preserved lemons

This is one you need to make with some foresight. Preserved lemons are well worth the 2 - 3 month wait though, as their fragrant summery flavour can transform any earthly dish into something fit for immortals. As they seem to originate from Morocco, perhaps we should pay homage to the desert for giving us these. Just as the sands glow during the lengthened hours of sunset in the summer, so these lemons will give off a warm glow on your kitchen counter. The beauty is that you can just pick one or two lemons out at a time to make sure your dishes pack a serious punch. 

How to use Preserved Lemons?

First of all; there's no need to panic - preserved lemons are preserved which means they will last up to a year (some of ours have lasted even longer). Just fish them out, rub off any excess salt, and chop them up. You can eat every part of the lemon - rind, pith and flesh - but perhaps just check for, and remove, the pips. Ideas for using these delicious mellowed out lemons are:

* In salads: where you'd squeeze over some fresh lemon juice, substitute little slithers of preserved lemon. This works particularly well in couscous salads for instance, or in Salad Nicoise. 

* Whizz them into your salad dressing: cut little pieces up and put them in the blender before adding to the normal combination of oil, vinegar, garlic, mustard and honey. Or add to guacamole, mayonnaise or hummus. 

* Pasta: sear some chicken; and mix into freshly made pasta along with chunks of preserved lemon, freshly picked parsley, some garlic and olive oil. Yum. 

* Tagines and stews: this is what preserved lemons are most famous for. Chicken tagine or a chickpea stew are greatly enhanced by this flavour.

* Mix them into a sauce vierge and spread over freshly grilled fish.


6 lemons (I use imported)
Juice from 2 lemons
2 chillies
Lots of rock or sea salt
Bay leaves (dry or fresh)

You will also need a mason jar - these can be bought in Nakumatt.


Thoroughly wash and scrub your lemons clean under cold running water. I found that using a new washing up brush with stiff bristles was the most efficient. Dry with a dishcloth and cut each lemon in half lengthways. Cut each half again lengthways twice. Rub salt into each segment and then layer the first set of segments on the bottom of the jar. Sprinkle on some more salt and then layer up with the next lot of lemons and so on until you reach the top of the jar. Along the way add the bay leaves and chilli - on the edge to make it look pretty. Then pour on the lemon juice and make sure it covers all the lemons. Seal the jar tight and put into a dark place for three months, until the lemons smell deliciously fragrant.