duck with Ginger Pears, Winter Salad & Orange Dressing.

RECIPE: Herb-crusted Duck with Ginger Pears, Winter Salad & Orange Dressing
(Serves 4)

Duck leg
500g rock sea salt
1 orange and 1 lemon, rind removed with a peeler
6 star anise
10cm piece of ginger, sliced thickly
6 garlic cloves, bruised
4 duck Marylands (about 300g each)
1 tbsp Chinese five spice
850g (4 cups) duck fat
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 tbsp chives, chopped
1 tbsp parsley, chopped

Ginger pears:
50g honey
100ml red wine vinegar
2 pears, quartered
50g honey
1 tsp ginger, minced

Combine vinegar, honey and ginger in a pot and boil until it's a thick syrup consistency. Add the pears and toss; cook for 15 minutes.

Winter salad:
Witlof leaves
Red witlof
Sour cherries soaked in warm water
Toasted walnuts

Orange dressing:
2 tbsp fresh orange juice
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp honey

Whisk orange juice and vinegar and slowly combine olive oil and honey. Whisk until well combined.

Combine salt, rind, star anise, ginger and garlic in a non-reactive dish. Place duck skin-side down on top of the salt mixture and rub flesh with five spice. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 120C.

Warm the duck fat in a small roasting pan over medium heat. Remove duck from salt, brush off excess salt and place in the warmed fat, ensuring duck is completely submerged. Cook in oven until meat is tender and almost falls from the bone (3-3 1/2 hours).

To complete the dish, combine breadcrumbs, chives, parsley and enough duck fat to bring together the crumbs. Pre-heat oven to 200C, place herbs and crumbs over the top of the duck and cook in the oven for 10 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

Divide the ginger pears on plates, toss the salad leaves in the orange dressing, place herb-crusted duck on a plate beside the salad and drizzle with left-over dressing.

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