one good trick: preserving lemons
Preserved lemons are one of my favourite things.
They’re expensive to buy, but so cheap and easy to make.
A staple of Moroccan and Middle Eastern cuisine, preserved lemons add a piquant citrussy tang to all manner of savoury dishes. They pair well with chicken and lamb, fresh fish, potatoes, olives, yoghurt, labne, garlic, apricots, and honey.
My favourite way to use them is in a dressing for a roast vegetable and haloumi salad.
I cut potatoes, sweet potatoes, zucchini (courgette), and red capsicums (peppers) into large chunks, toss in oil, then bake until tender. Then I whisk together olive oil, fresh lemon juice, crushed thyme leaves, some finely chopped red chilli, and minced preserved lemon, whisking to combine. I fry slices of haloumi last, then toss it all together for a warm dinner salad.
Preserved lemons are, quite simply, the pickled rinds of ripe lemons.
To make a batch for yourself, all you need is a hot sterilised jar, some lemons, rock salt… and time.
How to preserve lemons
How many lemons you use depends entirely upon your jar.
- Prepare the lemons by cutting half a centimetre off the tip of each. Cut the lemons as if you were going to cut them completely in half lengthways, but do not cut all the way through. Keep the lemon attached at the base. Make another cut, so that the lemon is quartered, but attached still at the base.
- Prise the lemons gently open into a four-petalled ‘flower’. Use your fingers to remove some of the seeds and soften the flesh. Then generously pack salt through the insides and the outsides of the lemons.
- Push the lemons into your jar, squashing them down to release the juice. Fill up the jar with as many lemons as you can, making sure that the top is covered with lemon juice. You might need to add extra freshly-squeezed juice if necessary. Sprinkle with more rock salt for good measure.
- Put the lid on the jar tightly, then let it sit at room temperature for a couple days. Turn the jar upside down and upright again occasionally. After two days, place the jar in the refrigerator and let the rinds soften for at least three more weeks, turning the jar topsy-turvy when you think of it.
To use preserved lemon, rinse the rind under tap water to remove excess salt, Scrape out the flesh with a small knife, then finely slice or chop the rind to add to marinades, stews, and dressings.
Here are some other recipes that incorporate preserved lemons.
5 to try
○ White bean salad with preserved lemon
○ Preserved lemon, rosemary and garlic roast chicken
○ Hearty red lentil and preserved lemon soup
○ Reconstructed potato salad with preserved lemon
○ Rolled butterflied leg of lamb with herbs and preserved lemons
Categorised as: eat+drink+be merry