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Preserved Lemon Paste

I always have a jar of homemade preserved lemons in the fridge, as they are a real work horse of an ingredient to have on hand and are incredibly versatile. Until I read the inspiration recipe below, it had never occurred to me to preserve the lemons in olive oil and, not only are these even more delicious than the regular brine preserved lemons, they are much less of an effort to make, with a shorter maturation period before you can use them.

A few months ago, I had a "Eureka!" moment. I blitzed a matured jar of them in the blender -- therefore obviating the chopping and flesh removing portion of using preserved lemon, and ended up with a thick paste that I can simply stir into sauces and dressings, or mix into steamed vegetables like broccoli or green beans, or spoon over poached fish or plain roast chicken. I have even mixed some with some Greek yogurt as a dip with crudités for unexpected guests. Last but not least, a lunch of steamed sweet potato and tahini is delightful, but add a dollop of this paste and...yum....

This recipe makes two to three 8oz mason jars of regular preserved lemon - depending on the size of your lemons -- which you can then blitz into one or two pints of concentrated lemon paste. Either way, make sure you wash the containers that you use well -- fill them with boiling water and then dry them well before using.

3 organic, unwaxed lemons, halved and thinly sliced

3 Tbsps kosher salt

1/2 tsp saffron threads

2 tsps ground cumin

2 tsps crushed coriander seeds

2 tsps crushed pink peppercorns

1 tsp cassia or cinnamon bark, broken into shards

1 tsp ground bay leaf

In a small bowl, mix the salt well with all of the spices. Pour the spice mixture onto a plate.

Place a thin layer of the spice mixture at the bottom of each pint jar.

Dredge each lemon slice generously on both sides in the salt mixture and start layering the slices in your container. Leave 1/2 inch at the top empty.

Once all the lemon slices are salted and in your jars, sprinkle equally with any remaining salt. Pour the olive oil slowly over the top of the lemons, allowing the oil to steep through to the bottom of the container.

Wait 10 minutes and then check to see that all of the lemons are completely submerged and that the oil nearly reaches the top of the jar. If not, add more oil and wait another 10 minutes. Repeat until you are sure that all lemon slices are submerged in oil.

Screw on the tops and place the jars in a dark cupboard for a week. Check the oil level after a couple of days and add more if needed though, if you have been careful about adding oil in the previous step, you should have no need to add more.

You can stop there and use as needed when preserved lemon is called for or you can blitz all of this into a smooth paste in your blender and use as described above or in half doses in any recipe that calls for preserved lemons.

Either way, keep refrigerated once the maturation process is over and this will last a long time. Though, actually, it won't -- you will soon use it in everything!

Inspiration recipe, here.


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