I love cooking with preserved lemons. The flavour is so unique that it's hard to describe. The taste is almost a softened, mellow, sharp bitterness - crystal clear! I brought some preserved lemons back from my trip to Marrakech last year (see the post here) and use them often. About a year ago I decided to make my own preserved lemons, and I recently opened the jar and was thrilled with the result. They are super easy to make, and look great in jars. You can make them now and they'll be ready to eat after 1-2 months.
A flick through any of the Ottolenghi or Moro Cookbooks will yield many recipes for using preserved lemons. They should also feature in any middle eastern cookery book. In Marrakech I was taught to make a gorgeous chicken tagine with preserved lemons. I've replicated it at home in my slow cooker by throwing in chicken thighs, chopped red onion, slices of lemon, crushed garlic cloves, a roughly chopped preserved lemon, a generous amount of ground cumin, coriander seeds, some cardamom pods and lemon anise, a drizzle of honey and enough water so that the chicken is almost covered. I then cook the lot on a low heat for 3-4 hours. So easy and so delicious with steaming couscous.There are instructions for how to make preserved lemons in the first Ottolenghi book, the Casa Moro book and also Claudia Roden's "Arabesque". I made mine following a recipe from an Australian book by Lucy and Greg Malouf "Moorish". This quantity makes enough to fill one 2L jar. I used two slightly smaller jars (in their former life they were filled cabbage at my local grocer). You can also do this with limes.
1.5kg thin skinned lemons
350g sea salt
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, lightly crushed
2 cinnamon sticks
2 lemon leaves or bay leaves
2 tablespoons honey
250ml lemon juice
750ml warm water
Wash and dry the lemons. Cut them into quarters lengthways - don't cut all the way through, leaving the 4 quarters joined at the base of the lemon. Place the lemons in a plastic bag in the freezer for 24 hours (this apparently speeds up the maturing process).
Defrost the lemons. Stuff the centre of each lemon with a heaped teaspoon of salt. My book says "arrange neatly in a jar" - I would say, stuff them in as best you can! Sprinkle each layer with more salt and crushed coriander seeds (be generous with the salt). Stuff the cinnamon sticks and leaves into the jar.
Mix the honey and warm water. Pour into the jar so that the lemons are covered. Screw on the lid of the jar.
In a large saucepan, place a piece of cardboard and sit the jar on top (this is to stop the jar from vibrating). Pour warm water until it comes halfway up the sides of the jar. Slowly bring the water to the boil, and then boil for 6 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Take the jar out of the saucepan and keep in a cool, dry place for at least a month (or 12 months in my case). Once opened, keep refrigerated.
As always, enjoy!