Preserved Lemons

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I have posted a recipe and I am so sorry about that, we’ve moved house so things have been insanely busy. I finally feel as though I have a small amount of time to myself, but that is more often that not spent thinking about all the work I have to do for work, family and sorting out all our stuff! That’s the life of a Mum I guess.

Anyway all is good in our world and spring is almost on our doorstep. Not withstanding another winter blast for us Melburnians! That means Magnolia’s are flowing, the blossoms are blooming and Lemons are bountiful. What will you do with all those lemons? Preserve them of course! They are an essential ingredient to all Moroccan food and add a certain something which I don’t think can be replicated by anything else.

You will need

A big glass jar, preferably one with one of those clip lids and a rubber ring to seal, but a metal or glass lid will work as well.

As many thick skinned lemons as you can lay your hands on.

Salt & Water.

What to do… Wash the lemons and remove the storks. Slice them into quarters, but not all the way through, you need to leave them intact although that said if you need to slice them all the way in half so they’re packed more tightly into the jar then go for it.

Pack them tightly into the jar and I mean TIGHT, squash them down really well, you need to make sure that when you add the water they don’t rise up and become uncovered by the water. If you have any of those plastic lids that covers a baby’s bottle then you can use them to keep the lemons submerged.

Once the lemons are in place add salt and enough water to cover. As a rough guide I would add 3/4 to 1 cup of salt to a jar that would hold about 2 litres of water if it was empty. Seal the jar and stick in a dark cupboard for at least a month or two.

You can also pack them into smaller jars and use them for Christmas presents, the only thing you need to be aware of is to ensure the lemons are submerged under water so they don’t come in contact with any metal surfaces in the lid.

You don’t despite what anyone else tells you need to add bay leaves, pepper corns etc you can if you like but my Moroccan would have a fit 😀

When it comes time to use them again no need to remove the flesh unless you were using the rind in a salad, just make sure you rinse them and don’t be alarmed if there is a funny jelly like substance that rinses away, it’s normal. Also on occasion you do get a layer of mould on the lemons, I think this happens for a few reasons, firstly the jar isn’t sterile and the lemons aren’t completely submerged. The lemons at the bottom should be okay to use.

Fennel, Pea & Lamb Tajine

This is what we had for dinner tonight and it was sensational if I do say so myself! I’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to ensure you get the delicious caramalisation at the end is to watch it for the last 10 or so minutes, or as we did tonight get everyone around the table – dished up the kids serves – then put it back on the heat to reduce the liquid to almost nothing.

The benefits are almost mind blowing, you go from a great meal to a sensational and memorable meal but really the best way to get that is to be there watching it so it doesn’t burn. Trust me it’s worth it however painful it might be, you won’t regret it.

You will need/we used:

4 thick lamb chops, BBQ or forequarter are the best

1 spanish onion, diced

1tsp ground cumin

1tsp smokey paprika

handful of parsley, finely chopped

5 carrots

2 medium size fennel bulbs, cut into quarters

1 1/2 cups peas

What to do:

Add a lug of olive oil into your cast iron pan (one with a lid) and saute, add the chops and sprinkle over half the cumin, paprika and some salt & pepper, brown the chops and turn once, then add the carrots and put the chops on top of them, arrange the fennel over the chops (you may need to cut them into eighths, it just depends on how large they are to begin with). Sprinkle the remaining spices and chopped parsley over the fennel and add about a cup of water. You want to not quite cover the chops. By this time the tajine should almost be at the boil, cover with a tight fitting lid and turn the heat down so it’s just simmering and cook for about an hour, keep checking it though.

About 15 minutes before you think it’ll be ready add the peas, scatter them all over the tajine and cover again. Tonight I turned ours off about 10 mins before I wanted to serve it, thinking it’s ready, I know that the cast iron pan hold it’s heat and I didn’t want it to burn. Hubby says (and he was right damn it) that there was still too much water, so we took out some for the kids and put it back on the heat for another 5 or so mins on high to really reduce the water, I kept tilting the pan so we could see what was left liquid wise and we were left with a sensational meal!

We served it with bread and ate with our hands which is really half the fun and of course reduces the need to wash up loads of dishes 😀

Hope you give this a try and love it as much as we did xx Kate

Lamb & Vegetable Tajine

You can use any vegetables you like for this one from fennel & Peas, Carrots & Cauliflower or Peas & Artichokes, as a guide the recipe below would serve 4 people depending on how hungry everyone is.

2 onions diced
6 forequater lamb chops
4 large potatoes, peeled & cut into rounds
8 carrots, peeled and cut in half length ways if they’re very thick
2 cloves garlic crushed
1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley & coriander chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
1 heaped tsp paprika
Pepper to taste
1 tomato
1 preserved lemon

Take a large cast iron saucepan and saute the onions with spices, herbs, garlic & olive oil for 3 minutes, add the chops and seal, take the chops out, put the carrots on top of the onions, put the chops back in a single layer where possible. Put the slices of potato on top of the chops, season with a little pepper, slice the tomato in half and place in the middle of the stack with the preserved lemon, pour in 150mls of water, cover and allow to gently simmer for at least an hour, longer if possible.
You want to end up with lightly caramillised carrots and a thickish sauce, don’t add salt until the end as the preserved lemons will add salt to the dish, also you can always add more water if required but the tomato will release it’s juices and you therefore shouldn’t need much more. Serve with crusty bread and a salad if required.

Lemon Oil, Pesto Oil, Harissa

So cutting right to the chase, these are very simple and lovely gifts to give for Christmas, when you’re invited for dinner or keep for yourself, they’re quite simple & easy to make, you just need to ensure your bottles are clean & sterilised and slightly warm before you fill them.

Lemon Oil

Lemon Rind from 1 lemon

500 mls Good quality olive oil

Wash the lemon thoroughly and remove the rind with a potato peeler, ensuring there is no pith on the rind, warm the olive oil to 180 degrees with the lemon rind in the pan. Allow to cook slightly and pour into a bottle or jar. Allow to steep for a week, then drain to remove the rind and re bottle. Keep in a cool dark place.

Pesto Oil

Handful of Basil stems

2-3 cloves of garlic

Rind of parmesan cheese.

500 mls good quality olive oil

Wash the stalks of the basil & place into a saucepan with the cloves of garlic & parmesan rind, add the olive oil & bring to 180 degrees, allow to steep and when it’s cooled slightly pour into a large jar and place in a dark cupboard, leave for a week. Then drain and re bottle into sterilised bottles.

Harissa

This is a tear inducing chilli paste that’s native to Morocco, so of course it’s well loved in our house, but not by me, because I don’t do chilli, at least not with this much punch. You will need preserved lemons to make this so if you haven’t already had a go at making them  either buy some, or get on it and a month or so you will be able to make the harissa.

You will need:

15 large red chillies

1 head of garlic

2 preserved lemons

1 Heaped Tbsp Ground Cumin

Olive oil

I would recommend you wear rubber gloves before you start this. Remove the stalks from the chillies, if you want to you can remove the seeds as well, but it’s not necessary, do bear in mind though that with the seeds it’s going to be even more potent.

Peel the garlic & rinse the 2 preserve lemons, in the bowl of a food processor place all the ingredients except for the olive oil. Puree until the ingredients begin to combine, start pouring in the olive oil, you want a chunky consistency, not completely smooth, taste for seasoning, although you shouldn’t need any extra salt as the preserved lemons should have enough residual salt. Add at least a heaped Tablespoon of ground Cumin at this stage. Place into small sterilised jars & cover with a layer of Olive Oil, store in the refrigerator & use in moderation unless you want your socks knocked off!

Serve with bread, your tajines, as part of an antipasto platter or as a dip.

Lamb, Potato & Capsicum Tajine

Our idea of reducing red meat is coming along quite nicely and tonight is the first night in 10 days that we’ve had red meat for dinner. I tried a slightly different approach which did raise the eyebrows of the purist in our house along the lines of not messing with the way you cook Moroccan food. I didn’t really mess with it, I just tweaked a few things to spread the flavour around a bit more. Usually when you cook a tajine the ingredients are layered.

Onions & spices, carrots, meat, potatoes, capsicum, tomatoes. Today I mixed everything together in a bowl first so all the vegies were coated in the spices and then just put the meat & onions in first with the vegies on top, worked a treat and was delicious.

You will need:

2 brown onions

4 medium size potatoes

1 red capsicum

1 large tomato

4 lamb fore quarter chops

1/2 cup chopped coriander

1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley

3 tsp ground cumin

4 tsp paprika

3 tsp salt

freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup water

3Tbsp Olive Oil.

Dice one of the onions and cut the other into bite size pieces, peel the potatoes, cut them, the tomatoes & capsicums into bite size pieces. Put all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl with all the spices & herbs, but not the oil or water.

Place a large pan that has a lid over a medium heat and add the oil, give the ingredients a   good mix with your hands and place the meat pieces & onions into the pan to brown. once they’ve browned slightly on one side, turn over and add the remaining vegetables. Push the potatoes down into the pan, keep the capsicum & tomatoes on the top, add the water and cover, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer & cook for approx 40 mins, you want the liquid to reduce to almost nothing.

A couple of tips: When you add tomatoes & capsicums to a tajine, don’t be tempted to add more water as the liquid from all the ingredients will be released. I use Murray river salt flakes and call me crazy but for some reason they don’t seem as salty as other salt which is why I’ve added 3 teaspoons.

This recipe would easily feed 4 people with 1 chop each, it’s very simple to increase the quantities if you wish to people to have 2 chops each. Just increase the spices by adding an extra 2 tsp of each. You can use any cut of Lamb for this, but I do like to use meat on the bone as I believe it adds more flavour, you could use barbeque chops or diced lamb as well.

Moroccan style beans with tomatoes aka baked beans

So we have had a week of no red meat which has gone really well, and I haven’t missed it at all, I don’t think Hafid has either. It’s been a bit more challenging from a what to cook view-point but that’s always good.

I have also had to take into consideration that beans mean gas and with a toddler that’s not always a good thing, so I cooked the kids pasta (which they devour) and they then proceeded to devour the beans as well. Hafid & I love this dish, it’s quick, easy, tasty & very good for you. You can serve it as dinner, a side dish with Rice, Polenta or Potatoes (but don’t tell H I told you that) we have it with crusty bread to mop up all the sauce and you could have sausages, steak or something similar with it if you like.

I should probably provide a warning with this recipe due to the effects of beans on one’s digestive system 🙂 but really it’s worth the risk! Oh & I don’t think you’ll eat canned baked beans again because these have FLAVOUR!

You will need:

1 medium brown onion, finely diced

2 tins of crushed tomatoes, pureed

1 clove of garlic, crushed

2 tins of cannelli beans, rinsed

1/2 preserved lemon, rinsed but keep the flesh intact

1tsp ground cumin

1tsp smokey paprika

Salt & Pepper to taste

Olive oil

In a large saucepan heat the olive oil and saute the onions, garlic & spices until the onions are translucent. Don’t add the salt or pepper at this stage. When I used tinned tomatoes I always add some water to the tin to get all the tomatoes, add that water to the tomatoes when you puree them. Add the pureed tomatoes and bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 mins or until the sauce starts to thicken. Add the beans & preserved lemon stirring to combine and again bring to a simmer. Cook for another 10 -15 mins. Taste the beans & check for seasoning, you probably won’t need to add any extra salt as the salt from the preserved lemon should be enough.

Pour/ladle the beans onto a serving plate & serve with crusty bread – go Moroccan and get into it and eat with your hands using the bread as a spoon.

 

Easy Sunday Breakfast

Weekends are the times when we’ll have something a bit gourmet for breakfast, and that might be both days or just Sundays when Hubby has worked Saturday, so this morning I had some Lebanese sausages that needed to be used up so I did a bit of a Moroccan – Halal Twist on Bacon & Eggs. Quantities are dependant on how many you want to feed & how hungry you are. There were 4 spare snags so that’s what I used and the Lebanese sausages from Istanbul Halal Butchers on Sydney Rd are about 1/2 the size of a normal sausage, obviously you can use any type of sausage you fancy.

You will need:

1/2 a brown onion diced.

Lug of Olive Oil

2/3 of a 400g tin of crushed tomatoes.

1/2 tsp ground cumin & paprika

3 eggs

Salt & Pepper to taste

4 small sausages

2 crusty ciabatta rolls

Gently fry the onions in olive oil in a frying pan, add the sausages & shake them around to brown all over, add the crushed tomatoes & spices stirring well. Simmer for 8 mins or until the juices have reduced to become thick, crack the eggs around the pan, if you have a lid for your frying pan put it on the pan and cook for 3 mins or so depending on how you like your eggs cooked. Check the sauce for seasoning & serve with crusty bread and a sprinkling of chopped parsley if you’re feeling posh!

Naturally coffee & orange juice are required accompaniments 😀