I ’ve got lemons coming out of my ears! It’s not a medical condition but one of the great joys of living on a Mediterranean island like sunny Majorca. Being able to stroll down a sun kissed garden to pluck a fresh, golden lemon from a tree feels like you’ve just won the lottery (you can tell I’m very easy to please!) And it’s one of the first things friends would comment on, back in the day when visiting was a more carefree option, insisting on taking a few home with them to brighten their G&T’s back in the UK, evoking happy memories of our sunnier climes.
Because lemons grow so prolifically across Majorca, and as we have always had a tree or two since moving here, the idea of actually ‘buying’ lemons feels really strange. But, nevertheless, there comes a time in the season when all the golden fruit has dropped and the branches are relatively bare. OK, there are still lemons growing up there, but they are very small, and green, which is when visitors are usually convinced we have lime trees growing in the garden. Wrong! But I must admit, I was also once fooled by that same lemon/lime confusion.
Luckily, that period when we ‘do’ need to buy lemons here in Majorca is very brief, and lasts hardly any time at all. Thankfully, our trees at the moment are once again bursting with bounty, and the big problem now is – what do we do with them all?
It seems such a shame to simply watch them drop and rot, so you have to think of creative ways to ‘utilise!’ The obvious, is to slice them and freeze in bags for drinks.
Vibrant, golden lemons also make wonderful house decorations, piled high and displayed in statement vases, large glass bowls and containers. But, like any home grown fruit, being organic and without commercial ‘waxing’, they can tend to ‘mould’ quickly so they don’t last too long as a decorative feature, unless you are Damien Hurst and into the aesthetic beauty of decay!
With a regular glut of lemons to deal with, I am always looking for new ways to use them, and scour recipe books. Usually it reads - take the juice and rind of one lemon!!! Well, that won’t make much of a dent in the harvest will it? “Take two lemons!” Ah! Now that’s more like it. But the general trouble with lemons is that because they are ‘tart to the tastebuds’ you never need that many in any recipe. Even a batch of lemon curd only uses 3 or 4 lemons, yet all that sugar and butter that goes with it, puts me off a bit. Same with most lemon puddings that usually require heaps of the sugary stuff.
Personally, I quite like that tart ‘kick’ you get when sucking on a fresh lemon, or squeezing the fruit across almost anything and everything that needs a specific ‘zing’. In my youth, I would frequently suck on a lemon wedge then grin up at the sun for ten minutes in an attempt to whiten my teeth. I read about that in a Hollywood annual, back in the day before Simon Cowell and celebrity gnashers looked like sparklingly bleached bathroom tiles.
For years now, I have been making a delicious drink, which started off as an organic remedy against the affects of pollen pollution, which has now become a staple drink in the household, particularly at bedtime. Lemon drinks have always been renowned for their ability to sooth coughs, clear chests, and reduce mucus. Sweetened with honey they make a great, ‘natural’ tonic. The aroma of lemon also has mood enhancing properties which apparently provide the body with a specific energy when it hits the senses.
My lemon drink also uses one whole lemon per day (Yeah! That adds up to a massive seven lemons used per week) and is so easy to prepare. Here’s what I do.
Lemon drinks and tip!
Wash, then slice one whole lemon into a Pyrex jug (or other vessel which can go into a microwave later). Slice a good inch of fresh ginger, no need to peel, then cover with enough boiling water to serve two decent mugs, and leave (covered) to steep for at least one hour or longer. When you want to drink it, reheat the contents in a microwave, strain and add plenty of honey to taste. It’s very tangy and lemony! I always re-use the same lemon and ginger for a second brew, leaving it all day, or overnight for a more intense infusion. It’s great for soothing throats, and a refreshing change from tea. Moving on . . . more top tips for using an excess of lemons is to soak a cotton ball in lemon juice and leave it in your refrigerator (on a saucer). Smells wonderful! Rub half a lemon over your chopping board after cutting onion, garlic or fish to remove odours and make it smell brand new. Rub half a lemon around your sink and leave for ten minutes before rinsing – smells so fresh.
Sticky lemon chicken
My latest favourite recipe utilizing those gilded lemons is Chicken wings with lemon and honey dressing. Ingredients: 400g chicken wings. 1 lemon. 3tbsp extra virgin olive oil. 4 sprigs fresh thyme. 1 head of garlic cut in half. A pinch smoked paprika. 3tbsp honey. 2 tbsp fresh coriander leaves. Pinch of dried chillies to taste. Salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Method: Bring a pan of water to the boil, add chicken wings and boil for five minutes only. Drain on kitchen paper. Zest the lemon, then halve it and squeeze out juice. Reserve lemon shells. Heat oil in frying pan over high heat. Add chicken wings, thyme, squeezed lemon shells, garlic and chillies if using. Sauté everything for ten minutes until golden then sprinkle with paprika and drizzle with lemon juice and honey. Season with salt and pepper.
Continue to sauté until chicken is cooked through and liquid is reduced and sticky. Make sure the wings and lemon shells are fully coated and caramelized with the glaze. Add the lemon zest at the end and sprinkle with fresh coriander before serving. It may only use one lemon from the ample harvest but it’s yummy! And yes, you can eat the caramalised lemon shells!
Another little gem for lemon lovers is Preserved Lemons, so easy to prepare and delicious when used to zing up Moroccan or Middle Eastern dishes. You’ll need 4 lemons, sea salt, and a clean jar. Method: Slice 2 of the lemons into1/4 inch discs. Salt the bottom of a clean, sterilized jar and begin layering the lemon slices, salting generously between each slice. As a guide, you’ll need around 1 desert spoon of salt per lemon. When jar is filled, press slices down to compress then cover completely with juice of remaining 2 lemons. It is important that the slices are submerged. (I usually decorate jar with a few fresh bay leaves) Weigh the slices down under the brine using use one of the juiced lemon halves placed on top, so that when you secure the lid on your jar, the lemon slices are pressed down and kept submerged. Keep in a cool place for 2 weeks then store in a refrigerator. Preserved lemons will last indefinitely as long as there is brine covering them. How easy is that?