The role of acid in the flavour balance of our foods is not recognised or spoken about enough in our country. A touch of lemon or lime, some bitters, raw tamarind slices, tamarind paste, a splash of exotic vinegar – each one lifts a dish to new heights. Today we look at the most common form here – lemon and preserved lemon.
Traditionally India has not had a strong culture of alcoholic drinks, except for a few pockets where naturally fermenting products meant some developed a taste for it (and a reputation, no doubt).
Consequently India has such a rich variety of non-alcoholic drinks, a seemingly infinite variety of all types of drinks – hot, cold, juices, milk based, fruit based, yoghurt based, infusions, coffees, chais, with seeds, without seeds, … It is fascinating to those of us who grew up in countries where choices are limited to water, coffee, tea, wine and beer. Perhaps some soft drink and orange juice. Maybe apple juice. But not much beyond that.
Additionally, the weather is hot in India, rivalling our own temperatures of 40C – 45C in Summer, with the additional humidity in India. Right before the monsoon is when the heat is the most unbearable–daily extreme temperatures and 100% humidity. There is no choice but to adapt, and until more recently, electricity was not available everywhere for aircon. So shady houses and verandahs can be common, people stay out of the heat in the mid day, roof tops are used at night for cooler breezes, and refreshing drinks are made in the afternoons.
Also, many drinks contain salt. It makes the drinks very tasty, but there is also a health reason for this – in heat we lose salt from our bodies through our perspiration. So rehydrating drinks in the afternoon provide water, salt and also sugar for energy in the heat. How sensible!
Already we have posted (and made) a range of Indian drinks, especially Lassi (great for Summer mornings!) and Chai (excellent afternoon and evening cold weather cuppas), and a few cold drinks (Summer sipping). Today is definitely a hot weather drink – Nimbu Sherbet, Indian Lemonade (or Limeade).
I have a little New Year project going on for a year or so – focusing on recipes from Ottolengi’s Plenty More. I am afraid this book has been neglected before this project, even though it is a favourite in his collection. You will have noticed a few of his recipes appearing on the blog as they are scheduled and posted.
SO, Happy Weekend! And, in case you’ve just opened your eyes, a little weary after last night, not to mention the last few weeks of holidays and non-stop munching and gulping, get yourself into the kitchen and make this salad. It has the amazing quality of tasting equally healthy, tangy and comforting, just at a time when you need a little miracle. Truly this is the case.
I do hope that you enjoy this recipe. Celery Salads are rare, and I am always on the lookout for good ones to complement our collection.
We have compiled 30 Great Mid Summer Salads for you, so it is very easy to vary your salads each day.
Lemons, the ubiquitous and essential ingredient in kitchens the world over. We squeeze the juice into this and that, preserve them, grate their rind, and candy them. I have dehydrated lemon slices – not pretty but oh goodness, the flavour they added to dishes! Rarely do we think of roasting them.
But that must change. Something magical happens to citrus when it hangs out in a hot oven. It takes on a sweeter, slightly-burnt complexity. They add flavour to any dish, but are also good on their own!
This recipe is from Plenty More from Ottolenghi, and is part of our project to cook through this book. You might like to see our thoughts on the different chapters of this book. We feel free to substitute ingredients that are not readily available in our local area.
Seek out the sweetest tomatoes you can get for this dish, to balance the tartness of the lemon: baby or cherry yellow and red tomatoes are your best bet.
It is Ottolenghi Cooking the Books Day on the blog – one day per month where we publish the latest recipes we have tried in our project of cooking from Ottolenghi’s books – those we have cooked directly and those we have been inspired by. Currently we are cooking from Plenty More, but not ignoring his other books completely. Note that I often massage the recipes to suit what is available from our garden and pantry. For the original recipes, check his books and his Guardian column.
Lemons and limes, even oranges, are used in savoury dishes throughout India, for example in South India in Rasam and in Kuzhambu. Wonderful dishes. This recipe takes a simple Mung dal, blends it until it is silky smooth and infuses it with the flavours of lemon or lime peel and flesh. It is a delightful dish, and very refreshing in Summer.
There is something about this salad that is reminiscent of Caesar Salad. There are no eggs or anchovies, but the bread, grilled lettuce, lemon and parmesan is enough to have the mind wander back to those Caesar Salad days before we banned non-vegetarian items (including eggs) from our kitchen. It is certainly a lemony salad, but that perfectly suits the grilled lettuce.
The dressing is really interesting, with both maple syrup and Pernod, which nicely balances the fresh lemon and preserved lemon. Neither the syrup or pernod is obvious in the dressing, but the mix is balanced and perfect.
Ottolenghi uses farro in this dish but freekeh can be used equally as well. In fact, any chewy grain could be used.
This is an Ottolenghi dish from Plenty More – we are cooking our way through this book. We feel free to substitute ingredients that are not readily available in our local area. In this recipe we suggest some alternatives for farro, and use Italian friselle (twice baked/dried bread) rather than fresh bread toasted in the oven.
It is Ottolenghi Cooking the Books Day on the blog – one of two days per month where we publish the latest recipes we have tried in our project of cooking from Ottolenghi’s books – those we have cooked directly and those we have been inspired by. Currently we are cooking from Plenty More, but not ignoring his other books completely. Note that I often massage the recipes to suit what is available from our garden and pantry. For the original recipes, check his books and his Guardian column.
Similar dishes include Warm Barley and Cannellini Beans Salad with Charred Broccolini, Freekeh and Burghul Pilaf, Herby Freekeh Salad with Peas, Freekeh Salad with Broad Beans, French Braised Lettuce with Broad Beans and Peas, and Thai Lettuce Wraps.
Late Autumn sees the first lemons, and jam is a perfect way to begin using them.
One easy way to use up a surfeit of lemons and provide breakfast jam for the coming winter is to make this quick lemon marmalade. No tedious slicing involved – it is all done by the food processor.
Such an easy pickle
With the gift of organic lemons from a neighbour, it was a chance to make this quick pickle. There is a lot of confusion about what are pickled lemons and what are preserved lemon – it ranges from dried lemons (perserved) to soaked in brine and covered with lemon juice with or without a light covering of oil (both pickled and preserved), to lemons that have been salted and then stored in oil (a rarer pickle/preserve, but not uncommon).
This pickle or preserve is of the latter type. It is not an elegant pickle, or one that you would give for a gift. It is the type of pickle you make when all your lemons ripen at once and you need to use some quickly. Or a kindly neighbour gives you a basket of lemons from their tree and you don’t have time to make marmalade or preserve them Moroccan style.
My fridge is ALWAYS full of pickled lemons. Always. I have several different recipes that I cycle around. Here are 2 of them.
How can you have a fridge without pickled or preserved lemons? They are a must to add liveliness and freshness to a dish. It also stimulates your palate – for example, try some Tuscan bread with feta, avo and preserved lemon as a small snack before your meal.
There are several different recipes for preserved lemons and limes that I cycle around. Here are 2 of them.
This is SO delicious. SO delicious.
This is so delicious. SO delicious.
Similar recipes include Roast Pumpkin Couscous Salad.
This recipe is one of the vegetarian recipes from our first blog which was in existence from 1995 – 2006. Feel free to browse other recipes from that blow in our Retro Recipes series.