Luscious Lemons

Image result for preserved lemons

When I first discovered the deep, citrussy undertone preserved lemon brings to recipes I became a little bit obsessed with it, and worked my way through a whole jar in no time at all. It’s a traditional ingredient in North African cooking, where it’s used in tagines, but I found myself using it for all sorts of things from fish, seafood, poultry, roasted vegetables and pasta dishes. I love just stuffing some into a chicken before roasting it, then basting the bird with the lemon-infused juices. You can, of course, buy them ready made in a jar (now where’s the fun in that!) but they’re incredibly easy to make very well yourself. You just need a little bit of patience for the salt to work its magic before you can enjoy the brilliantly intense flavour. Make a jar and keep it in your fridge; it’s a beautiful glowing, golden thing and makes a great gift for friends too

A jar of preserved lemons

  • 130g sea salt
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 5 large unwaxed, lemons, washed, sliced finely, pips discarded
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Mix the salt and sugar and scatter a pinch of it into the preserving jar. Dip one side of the lemon slices in the salt and sugar mixture. Layer, salty-side down, in the jar. Occasionally scatter some more of the mixture on top. Press the layers down to squeeze in the remaining lemon slices, until you’ve reached the top of the jar. By the end, the juice and self-made brine should completely cover the layers. Top with the oil, ensuring none of the lemon is in contact with the air. Seal the jar. Refrigerate for up to 2-3 months.

And one recipe – more to follow (I wouldn’t want you to go to all the trouble above and then not use them!)

Spiced Butternut Soup with Salted Lemon

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • knob of butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
  • 10g ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1 leek
  • 250g peeled butternut squash
  • 1 red chilli (size depending on how much you like your heat!), sliced
  • 2 preserved lemons
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 litre chicken or vegetable stock (yes, I know this is going to make more than enough for one but soup is really worth making a batch of and keeping a jug in the fridge)
  • coriander (if liked)

Melt the butter with the olive oil and add the onion. Cut the leek into 1cm pennies and chunk the squash. Halve the lemons, take out the pips and slice into baton.  By now, the onion should be nicely cooked so stir in the garlic, ginger and leek and cook for about 5 minutes.  Dust with the flour and stir in the stock, squash, chilli and lemons.  Increase the heat, stirring to a simmer.  Half cover the pan and cook till soft. Add the coriander at the end, if liked, before serving.

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