The Amazing world of Lemons

Lemon… wonderful wonderful lemon, impossible to live without it.

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I have been growing lemons in pots, bloody great huge black terracotta pots, I have done all that’s possible to nurture them… squeemish folk, look away now! I have even given them some nitrogen and urea from a very special source. I trimmed them, shaped them, topped up and nourished their soil, picked them up when they blew over in the wind, I watered them throughout the summer, I waxed poetic when the amazing aroma of the lemon flowers perfumed the air. I watched as the flowers turned into swelling buds and mourned when one or two fell to the ground. In the end they all bore fruit, one in particular seemed to have a need to be prodigious and a crop of maybe 50 lemons from a potted tree, not bad!!! The other two, did indeed bless the garden with some of their fruit, but by comparisson to the first tree, king amongst lemons, their efforts were paltry.

 

I waited and watched as the lemons turned from yellow/green to a vibrant lemon, I sniffed them to get nose fulls of the perfect aroma of a fully ripe lemon and then today, with old fashioned cane basket in hand, I picked them.

 

I was artful, I also picked some with leaves, somehow the leaves say that they are natures own, glorious specimens of natural lemonhood. Assuming of course you do not think that my offering each morning from deeply personal sources, transgresses this possibility. I hope not, I assure you that very little that is not organic and the very best found, passes these lips and one would expect that waste products would be of some high standard?

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Picking the lemons was a sort of yesterday experience, I felt as if I should have dressed up a little and clutched my basket over the left arm whilst lovingly reaching for pristine fruits dripping with possibilities with my right hand. I gave it my best shot, but I suspect I fell woefully short of the romantic novelists perceptions.

 

I realy did want to capture the essence… the freshness, the now of the lemons. I have done preserved lemons before, and in some ways they seemed alright, but that is not quite good enough. I suspect that I had followed recipes that were not quite right, or, as is my want, combined a technique or two and came up with a garbled version that owed nothing to any place known. This time I am determined to explore the Moroccan way.

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The complexities are… salt, lemon juice, boiling water, oil or not. There are two very distinct methods that I can find, one that has you soaking the lemons having sort of bruised the skins (this is to open the pores of the lemon) with water changes every day, for three days, then cutting them as per all methods, into quarters down to 2 cm from the base and filling the cuts with lavish amounts of salt, packing them into jars, pouring boiling water over them, lidding them while the water is very hot and placing them in  a dark place for six weeks. The second has none of the water bath or boiling water, but the salt is more lavish even. Simply trim off the lemons top and bottom ( I suggest that the top is the bit that attached to the tree if that helps) cut into quarters as per above, fill with as much salt as you can ram into the cuts and the lemons packed into jars, as they are packed a few peppercorns and some bay leaves, a shred or two of cinnamon are added. The jar can continue to be filled with the lemons and when done, a handful or two of extra salt added. For the next three or four days, you are told to press down on the lemons to encourage them to give up their juice.  After four days, it will be necessary to top up the jar with extra juice to ensure that the lemons are coverd. If they are not covered, they will grow mould.

 

My mistake in the past was to use a bit of the Mediterranean approach and top them off with oil. The oil has this tendency to become rancid and that taste is evident in the lemons. Some will also use vinegar as the acid, this then takes the fruit to another place and is not the true salt cured lemons so loved of the Arab table.

 

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This is a short list of what can be done with lemons… in case you have been hiding under a rock for some time!!

 

WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH A LEMON

*use lemon juice instead of vinegar in any recipe.

*if you want instant sour milk, add a squeeze of lemon to some fresh milk.

*brush lemon juice onto any fruit or vegetable that discolours with the air.

*try lemon juice on grilled or roasted meats.

*drizzle lemon juice with lots of parsley onto grilled fish.

*add lemon zest or juice to any fruit you are eating fresh or stewing.

*mix some lemon zest into meat balls for a new flavour.

*use lemon zest in cake cream fillings.

*try the lemon pasta recipe.

*have wedges of lemon on offer with any rich meat dish.

*make a great lemon ice cream and serve it in the lemon shells.

*instead of icing a cake, make a lemon syrup and pour it over a hot cake.

*add lemon zest to stuffing’s for poultry or game.

 

I love a great Lemon Meringue Pie…. although with some reservations, they cannot be slimming.

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The pastry for the pie, take your pick…

 

Pate Brisee (The French Version Of Shortcrust)

a plastic or metal scraper is useful for this job.

200gr (6 1/2oz) plain flour

100gr (3 1/2oz)  of cold butter cut into smallish pieces

1 egg yolk

1/2 tspn salt

2 tspn sugar (for sweet crusts)

45 mil (1 1/2fl oz)cold water or more if necessary

Sift the flour onto a work surface, make a well in the centre. Add the butter that you have flattened a little with the egg yolk, slat and sugar.

 

Using your finger tips, begin to draw the flour in from the edge, working in the butter, egg yolk, salt and sugar, add the water as you go. Keep working with your fingers until coarse crumbs are formed. Scrape these together with your scraper to prepare for kneading. Lightly flour the work surface and begin to knead the dough with the heel of your hand. 1 – 2 minutes is enough and the dough should now be very smooth. Shape into a ball and chill for 30 minutes. Roll and use. Alternatively, toss the whole lot into a food processor and blend but not too much and then ball and chill.

Variations…

*for a savoury pie dough, substitute 45gr (1 1/2oz) of lard for the half the butter and use a whole egg.

* for a different savoury flavour, substitute 30 – 45mil (1 – 1 1/2floz) sour cream for water.

 

Pate Sucree

This is a shortcrust sugar pastry used only for sweet tarts. It is made in exactly the same way as pate brisee.

100gr (3 1/2oz) flour

100gr (3 1/2oz)  cold unsalted butter cut into small pieces

100gr (3 1/2oz)  caster sugar

4 egg yolks

1/2 tspn salt

1/2 tspn vanilla essence

Sift the flour onto a work surface, make a well in the centre. Pound the butter to soften it .

 

Add the butter and the rest of the ingredients to the well and begin to bring the flour in from the edges to mix with your fingertips until coarse crumbs are achieved. Use the pastry scraper to form into a ball, knead for 1 – 2 minutes and chill for 30 minutes before rolling into shape. See above, toss it into the processor and blend but not too much. The rolling is a little more difficult with the high sugar content.

Variations..

*substitute 90 gr (3oz) of crushed nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts for 1/2 the flour, omit two of the egg yolks.

* for many Italian pastries, the same recipe, but add the grated rind of one lemon with the vanilla.

 

I used a 20 cm pie tin in the end and both will make enough.

 

The lemon pie filling… this was going to become a major conundrum, there were so many recipes and each one varied. I even discovered one by one of Australia’s more successful food entrepreneurs, which had milk as opposed to water. I must say the milk aspect did not appeal. In the end, I used the following..

3 lemons

3/4 cup of lemon juice and the rind grated from all three lemons

1 1/2 cups of water

1/4 cup of cornflour

1/4 cup of plan flour

1 cup of caster sugar

40 grams of butter in a small dice

6 egg yolks (keep the whites unless plastic wrap for the meringue)

Place all in a basin and beat well, I used a wire whisk and place over the pan of boiling water and cook until very thick. Put a piece of plastic sheet over the top of the mixture (right down on the mix) and allow to cool. be aware that there are dozens and dozens of very different variations on this theme, one of my daughters made the same pie and her lemon filling refused to set, I urge you to be careful.

 

To complete the Lemon meringue, roll out the pastry and place in the pie tin, preheat the oven to 180°c (allow a good 20 minutes for this to happen) and then blind bake the shell… place a piece of baking paper over the pastry and either use some rice or beans to weigh it down, remember to prick the base of the pastry with a fork to allow the air to escape. Bake covered for 18 minutes, remove the baking paper and rice and cook a further 6 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

 

To Make the meringue, take the six egg white and beat them until stiff peaks occur, slowly add 1 1/2 cups of caster sugar beating well after each addition until a glossy, thick meringue is made. Hopefully you will not have turned the oven off.

 

Take the cooled shell and pile the lemon filling into the base, top then with the meringue (its kind of traditional to use a knife and create some sort of wind blown wave effect by kind of lifting and flicking it up … gently) cook for about 10+ minutes until the meringue is slightly golden and turn off the oven, allow to cool in the oven for 30 minutes and then remove to cool completely, remove from the pie tin onto a place and serve.

 

These are some favourite Lemon Recipes…

 

Lemon Honey

Strain the juice of 4 lemons. Add the grated rind of 1 lemon. Mix with 600mls water. Add 1kg sugar.

Cook till the honey is thoroughly thickened. Pour into jars and seal.

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Lemon Slice, this one from New Zealand

The recipe I have allows that you can throw a handful of dessicated coconut into the egg mix if you want a variation.

2 cups of flour (plain)

1/2 cup icing sugar

150 grams butter

3 eggs

1/4 cup lemon juice (juice of two lemons usually)

zest of 2 lemons

1 1/2 cups caster sugar

1/4 cup SR flour.

 

Preheat the oven to 160 c (will take 15 to 20 minutes)

Place flour. icing sugar, butter (not too chilled) in a food processor and blend until a ball is formed.

Line a slice tin (35 x 20 cm) with some baking paper, its easier aznd then press the mix in until flat. Bake for 20 minutes, remove from oven.

Place the rest of the ingredients into the food processor and blend till well combined, (if you are adding some coconut, dont do it before processing, just fold it through after).

Place the filling on top of the copoked base and return to the oven for 15 – 20 minutes until it feels set in the middle.

Slice when warm, but don’t remove from the tin till cold.

Have it with a nice pot of tea.

 

A true example of the slices and cooking of the 50’s

Lemon Coconut Slice

This requires no cooking apart from leting the ingredients together.

1/2 tin of sweetened condensed milk

125 grams of butter

250 grams of arrowroot biscuits (crushed)

1 tspn of lemon rind

1 cup of dessicated coconut

 

Warm the butter and condensed milk together until blended, mix into the crushed biscuits with the lemon rind and coconut. Press this into a greased lamington tin and chill for one hour, top with the following icing.

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1 3/4 cups of icing sugar

3 tablespoons lemon juice

15 grams butter

2 tabblespoons dessicated coconut for the top.

 

Blend icing sugar, lemon juice and butter to a smooth mix and pour onto the slice, scatter with the coconut.

 

This one is called Lemon Delicious…

Tin size 26 x 16 cm is about right.

Preheat the oven to 180 c (20 minutes)

Base.

150 grams Butter chopped

1/2 tspn vanilla extract

1/3 cup caster sugar

1 tblspn cornflour

1 1/3 cups plain flour

 

Melt the butter, stir in the vanilla, sugar and sifted flours, stir with a wooden spoon until a dough is formed. Press into the base of the butter tin and cook for 15 – 20 minutes until golden. Cool.

 

Filling.

4 eggs

1 tspn finelygrated lemon zest

1/3 cup plain flour

1 1/3 cups of caster sugar

2/3 cup lemon juice.

 

Whisk the eggs, lemon rind, flour and sugar together until smooth, add the lemon juice, whisk to combine. Pour over the base and bake for 15 minutes until set.

Cool completely in the pan, dust with icing sugar and cut into 24 slices.

 

English Lemon Curd recipe

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4 eggs and 4 extra egg yolks

200 grams caster sugar

juice of six lemons and the zest of three

150 grams of unsalted butter (but salted is ok if thats all you have) cut into small cubes

 

Whisk the eggs and egg yolks along with the sugar, lemon juice and rind, add the butter and place all into a heat proof bowl over some simmering water, whisking gently, the curd should be cooked in about 12 minutes and should be the thickness of a good custard.

Bottle the curd and seal, Keep in the refrigerator. use within 2 – 3 weeks.

 

This is a rare and interesting pudding

Sussex Pond Pudding

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Ingredients

225g self-raising flour

60g beef suet

150ml milk

115g butter

1 lemon, weighing 100-1 50g

150g-demerara sugar

175g apples, peeled, cored and segmented

2 dessertspoons currants

2 dessertspoons raisins or sultanas

 

Method

 

Mix the flour and suet together in a bowl. Make softish dough with the milk. Roll the dough out into a large circle. Cut a quarter out of the circle and put to one side: this will make the lid of the pudding. Butter a 1 .5 liter pudding basin lavishly with a good 15g of the butter. Drop your three-quarter circle of pastry into the bowl, and press the cut side together to make a perfect join.

 

Prick the lemon all over with a needle. Mix together the butter/sugar/apple and dried fruit.  Put half in the bottom of the pastry-lined bowl. Place the lemon on top of the mixture, and then add the

rest of the ingredients. Roll out the last of the pastry. Press the edges together so that the mixture is fully enclosed.

 

Cover the pudding with greaseproof paper or foil, pleated in the middle to allow for expansion, and then tie tightly with string under the rim. Loop the string ends over and tie on the opposite side to make a handle. Stand on a trivet or saucer in a deep saucepan and pour in boiling water until it

reaches halfway up the bowl. Keep at a steady simmer for 3 1/2 hours, adding more boiling water if necessary.

 

When cooked, remove the foil, run a knife round the inside of the bowl, cover with a large plate and invert and remove the bowl. Take the whole pudding to the table and cut and serve it there. Make sure everyone gets a piece of the lemon skin and a good share of its juice.

 

A cake made with Almond Meal and Lemon and then a lemon syrup..

Almond cake

50g plain flour

200g almond meal

11/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

4 eggs

190g castor sugar

250g unsalted butter, at room temperature cut into large chunks

11/2 tsp vanilla extract

3/4tsp of almond essence

11/2 large lemons finely grated zest

Lemon Syrup

150g of castor sugar

2 lemons zest, cut into 1cm wide strip

125ml of lemon juice, strained

250ml of water

 

Please note – I did not have almond essence and did not like the taste or aroma of almond essence and so removed it. I guess it became less of an “almond” cake…. but I have no love for almond essence. Or could you tell me where I can get hold of some really good almond essence that does not smell or taste so overly sickening?

 

Preheat oven to 160C.

Butter a 20cm square cake tin and line the base with buttered line paper (I used a loaf tin as I did not have a square cake tin). Dust the tin lightly and set aside.

 

Put the flour, almond meal, baking powder and salt into a food processor. Whiz them together for 20 seconds, then tip into a bowl.

 

Add the eggs and sugar to the processor and whiz them together for 1 min or until they are light and creamy, scrape in the butter and whiz for another 40 seconds. The mixture will look like curdle, but it is fine. Stop the processor, add the vanilla and almond essence and lemon zest and blitz for another 10 seconds.

 

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in the food processor and pulse until they are mixed. Do not over pulse. Scrape the sides to make sure all is well mixed. Scoop the mixture and smooth out in tin. Bake for one hour or until a fine skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

 

Meanwhile, prepare the lemon syrup. Place all ingredients into a pot over a high heat. Stir until all sugar is dissolved. Then stop stirring and allow it to come to boil. Let it bubble fairly quickly for 10 – 12 minutes or until it looks thicker and like syrup. Then off heat and set aside. Keep warm.

 

When the cake is ready, cool the cake in the tin on a wire rack for 10mins. Invert onto the rack and remove the paper. Now brush half the lemon syrup. Reserve the rest of the syrup including the zest. Leave the cake to cool completely.

 

To serve, you may serve with double cream and the remaining lemon syrup and zest.

 

The cake can store well for about 1 week in the fridge. Warm it slightly before serving

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I think that about does lemons for a bit.

 

Peter Watson

August 2012

 

 

 

 

 

~ by peterwatsonfood on August 13, 2012.

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