Back in February I made up a jar of preserved lemons. The recipe couldn’t be easier – or look more beautiful when complete.
6 whole unwaxed lemons (about 1 1/2 lbs)
2 1/2 cups lemon juice
6 tablespoons coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 quart jar
Do try to get unwaxed lemons because it can be very difficult to remove the wax otherwise. Cut the lemons lengthwise into six sections, keeping them attached at the stem, so that the lemon will hold together. Pack 1 tablespoon of salt inside of each lemon. Place lemons and black peppercorns into a sterilized jar and completely fill with lemon juice. Seal the jar and leave to mature for 4 weeks in refrigerator. Rinse lemons before using.
(What I didn’t realise was how much lemon juice you need – half way through I had to dash off for more lemons to make juice to fill the jar!)
The jar has been sitting in the dark of a cool cupboard for a number of weeks now and trying to attract my attention. Eventually it succeeded.
Tagine of chicken with preserved lemons and olives
This recipe is from Claudia Roden’s book Arabesque and is also available on BBC Food. I have always treasured her cookery books and my copy of A Book of Middle Eastern Food is completely dog eared and stained. This was the book from which I learned to make couscous, pitta bread, hummus and baklava, and heard about rosewater and Imam Bayildi for the first time. She included poetry and wisdom from the East and wrote with an exotic passion that struck my youthful heart and made my mouth water.
The original recipe for this tagine includes artichokes and I would think that would be terrific, if I had any artichokes!
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 2 onions, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
½ tsp crushed saffron threads or saffron powder
¼-½ tsp ground ginger
1 chicken, jointed
salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ lemon, juice only
2 tbsp chopped coriander
2 tbsp chopped parsley
2 small preserved lemons, peel only
12-16 green or violet olives, either stoned or left whole
1. In a wide casserole or heavy-bottomed pan that will fit the chicken pieces in one layer, heat the oil and add the onions. Sauté, stirring over a low heat, until softened, then stir in the garlic, saffron and ginger.
2. Add the chicken pieces, season with freshly ground black pepper, and pour in about 300ml/10fl oz of water. Simmer, covered, turning the pieces over a few times and adding a little more water if it becomes too dry.
3. Lift out the breasts after 20 minutes and set aside. Continue to cook the remaining pieces for another 25 minutes, then return the breasts to the pan.
4. Stir in the lemon juice, coriander, parsley, preserved lemon peel and olives. Cook slowly until the sauce reduces a little. Check for seasoning – the preserved lemons may have given all the saltiness required. Serve with the olives and lemon peel on top of the meat.
This is a wonderful dish, fragrant and pungent at the same time, and incredibly easy to make. I served it with plain rice but I considered couscous with apricots. On reflection it really doesn’t need any other distractions; the lemon and coriander and parsley and garlic do a dervish dance in your mouth that is quite delirious enough.