Preserved lemons are the best. They’re delicious, they’re a delightfully cheerful colour and they can really perk up a dish.
The flavour is fantastic. Despite all the salt it’s really the lemony-ness that gets me – the lemon flavour, especially the sweetness and sunshine (rather than the bitter tones) are really pushed to the fore-front.
Preserved lemons are a staple of Moroccan food (think tagines and harira) but their brilliant, concentrated lemon flavour works really well in a much wider range of dishes. From something as basic as avocado on toast, where the zing and pop of the lemon really shine, to a range of dips and relishes where you might want that deep lemon flavour (without all the liquid of lemon juice) or to really complete otherwise simple dishes like pan-fried aubergine or roast potatoes. Preserved lemons are also spectacular for finishing off a huge range of salads – throw together some greens, grains, chopped preserved lemon and a whizz of olive oil and you’re got something special.
It seems kind of crazy to call a recipe that involves three days of waiting ‘quick’, but in comparison to the usual three weeks of waiting, it kind of is. The usual, old-fashioned way of preserving lemons takes about three weeks – you have to wait for the lemon juice and salt to work their way into the flesh of the lemon and to their magic.
My way is a whole lot quicker. You ‘cheat’ by freezing the lemons first. That breaks down the cells of the lemon and allows the magic to happen a lot faster. Which is handy when your existing supply is dwindling!
This recipe is easy to extend depending on the size of the jar you have handy. You don’t actually need a whole ‘bag’ of salt either – it probably ends up being about a cup or so but it’s handy to have more just in case your lemons are particularly absorbent.
Finally, for the lemons that you’re preserving try to find ones with nice thick skins – it’s the skins that you’ll be focused on eating. Some conservative-preserved-lemon-eaters will tell you that you shouldn’t eat the fruity bits at all, only the skins. I think that so long as the skins are pretty thick, you can get away with eating the whole thing – let me know what you think in the comments and or share your preserved lemon adventure with me on instagram – #melissamieow xxx
Easy (and quick) preserved lemons
Special equipment: a sterile jar
Time: 5 minutes and a minimum of four days of waiting (!)
bag of iodised or plain table salt
Cut three of the lemons into quarters. Place the quarters in a plastic bag and pop in the freezer overnight.
Let the lemons defrost and immediately roll in the salt – make sure all the pieces are well covered.
Squash the lemons and bay leaf into your sterilised jar.
Squeeze the juice of the remaining three lemons over your salted lemons, or enough juice that the salted lemons are (pretty much) covered in juice. Put a cover or lid on the jar and place in the fridge.
In three days your lemons should be ready to eat! If they are still a bit too hard give them another few days.
*if your lemons are very un-juicy you may need a few spares for extra juice