Preserved Lemons are a common staple of North African and Moroccan cuisine and are nothing more than lemons that have been cured in salt for a few days/weeks. This is a great way to use up an abundance of lemons and have them for use later in the year. After a few short days soaking in salty lemon juice, the lemon peel is softened and bursting with lemony goodness.
What lemons to use:
You can use any lemons, but Meyer lemons are supposedly the closest to those traditionally used. Choose lemons that will fit inside the mouth of your jar. 4 medium lemons usually fill up a 500ml mason jar. Make sure you scrub your lemons first and choose lemons that have no bruises or blemishes that penetrate the skin.
Enhancing the flavour:
I make a mixture of rock salt and whole spices to stuff the lemons as I love a little more aromatic flavour to them but you can just use plain rock salt if that is all you have. Lemon juice is the usual liquid for filling up the jar although I have also seen water being used. I prefer to use lemon juice. You can also use bottled lemon juice to fill the jar or fresh lemon juice, if you are using fresh lemons, zest them first before you juice them and freeze the zest for using in other dishes.
Some great ideas for using the preserved lemons are:
Grains and Pasta – Hot dishes or Cold salads: Just because preserved lemon is a flavour from the East doesn’t mean you can’t team it with a little bit of Italy, chop up the skin of the preserved lemon and add it with garlic, olive oil and parsley for a simple pasta sauce, add in some green prawns or chicken for a serve of protein or toss through zucchini ribbons and a hand full of fresh spinach or roquette leaves for a vegetarian delight and sprinkle over the shaved parmesan. Grain salads such as quinoa, farro, buckwheat burghal can be brought to life with thin slices of preserved lemon tossed through the grains or blended into a dressing.
Sauces: Chopped pieces of preserved lemon make a fantastic addition to a salad, but I really like to whizz them into tahini, yoghurt, garlic and olive oil for a great sauce to serve with fish, vegetables or as a dip. Treat the preserved lemon-like lemon and add it into sauces where you want a bit of tang. It works really well with dried fruits, creating something special to add into your poaching liquid next time your poaching fruit.
Tagines, Roasts and Slow-cooked dishes: Chicken, lamb, fish and vegetable tagines with preserved lemons are certainly some of the most well-known dishes for these lemons. If you really want to wow your tastebuds, add a couple of slices of the preserved lemon to stuffings, rubs and marinades for your next roast. Be sure to wash the preserved lemon pieces before you use them and taste your dishes before seasoning as the lemons if not washed can add a little more salt than you think.