Tag Archives: preserved lemons

An Abundance Of Lemons And How To Preserve Them

 

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One of the first things that drew me to the house we have lived in for the past couple of years were the two lemon trees growing in the back yard. This is not entirely unusual for Sydney, yet to find a sunny back yard that had TWO established lemon trees was a bonus. It not only appealed to my culinary side, but also helped me feel a tiny step closer to my long-term dream of living on a property where we will one day grow, pick, and eat our own food (I did say long-term right?)…

As much as the flavour of lemons are reminiscent of summer, my trees bare their fruit in winter. This means each year I have an abundance of fruit to use, and I inevitably end up preserving more than a handful of jars of lemons to extend their shelf life.

Lemons are the citrus of choice for most cooks; I certainly would be at a loss without them in my kitchen. And although I love to preserve them I use them in all manner of cooking. 

When I use their pungent zest in cakes, or dressings,or marinades, I delight in the fact that their skin, let alone juice, has so much flavour to offer. Having home-grown lemons means no wax ( it drives me crazy that the shop-bought lemons are coated in a thin layer of wax, why do they have to do this!). Wax-free lemons should be available to all. It’s unadulterated zest, the best of its kind.

The juice of lemons can be a cooks best friend in the kitchen, and as a rule of thumb, keeping one or two in the fruit bowl will enhance all manner of dishes. Again, the juice is excellent in marinades, especially for chicken. Green tahini dressing is lifted to new heights, and even just a small squeeze of the pale yellow liquid will enhance soups, stews, or any slow cooked meats.

 

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Preserving lemons is very simple. The preparation is next to nothing: it’s the preserving that takes time; I leave mine at least six weeks and up to several months. The salt and juice slowly break down and soften the flesh whilst also mellowing the flavour, and this process just can’t be hurried.

As with all of the above ways of using fresh lemons, preserved lemons can be applied in much the same manner.

Check out this chermoula recipe for marinating and roasting on a chicken, or these lamb skewers  perfect for barbecuing.

I usually use a few 750ml parfait jars with working seals on them, but I also utilise large glass jars that I’ve washed and stored exactly for this reason.

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Preserved lemons

Makes 3-4 jars

Ingredients

15 large juicy lemons (wax free if you can)

3/4 cup cooking salt

12 cardamon pods

3 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp whole  black pepper corns

First you need to sterilise the jars. Pre heat oven to 120C. Remove the rubber seal, wash the jars in warm soapy water, rinse, place on a tray and place in the oven for about 25 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave them there till you are ready to fill them.

Wash lemons. Take 10-12 of the lemons and cut in half. Slice through each half leaving 4cm of the top of the lemon un-cut. Squeeze the majority of the juice from each lemon and set the juice aside in a jug.

Juice the remaining 3-5 lemons, and add this to the reserved lemon juice. You should by this stage have about 3 cups of lemon juice.

Sprinkle the salt all over the cut lemons, rubbing it into the flesh. Take the sterilised jars from the oven and stuff each jar with lemons, press them in firmly to fill the jars. Divide the cardamon pods, coriander seeds and peppercorns between the jars. Then divide the lemon juice between the jars pouring it over the lemons. Top up each jar with boiling water so the lemons are completely covered.

Seal the lids and gently shake the jar several times to combine. Place lemons on a shelf in the pantry to preserve for about 6 weeks, or longer. Once you open a jar refrigerate the contents for up to 2 months.

Barbecued Lemon Myrtle Lamb Skewers

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It’s almost considered criminal to live in Australia and not cook regularly on a barbecue. It’s part of our heritage; part of our life style. When the weather warms up, we get out side and cook. It’s a fabulous thing.

Any occasion can warrant the excuse for a barbecue. Kids birthday – yep barbecue…Get together with friends, time for a barbecue…It’s too hot to cook in the house, crank up the barbecue…

There were a number of years there were I didn’t own a barbecue (shock horror). I had to get my fix of barbecued foods at other peoples houses. This was so un Australian of me. Then, I was given a barbecue as a gift. It was no Kmart job either. It was one of those small yet stylish type barbecues that runs on charcoal, or gas, or both. The gas element is great for when you’re in a hurry, and the slower method of cooking with the charcoal delivers a flavour that just can’t be matched on any indoor stove. I feel complete.

But let me tell you about these tasty lamb skewers. They have become my favourite.

You’ll need some preserved lemons.

Preserved lemon and lamb go together like presents and Christmas. The other special ingredient I’ve used in the marinade is Lemon Myrtle. Have you heard of it? It’s a native Australian bush herb. It’s fairly pungent, yet delicate in it’s lemon scented flavouring, which also highlights hints of lime.

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Truth be known, this lamb was only marinated for 3 hours. It most certainly can be marinated over night, and if I wasn’t trying to feed my husband’s work friends, who conveniently popped in that day, as well as get a shot of the lamb while the light was still good, I would of left the lamb to marinate longer.

I often serve lamb skewers with yoghurt sauce. On this occasion I snipped fresh mint from the garden, roughly chopped it, grated a cucumber and squeezed the excess water from it,  and added it to the yoghurt with extra virgin olive oil, black pepper and sea salt.

 

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Lemon myrtle lamb skewers

Ingredients  

800g free range lamb shoulder (ask your butcher for a lean piece)

1 preserved lemon

2 tsp ground lemon myrtle

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 cup fresh oregano

1 tbsp rice bran or olive oil

Sea salt

Cracked black pepper

12 bamboo skewers

 

Dice the lamb into 3cm pieces. Remove the pith of the preserved lemon and discard the pulp, keeping only the rind. Roughly dice the rind and place in a food processor with lemon myrtle, garlic, oregano and oil, blitz till well combined. Pour over the lamb, gently massage it into the meat, and set aside to marinate in the fridge for 4 – 24 hours.

Soak 12 skewers in cold water for 15 minutes (this helps stop the wood from burning).

Pre heat a charcoal barbecue. Skewer the lamb evenly between the bamboo skewers. Season both sides with sea salt and cracked black pepper. Cook the lamb over a medium heat, for 8-10 minutes, turn regularly.

Set the lamb aside to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. Serve lamb skewers with minted yoghurt and your favourite salads.

 

 

Chermoula Roasted Chicken

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I first tasted the delicious flavours of chermoula in a sea side town in Morocco. The restaurant I dined in served a fish tagine that was laden with the zesty, herb flavoured marinade.  I loved it.

When I returned home, I was obsessed with making chermoula. I began preserving my own lemons and whizzing up a batch of this North African marinade each time guests were coming for dinner.

Back then, I often cooked vegetables with chermoula . I’d combine root vegetables – swede, carrot, turnip – with capsicum and chickpeas and toss the whole lot with chermoula. They would then simmer gently in a tagine with a little vegetable stock.

But this is the story of chicken… And how to roast a Moroccan flavoured chicken. So for the chermoula…

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The all-important ingredient for chermoula is preserved lemons. They are dead simple to preserve yourself, click HERE for the recipe.

You can buy preserved lemons, and for some that might be preferred. But they tend to be expensive for a meagre amount. The jar I stuffed with lemons and set aside to preserve a few weeks back are ready to use.

Once you have your preserved lemons, the paste is straight forward – garlic, chilli, parsley, coriander stem, cumin, smoked paprika, saffron, and oil. I like to use a mortar and pestle to make my paste, i find it therapeutic,  but for the time-poor, a food processor is quick and easy.

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I use the Portuguese technique for roasting my chicken – cut it down the back bone and roast it flat. A sharp pair of kitchen scissors will do the job, yet if this sounds too hard, ask your butcher to do it for you.

Cooking the chicken this way keeps the breast moist and succulent.

Once the chicken is coated with chermoula, under the skin and on top, the marinade needs time to work its magic. I recommend marinating over night, but if you really can’t wait, or have left the menu planning to the last minute, 4 hours marinating will be sufficient.

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The juices from the tray make an excellent sauce, and a bowl of couscous is the perfect accompaniment.

Chermoula roasted chicken

Ingredients

1 x free range chicken

1 x fresh lemon, sliced into rounds

For the chermoula

pinch of saffron threads

1 preserved lemon

½ cup roughly chopped parsley, plus extra for garnishing

¼ cup chopped coriander stems

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 large red chilli, de seeded and chopped

2 tsp ground cumin

½ tsp hot smoked paprika

1 tsp sea salt

large pinch cracked black pepper

50ml grape seed oil, or pure olive oil

Place saffron in a small bowl with 1 tbsp boiling water, set aside to soak for 5 minutes.

Cut the preserved lemon in quarters; use a sharp knife to cut away the pulp and white pith, discard. Slice the rind into a rough dice.

Place all ingredients for chermoula except saffron and oil into a mortar and pestle, pound and grind till mix resembles a paste (about 5 minutes) – there will still be some chunks of preserved lemon.  If using a food processor blitz till well combined. Add saffron soaked water and oil, and stir till combined.

Cut the chicken down the back bone using a sharp pair of kitchen scissors and press firmly on the back to flatten the chook, or ask your butcher to do this.  Lay the cut rounds of fresh lemon in a baking tray and place the chicken, skin side up, on top of the lemons.

Place your fingers under the skin of the chicken taking care not to rip the skin.  Create a pocket between the flesh and the skin by gently separating the skin from the flesh.  Do this on the leg pieces as well. Take half the marinade and rub it under the skin, smoother as much of the flesh with the marinade as you can. Take the remaining marinade and rub the out side of the chicken. Marinate overnight, or if you’re in a hurry for at least 4 hours.

 

Remove chicken from refrigerator half an hour before cooking.  Sprinkle chicken generously with sea salt and cracked black pepper.

Pre heat oven to 200C,  or 180C fan forced. Roast chicken for 1 hour, baste with juices half way through. Remove from oven and set aside for 10 minutes before cutting chicken into pieces. Skim the fat off the juices left in the cooking pan and spoon the juices over chicken. Serve with couscous and chopped fresh parsley.

 

Fast couscous – serves 4

Ingredients

1 cup couscous

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 cup boiling vegetable stock

Sea salt and cracked black pepper

Place cous cous in a medium bowl, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover with boiling stock, stir, and stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving.