Preserved lemons | Marc Fosh

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I couldn’t imagine my kitchen without fresh lemons; there is no other ingredient that can transform a dish in a single squeeze. Although available all year round, Spanish lemons taste best when left to ripen on the tree and January is the perfect time to enjoy their fabulous aroma. Choose lemons that are brightly coloured and heavy for their size with a thin, undamaged skin. Lemons contain excellent vitamin c, lots of sharp, acidic juice, and also fragrant oil that’s found in the zest.

If you are lucky enough to have a friend with a big lemon tree, they’re probably more than happy to let you take a few off their hands. Once you have a big bag of fresh lemons, it’s time to turn them into one of my all time favourite ingredients…preserved lemons. Known in Morocco as l’hamd marakad (sleeping lemons), many Middle Eastern recipes call for preserved lemons but they are also the perfect condiment for all types of sauces, vinaigrettes and salad dressings.

Making them couldn’t be easier and they will transform any dish you make from something good to something truly amazing! The flavour is mellow yet intensely lemony, with none of the nose-tickling bright high notes of the fresh lemon.

Preserving lemons is also very easy to do, although it does take at least three to four weeks before the lemons are ready to use. On the other hand, they keep practically forever. So if you can just make up your mind one afternoon to spend the 20 minutes it takes to cut, salt and jar them, afterwards you can pretty much forget about them for as long as you like, or until you happen to pick up a middle eastern cookery book and get inspired to cook a tagine!

Start by sterilising a 500ml glass jar and once the jar is cool enough to handle, or on its way there, wash and dry the fruit, remove any stems, and slice the lemons almost in separate quarters lengthwise, stopping just short of the stem end. The aim is to leave four pieces that are still joined over a centimetre or two. Rub the lemons in course salt and pack then tightly in to the Jar.

Bring to the boil the 500ml of water mixed with 300g of salt and remove from the heat. Pour salt water over the lemons and leave chill. Cover with a tight fitting lid. Once you’ve made your preserved lemons, put the jar somewhere cool and dark for at least three weeks, upending it occasionally to redistribute the loose salt, and topping up the juice if the lemons become exposed. Once your peel is soft and ready to use, move the jar to the fridge, where the contents can be keep for around a year or more.

Once they are in your fridge, don’t just forget them. Chop them finely to flavour anything from chickpeas to quinoa, bulgur and couscous. Add them to salad dressings, sauces and dips. A really simple pasta dish with good olive oil, some garlic, and slices of preserved lemons is a beautiful thing and any time you’d normally add some lemon zest or a squeeze of juice, just swap it for preserved lemons to really give your recipes a twist.

Goujons of Sole with Dill-Caper mayonnaise and lemon salt

Goujons of Sole with Dill-Caper mayonnaise and lemon salt

Serves 4

For the goujons

  • 4 large Lemon sole fillets (skinned)
  • 70g Plain flour
  • 150g white breadcrumbs or Panko
  • 2 large free-range eggs
  • 250ml sunflower oil
  • A good pinch of paprika
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper

For the dill mayonnaise

  • 200g Home made mayonnaise
  • 2tbsp chopped dill
  • 2tbsp capers
  • 1tsplime juice
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper

For the dill mayonnaise

1 Put the all the ingredients of the mayonnaise in a blender and blend to a puree.

For the goujons

1 Cut the sole fillets in half lengthways, and then slice each fillet half into about four long strips on the diagonal. This will give you eight goujons from each fillet.

2 Put the flour into a shallow bowl and season with paprika, salt and pepper. Put the breadcrumbs or panko into another shallow bowl, and beat the eggs in an additional bowl.

3 Dip each goujon into the seasoned flour, coating it well, then the beaten egg, and finally the breadcrumbs.

4 Heat the oil in a deed sided pan. Fry the goujons for about 2 minutes, or until crisp and golden. Remove onto pieces of kitchen paper as you go, to get rid of excess oil. Serve with dill-caper mayonnaise, salad leaves and lemon salt.

*Panko is a Japanese-style breadcrumb traditionally used as a coating for deep-fried foods. Panko’s crustless bread is coarsely ground into airy, large flakes that give fried foods a light, crunchy coating. The flakes tend to stay crispier longer than standard breadcrumbs.

Lemon & lime panna cotta with redcurrant granita

Lemon & lime panna cotta with redcurrant granita

Serves 4

Prep time: 15 min

Cooking time: 10 min

Redcurrant and raspberry granita

  • 200g raspberries
  • 200g redcurrants
  • 100ml mineral water
  • 125g icing sugar

Panna Cotta

  • 250ml Cream
  • 500ml Milk
  • 1 Vanilla Pod (split lengthways)
  • 125g Sugar
  • 6 Gelatine Leaves
  • Grated zest & juice from one lemon
  • Grated zest & juice from one lime

Redcurrant and raspberry granita

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend to a rough puree.

Pass through a sieve. Pour the mixture into a large, shallow container and freeze until rock solid. Break up the mixture with a fork, scraping down the length of the container.

Return to the freezer and repeat the process twice more, at half hour intervals, then let it freeze a final time.

When you’re ready to serve, transfer the container to the fridge for 15 minutes so that the granita can soften up a little.

Panna Cotta

Place milk, sugar and vanilla pod in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and set aside to infuse. Add the lemon & lime juice and zest.

Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water, remove the vanilla pods from the milk and add the gelatine. Stir well and pass through a sieve.

Lightly whisk the cream and gently fold into the milk mixture. Pour into moulds.

Transfer to the fridge and leave to set for at least 4 hours.

Chicken tagine with preserved lemons & olives

Chicken tagine with preserved lemons & olives

Serves 4

  • 4 chicken legs, cut in half
  • 200ml chicken stock
  • 3tbsp olive oil
  • 3 red onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2tsp chopped ginger
  • ½tsp saffron
  • ½ cinnamon stick
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ preserved lemon, finely chopped
  • 2tbsp chopped parsley
  • Small bunch of fresh coriander, chopped
  • 3tbsp black olives, stoned

1 Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over a low heat and add the onions and garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the onions just start to soften. Add the chopped ginger, saffron and cinnamon stick followed by the lemon juice and chopped preserved lemons.

2 Fry the chicken legs in a separate pan until golden on both sides and then place the chicken pieces on top of the onions.

3 Pour the chicken stock into the pan, cover tightly and simmer very gently for about 45 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Add the parsley, chopped coriander and black olives. Season to taste and serve.