Preserved Lemon

Preserved lemon and Moshi Moshi flask in the background
At some stage in my life, someone must have come up and tapped me on the shoulder and started extolling the virtues of preserved lemons. I don't know when, I don't know where and I don't know how. But someone, at some point in time, must have whispered into my shell-like about the benefits of pickling these yellow, ellipsoidal, citric fruits at home. I am sure of this. And I am sure that I listened quite intently, spellbound, mesmerised even, at what my fellow advisor had to say on the matter.

Perhaps the scenario when something like this:

"Yeah right, cos like preserving yer own lemons, well you can't beat it mate. I tell ya, for about five years...maybe six *burp* I was buying me own.... off the shelf, you know and well....they were alright but they just didn't quite cut the mustard, you know what I mean? They didn't 'ave that kick I was looking for, not quite the same as the sorta shit that goes into a proper good, decent, diamond tagine. Like the sort you might find in the ol' El-Fnna, yeah? You got me? Nah? OK, well look, do yourself a favour mate, grab a load of lemons. Not waxed! No facking wax! OK? Make a liddle biddy criss-cross of a slit in the top of one of your lemons and stuff it, stuff with salt and then throw it a jar, with a load more salt. Salt and some other shit. Coriander seed, bay leaf, chillies, cinnamon sticks....*burp*...go on, throw it in, throw it all in and then forget abahht it. Don't worry abahht it at all. Leave it in a cupboard and go for a walk somewhere. Just......just don' worry abahht it. And then......and then my sunshine, you can go back.... weeks..... months...... years later. And you can find that jar of yours and then you can prise that jar open and BOOM! Bloody hell, what 'ave you got? Preserved facking lemons that's what."

And you know, after that poetic soliloquy, I probably bought the guy a pint, shook his hand and on the way home, picked up a huge bag of lemons from Londis and carried out his instructions to a tee; repeating his mantra of "Boom! Preserved facking lemons!" With arms aloft. I probably made quite a mess later that evening, scattering aromatics and sea-crystals across the floor. I probably caused a huge clatter, throwing bits of expensive, unused toot out of the expensive unused toot cupboard. All in order to house these new jars of lemons. Jars that would remain untouched for some time, left to slowly macerate, embalm and steep. I probably fell asleep on the cold, tiled floor and then probably woke at some ungodly hour, all disorientated and confused, before making it upstairs with belt buckle loose and bare buttocks flapping in the wind.

These are all probables and whether you believe them or not is up to you. Some of the above is make believe, I'll admit that. Some, ahem, is not. However, the cast iron truth is that I stumbled across some preserved lemons the other day, which had obviously been lurking deep within the dark for some time and I honestly can't remember when I set about the task of 'immortalising' them. They were obviously part of some previous project, that shamefully didn't pique my interest for long enough. But I am glad that I found them though because it led to one of those happy occurrences when something unplanned and unexpected happens. Some chicken thighs were sitting in the fridge, awaiting their final destination and whilst they are great to enjoy on their own, (unadulterated thigh meat, dark and succulent doesn't need that much jazzing up in my opinion) I quite did fancy trying out something quite different. So after a quick rustle in the cupboards, bingo, a fortuitous solution was found.

Admittedly, I did seek further consultation from other voices (other than the ones in my head) across the internethighwayweb and Cookwitch, with her Greek sensibilities, suggested simply roasting the chicken thighs with the preserved lemon, along with garlic, thyme and olives. It was an inspired idea so I went with it. Except that I threw in some extra bay leaves in for good measure, to put my own stamp on things. "Oh yaah, yaah, it defo needs the bay."

And as with most 'one-pot, let's throw everything in and see what happens' dishes, it was very good.
It really is amazing actually, the difference you get from the intensity of flavour. A squeeze of a lemon used as a light, fresh touch doesn't really compare with the feral hit of preserved lemon, which is all heavy and condense but the one thing I did learn is that when it comes to these squalid, squashy objects of beauty, less can sometimes mean more. I used one whole flaccid, alien egg-like lemon sac for about 12 thighs when half would have done. And it could have done with a rinse to honest, just a quick splash under a cold tap to get rid of the salty residue, just to save the kidneys. However, overall, the preserved lemon did transform the already handsome chicken thigh into something altogether different and special and I plan on using up my supply quite quickly. In order of course to make plenty more, to try out with lots of other dishes. After all, preserved lemons are my new favourite thing. And this time, I won't fall asleep on the job.

Flaccid, alien egg
Chicken thighs before

Chicken thighs after

Roast chicken thigh, preserved lemon, garlic, olive and thyme (not forgetting bay leaf) with cous cous, aubergine, peppers and coriander leaf

Another photo of what I said for the photo above


Shu Han said…
I see this is tagged under "drunk posts". Brilliant.
Unknown said…
I love the way you're trying to make preserving lemons more masculine but you just sound like a big old gay... and that's coming from a preserved lemon who knows... Beautiful chicken thighs x
Food Urchin said…
Shu Han - Er,yes...I did write this after a cider or three

Belleau Kitchen - I know, I am a big ol' fruit at heart
bantamspast said…
Excellent! A friend brought me a bag of what I think are dried lemons, from the Middle East. Not seen them since. I crack them open and put them inside chicken. They do make a difference but not as strong as your method methinks. Thanks.
Kavey said…
Aah, one of THOSE proejcts.
Oddly enough, I think the un-labelled jar I just found is an Indian version of preserved lemons I may have made a couple of years ago. It's DARK in there, so it's hard to tell. Guess I'll just have to crack it open...
Alicia Foodycat said…
That looks really good! Clever cookwitch...

You've reminded me of a dish I made once of preserved lemon (flesh removed, rind rinsed) blended with thyme, garlic and olive oil and used as a marinade for barbecued chicken. God that was good. Have to make that again!
Lisa Cookwitch said…
Next time, make sure you have halloumi in. ;) (And yes, rinse off the salt from the lemons...)

It looks bloody lovely matey. Glad to help!

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