Friday, July 17, 2009

Moroccan Preserved Lemons

Traditionally preserved lemons are used in Moroccan Tagines - conical shaped earthen slow cookers used to braise lamb, infusing it with a wonderfully mellow characteristic citrus flavour. Today preserved lemons are being put to use as a flavouring for butter used on mashed potatoes, to season grilled fish or used in its concentrated full form to spice up sauteed greens, caramelised veggies and even as base for a lemony sorbet!

Super simple to make this home-made version is a cheaper and fresher alternative to store bought version. It takes minutes to make and lasts up to six months in your fridge and will definitely come in handy many a time. This recipe has been taken from culinaire guru David Lebovitz's blog living the Sweet life in Paris.

Ingredients: Lemons (8-10 are recommended to preserve and another 1-2 for juicing); Kosher/ sea salt; Optionally add a stick of cinnamon; couple of coriander seeds; bay leaf; dried chili

Method: Scrub the lemons with a vegetable brush and dry them off. Cut off the little rounded bit at the stem end if there's a hard little piece attached. From the other end of the lemon, make a large cut by slicing lengthwise downward, stopping about 1-inch from the bottom, then making another downward slice, so you've incised the lemon with an X shape.

Pack coarse salt into the lemon where you made the incisions. Don't be skimpy with the salt: use about 1 tbsp per lemon. Put the salt-filled lemons in a clean, large glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Add the optional aromats if using. Press the lemons very firmly in the jar to get the juices flowing. Cover and let stand overnight. The next day do the same, pressing the lemons down, encouraging them to release more juice as they start to soften. Repeat for 2-3 days until the lemons are completely covered with liquid. If your lemons aren't too juicy, add more freshly-squeezed lemon juice until their submerged.

After three weeks to a month the preserved lemons should be soft, and then they are ready to use. Store the lemons in the refrigerator, where they'll keep for at least 6 months. Rinse before using to remove excess salt. To use, simply remove lemons from the liquid and rinse. Split in half and scrape out the pulp. Slice the lemon peels into thin strips or small dices, or squeeze the juice through a sieve to obtain highly concentrated, flavourful juice.

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