A few weeks ago, I purchased Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. I had been watching Ottolenghi's Mediterranean Feast on SBS and enjoyed it so much that I jumped online and got a copy of his book. I loved reading about and watching Ottolenghi cook so many vibrant Middle Eastern dishes, using spices that I've rarely cooked with, and some ingredients that I hadn't heard of before.
One of these ingredients that hasn't really been on my radar is preserved lemon. Preserved lemon is a major ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisine, and is really quite simple to make.
Having researched a few cook books and online recipes for preserved lemons, I found that the majority of recipes simply used salt and lemons, and submerged the lemons in extra juice. But I did come across another recipe that actually covered the lemons in boiling water instead.
As I didn't have enough lemons to top it off with juice, I decided to go with the boiling water method.
I wasn't quite sure whether it would work out, but after leaving them in the jar for a month, they turned out beautifully. When I first cracked open the jar, the smell of lemon was really intense - preserving them just magnifies all the great aromas that you usually get from lemon rind.
I was keen to try my new batch of preserved lemons in a middle eastern dish, so I decided to make a lamb tagine in a slow cooker.
Recipe for Preserved Lemons
Adapted from recipe on the SBS Website.
- 8 lemons
- Maldon sea salt
- 4 dried chillis
- 1 stick of cinnamon
- Cut each lemon from one pointy end of the lemon, to about 3 cms from the other pointy end, so that the two sides of the lemon still hold together. Then cut it in the same way so they are essentially in quarters that are still held together at one end. Check out the pictures to get a better idea.
- Stuff one tablespoon of sea salt into each lemon.
- Next, cram all of your lemons into a jar that will fit all of them. I had a 2 litre jar. Also stuff in the chillies and cinnamon stick.
- Then sprinkle an extra tablespoon of salt over the top for good measure, and then finally pour boiling water over the top of the lemons so they are submerged in the jar.
- Leave in a cold dark place for one month.
Recipe for Vinnie's Slow Cooker Lamb Tagine
- Finely chopped rind from half of a preserved lemon.
- Two handfuls of cherry tomatoes.
- 1 litre of chicken stock.
- A 1kg lamb shoulder, deboned.
- A handful of green, sicilian olives. (These are great because they're light in flavour so don't dominate).
- 2 brown onions, finely chopped.
- 4 cloves of garlic sliced.
- A bunch of coriander.
- A tablespoon of ground fennel seeds.
- A tablespoon of ground cumin.
- 2 teaspoons of turmeric.
- 10 dried dates, chopped finely.
- 2 tablespoons of paprika.
- A thumb sized piece of ginger.
- First, take your lamb shoulder, and brown it in your pot. Make sure you get some nice caramelisation on all sides of the shoulder. If you're using a slow cooker that doesn't have a browning function, do this in a frying pan. Remove lamb shoulder from the pot and set aside.
- Heat some olive oil into the pot or slow cooker. Fry the onion, garlic, ginger and finely chopped coriander stalks until the onions are translucent.
- Add all of the spices into the pot and fry off until aromatic.
- Next, add the browned lamb shoulder into the pot, followed by the chopped cherry tomatoes, the chicken stock, dates, olives and preserved lemon.
- Slow cook your tagine for at least 5 hours, depending on your slow cooker instructions.
- Serve with couscous or rice (or even, as I found later in the week, some beetroot gnocchi!)