In case you missed the January issue of Waitrise Weekend with my lovely lemon recipes, here they are online.
I love lemons for their ability to be both exotic and so familiar at the same time. We’ve been cooking with them for a very long time. Originally from southern Asia, they arrived in North Africa and southern Europe with the Moors a thousand years ago. By the 15th century lemons had become popular in northern Europe, and records show the cultivated fruit arriving in England by the end of the century, shipped from the Azores. Lemons were valued not only for their astringent flavour with a place in so many dishes and drinks but also for its therapeutic properties. In the 17th century lemons were first recognised for their ability to prevent scurvy amongst seamen. The fruit has so many uses, both culinary and non-culinary, I couldn’t begin to list them here.
Lemon trees bloom throughout the year and the fruit is picked from six to ten times, which is why they are such a useful winter ingredient. At this time of year, our lemons come from the flowering the previous spring – ‘primafiore’ lemons – and with their glorious bright skin colour and scented skin and flesh, after the heavy foods of the festive season, cooking with lemon adds a ray of sunshine and a boost of zingy flavour to everyday dishes. I’ve chosen to use them here in three favourite savoury dishes that are lifted to another plane by the presence of our favourite citrus.
Pork and pine nut meatballs with lemon and rosemary
I love the way the lemon cuts through the rich pork, making this dish taste so fresh tasting. I either serve them as shown with a salad or toss with spaghetti…
Serves 4/Prepare 20 minutes/Cook 20 minutes
1 unwaxed lemon
500g pork mince
2 – 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large egg, beaten
2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted and chopped
2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp plain flour, seasoned
4 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped
400g can plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
watercress and spinach salad and extra virgin olive oil to serve
1 Grate the lemon rind and squeeze the juice. Mix the mince, half the garlic, egg, rosemary, pine nuts, lemon rind, half the lemon juice and seasoning together in a mixing bowl until thoroughly combined. The easiest way to do this is with your hands. Roll into 20 – 24 walnut-sized balls. Cover and chill while you make the sauce.
2 Heat a tablespoon of oil in a medium pan, add the anchovies, chilli and remaining garlic. Stir over a high heat for 30 seconds then add the tomatoes and seasoning and simmer for 10 minutes until you have a thick sauce.
3 Roll the meatballs in the flour. Heat the remaining oil in a non-stick frying pan and fry the meatballs in batches for 5 – 6 minutes until browned on all sides and nearly cooked through. Drain on kitchen paper and add to the tomato sauce. Simmer gently for 5 minutes. Serve with watercress and spinach salad dressed with the remaining lemon juice and a splash of extra virgin olive oil.
Busy mum’s tip: If short on time use one of the ready-made chilled tomato sauces for pasta such as Waitrose cherry tomato and basil sauce
Sticky lemon, soy and honey roast guinea fowl
I’m cooking guinea fowl more often these days as one bird is just the right size for two of us. This marinade is a variation on an old family favourite with cumin and honey from my first Busy Mum’s Cookbook and works just as well. It’s a great all in one dish that only needs a salad or green veg to make a complete meal
Serves 4/Prepare 10 minutes plus marinating/Cook 1 ¼ hour
2 tbsp cold pressed rapeseed oil
2 tbsp runny honey
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp ground ginger
1 small piece of root ginger, sliced
1 large guinea fowl or free range chicken
1 Mix together the oil, honey, soy sauce, ground ginger with seasoning. Squeeze the juice of half the lemon and cut the squeezed half into slices. Add to the marinade then our over the guinea fowl and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 15 minutes (ideally for an hour or more if you have time).
2 Heat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Remove the bird from the marinade. Place the other lemon half and the root ginger inside the guinea fowl and put in a deep roasting tin that is a neat fit.
3 Pour over 150ml boiling water and roast in the oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 180C Gas mark 4 for a further 45 – 60 minutes, basting regularly until the guinea fowl is cooked through, the skin is golden and the juices run clear when the thigh is pierced with a skewer. Remove from the oven and leave to stand for 10 minutes. Carve and serve with the juices spooned over the meat.
Busy mum’s tip: Cook wedges of sweet potato around the chicken for an all-in-one easy roast.
Roast cauliflower with lemon caper salsa verde
I have become a cauliflower addict over the last few years. No longer the boring veg with cheese, I now roast it, curry it or add it to soup and stews. This method of cooking is so simple and easy and retains lots of nutrients and flavour.
Serves 2 as a supper or 4 as a starter or vegetable accompaniment/Prepare 15 minutes/Cook 40 minutes
1 large cauliflower or 2 small ones
2 unwaxed lemons
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp capers
20g walnut pieces
½ 25g pack flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 Preheat the oven to 200C gas mark 6. Remove the outer leaves from the cauliflower and cut vertically into slices about 1.5cm thick. Arrange in a single layer in a roasting tin. Cut one of the lemons in half and cut into thin slices. Tuck these amongst the cauliflower then drizzle with half the olive oil, juice from the other half of the lemon and seasoning. Cook in the oven for 30 – 40 minutes, turning once, until tender and golden brown.
2 While the cauliflower is cooking, finely chop the garlic, capers and walnuts either by hand or in a processor – just take care not to over-process. Place in a bowl and stir in the parsley, grated rind of the other lemon with its juice, remaining oil and plenty of seasoning.
3 Remove the cauliflower from the oven and arrange on a warm serving plate then drizzle over the salsa verde and serve.
Busy mum’s tip: This is also good served at room temperature as a salad. Try the recipe with broccoli or cavolo nero as an alternative
Three quick ideas with lemons
Tuna and lemon spaghetti
My favourite quick supper for two – flake the meat from a 70g can Charles Bassett white tuna in extra virgin olive oil. Mix with the oil from the can, the grated rind and juice of 1 lemon, 1 tbsp finely chopped capers, a seeded and chopped red chilli and a handful of chopped flat leafed parsley (in summer I sometimes use fresh basil). Toss with freshly cooked spaghetti, season and serve.
Ginger lemon pudding
Whisk double cream until just thick then whisk in grated lemon rind and juice and sugar to taste. Dunk gingernut biscuits in a little amontillado or cream sherry then layer up in glass dishes with the lemon mixture. Chill overnight to let the flavours meld and enjoy one of my favourite tastes of the 70s.
Baked fish with lemon roast potatoes
This is one of my favourite ways to cook fish. Mix thinly sliced charlotte potatoes with a third of their weight of thinly sliced lemon. Toss in olive oil and seasoning adding a clove or two of chopped garlic if you want to and spread over the base of a shallow roasting tin, tucking several fresh bay leaves among the potatoes. Cook in a really hot oven until almost tender and golden at the edges then arrange any kind of fish fillets or whole cleaned fish on top (skin side up if skin on), drizzle with a little olive oil and bake until cooked through.