Sunday, 9 February 2014

Preserved Lemons

The supermarkets and grocery stores are full of citrus fruits at this time of year. As I have mentioned many times before, lemons are, in my opinion, an essential ingredient for any cook. A couple of squeezes of fresh lemon juice will perk up any savoury dish and it also has a wide range of uses in baking and sweet dishes. As you can see, I am quite a fan of the humble lemon!

Preserved lemons are used in many Moroccan dishes, most famously tagines, where their sour pungency cuts through the richness of other ingredients used. Many recipes for preserves lemons employ a method whereby the lemons are preserved in salt and vinegar. Whilst these are delicious, the saltiness can sometimes linger, even when the lemons have been rinsed beforehand and they can skew the flavour balance of the recipes in which they are used.
 
This recipe for preserving lemons avoids that problem as no salt is used, but rather the lemons are preserved in a light sugar syrup with added spices and aromatics courtesy of the inclusion of coriander seeds, bay leaves and fresh chillies.

This is a really useful condiment to have in the kitchen cupboard and is incredibly easy to prepare.
 

Ingredients:

9 smallish sized lemons
1 litre water
300g granulated sugar
Juice of ½ lemon
4 bay leaves
1 long, thin red chilli pepper, quartered lengthways
1tsp coriander seeds
 

Method:

1. Wash the lemons and scrub them with a vegetable brush.
2. Put the whole lemons into a large saucepan with the water, sugar and lemon juice. Bring up to the boil and then reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Simmer the lemons for half an hour.
3. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow to cool.
4. When the lemons are cool enough to handle, remove from the syrup with a slotted spoon and using a sharp knife cut into quarters. Carefully remove any lemon pips that you come across and discard.
5. Pack the quartered lemons into a sterilised jar (1litre capacity) along with the chilli, coriander seeds and bay leaves.
6. Reheat the syrup and bring up to the boil. Allow to bubble away for 7-10 minutes until it has reduced by about a third. Strain into the jar containing the lemons. Seal the jars and when cool, store in a dark cupboard for at least three weeks before using. Once opened, refrigerate.

Makes 1 x 1lt jar.