A little preserved lemon is a wonderful thing, especially in anything vaguely North African. But they are very expensive (a jar of about 10 will, for example, cost you about a fiver in Waitrose or slightly more in Sainsbury’s) and, if you want to make your own, you have to wait two months for the result. So I was intrigued by a recipe in The Modern Pantry Cookbook which suggested that the same flavour, an intense sour saltiness, could be achieved in fifteen minutes. Fifteen! For something that normally takes several weeks. Reader, she wasn’t lying.
This is one of those tricks that is madly simple and brilliantly effective; I am sold. I made the lemon zest last night and tonight I thought of lots of very complicated things to do with it then, exhausted by too many choices, decided to throw some in a sauce for gnocchi. Not sure you can call my dish a ‘recipe’ as such; it was just an idea for something fast and fresh. I softened some garlic and dried chilli in a good splosh of olive oil, then threw in a handful or two of wild rocket (spinach would do too) with a teaspoon of the lemon zest. It was a tad too sour so I added, oddly, a bit more sea salt and some more olive oil, then I stirred the lot into a pan of hot cooked gnocchi with some soft goat’s cheese and black pepper. Bloody delicious.
Fast ‘preserved’ lemon zest (adapted from the Modern Pantry Cookbook)
For about 125ml you will need:
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
sea salt, ½ teaspoon (for every two lemons)
lemons, 2 (if you want to make more then up the salt, another ½ teaspoon for every two lemons)
1. Did I tell you this was easy? It’s dead easy. Zest and juice the lemons then put both juice and zest into a small pan with the salt. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 7-10 minutes until the zest is tender.
2. Leave the liquid to cool then store in the fridge until needed. Use to taste (be careful; it is, as it should be, very sour). The recipe doesn’t say how long this will keep but I imagine it should be okay for a week or three, as long as you don’t double-dip with your finger or a dirty spoon and introduce bacteria into it…