Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Bottling some winter sunshine

I've just enjoyed a week's holiday in glorious sunshine in Morocco so have been feeling the blues since I got back and all it seems to do is rain.

The other day I made some preserved lemons - thanks for the recipe to Alice Barnsdale who lives in Fez. It is so easy and really feels like you're bottling sunshine. For those of you who haven't tried preserved lemons, they are an essential ingredient of many Morrocan dishes - especially tagines and couscous. I have the Moro Cookbook (highly recommended - stick it on your Christmas list!) and have been frustrated by how many recipes need preserved lemons and had never got round to hunting them down (although I think Waitrose sells them).

Anyway making your own is a 5 minute job. Here's how:

Put 2 tablespoons of coarse salt in the bottom of a large sterilised jar. Get about seven or eight fresh lemons and slice them not quite in half, lengthways, leaving the halves still attached at the bottom. Make another slice at right angles to the first - again leaving the quarters attached at the base. Pull the sides apart gently (keeping them still attached at the bases) and cover the insides generously with salt. Rub more salt on the outsides and then squash them down inside a large sterilised jar. Cram in as many as you can fit, letting the juice flow. Top up with a bit more lemon juice to ensure the fruit is covered and a couple more tablespoons of salt. Seal the lid tightly. Turn upside down after a couple of days to get the juices flowing. Leave the lemons for a month or two then they are ready to use. Once opened store in the fridge - they'll last up to six months. When you come to use them rinse the salt off and you're ready to go. 'Easy peasy lemon squeezy!' (first time I've used that expression in a relevant context!).

You can add ingredients to spice it up a bit - for example coriander seeds, cinnamon, peppercorns, bayleaf, chilli - but I decided to go for the unadorned purity of the lemons!

Clare F

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