Since I mention preserved lemon in about half of the dishes here and as it’s one of my favourite ingredients, I thought I’d give a recipe for it. Given that it is made from just lemons and salt, it unsurprisingly injects dishes with saltiness and a citrus zest. However, it also has an extra dimension, a flavour you can never quite pin down. It’s one of the cornerstones of North African cooking but also brings out the best in Mediterranean and Indian flavours. I use some of the juice in salad dressings and have started using the segments (diced) in Moroccan and Middle Eastern recipes. It can also be used as a basis for sauces, such as tartare, and has a natural affinity with chicken, green vegetables (spinach, French beans) and fish.
2 large lemons
– Cut wedges into a lemon, leaving them all still attached at the bottom. Open it out somewhat and pack a tablespoon of salt into its crevices and then close it up so it looks like an ordinary lemon. Stuff this into a small jar, with a little more salt around the outside and a little on top. Juice the other lemon, remove the pips and pour the juice on top of the segmented lemon in the jar. Stir it a little by poking gently underneath the segmented lemon with a teaspoon.
The salt will dissolve further as the lemon releases more juice. The flavours will mellow and change considerably as it sits – indeed, while it is usable from day one, it will not be fully ‘preserved’ for at least a fortnight. Taste it after a day or two to see if it needs more lemon juice or salt and feed it accordingly. It will last for up to a year.