Weekend Herb Blogging (WHB) #226: preserved lemons (Citrus limon)
We are gradually working our way through the bookmarked recipes in Anissa Helou’s fabulous cookbook “Mediterranean Cooking”. But I shouldn’t say “working”. That gives the wrong implication. Because it’s all pleasure.
Especially this recipe. I must confess though that we didn’t exactly follow Helou’s suggestions. Instead of green and black olives, we used Moroccan-style oil-cured olives – I love those olives!! I love that they’re dry and chewy – like raisins. She also suggested adding parsley and coriander leaf; we omitted them because we didn’t have any in the house.
We could have bought some, of course. But the hothouse herbs are a little disappointing. They look beautiful but the faded flavour is always such a letdown. I’d much rather have real herbs. Herbs that have reveled outdoors basking in real sunlight.
Alas, it’s still wintry here!! I’m champing at the bit, watching the cold bare soil in the garden for signs of the perennial herbs… soon it will be spring and then we can have as many fresh herbs as we want. I must say, I can’t wait to grab the scissors and go strolling around to survey my lands (ha. if you saw our postage stamp back garden…) and clip bits of this and fronds of that to add to the evening table.
Moroccan-style chicken with preserved lemons and oil-cured olives
based on our recipe for chicken couscous and the recipe for Chicken Tagine with Olives and Preserved Lemons in Mediterranean Street Food by Anissa Helou
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 inch stick cinnamon
- 1 whole dry chilli
- 1 inch piece ginger, chopped finely
- 1 tsp crushed cumin seed
- 1 tsp crushed coriander seed
- 4 skinless chicken thighs
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped coarsely
- 500 ml water to cover
- preserved lemon, chopped
- 10 oil-cured olives, or to taste
- seasalt, to taste
- Heat oil in large pan (or wok), add chilli and cook until very dark brown.
- Add onion and garlic sauté til soft and lightly coloured.
- Add the cinnamon, ginger, cumin and coriander and stir around for 1 minute.
- Add the meat and fry over a moderate heat for 5-6 minutes, turning from time to time, until browned on all sides. Add enough water to cover. Cook for 1 hour.
- Add the preserved lemons and olives and stir well to mix. Cover and simmer to warm.
- Taste and add salt if needed.
Serve with a green vegetable and couscous.Notes:
» Both the olives and the preserved lemons are quite salty so you may not need to add any extra salt at all. Even though the recipe in “Mediterranean Street Food” calls for fresh lemon juice and using only the rind of the preserved lemons. We like to use all of the preserved lemon. There doesn’t seem to be any need to add fresh lemon juice as well.
» Get whole-wheat couscous if you can. Its flavour is more robust and nuttier. Or if you don’t happen have couscous on hand, that’s okay too. Anissa Helou suggests serving the chicken with good crusty bread.
Of course, we still adore the Moroccan-style chicken we make with prunes and apricots. However, this more savoury dish is equally wonderful.
Hmmm, maybe it’s time to do a taste test. Yes!! We’ll have chicken with prunes and apricots one night and chicken with preserved lemons and olives the next. Then we’ll see which we like best. (I’ll lay odds that we can’t decide.)
About the couscous: We disregard any instructions to use 1½ parts liquid to 1 part couscous. That just makes for a gummy doughy mess. Instead, we use a 1 to 1 measurement.
See how brown the couscous is in the photo? (Can’t see it very clearly? Click on the image to see a larger view.) That’s NOT because we cooked it in rich stock. It’s the couscous itself. Our local supermarket started carrying “whole wheat” couscous. We tried it as an experiment. And raced back to get more. Whole wheat couscous is fantastic. We love the flavour that is not quite as neutral as regular couscous.
WHB #226: Preserved Lemons (Citrus limon)
I know; lemons aren’t exactly herbs, are they? But when they are preserved, we use them in much the same way that we do herbs.
Preserved lemons are the most wonderful things. They are insanely easy to make. All that is required is salt, lemons and about six days. We use coarse grey seasalt from Brittany – but that’s just because we were given a large jar of it. When it runs out, we’ll use the kosher salt or regular seasalt that we always have in the cupboard.
Apparently, Meyer lemons are the best lemons to use. But here we are in this frozen wasteland that only imports lemons. I’m sure we could get Meyer lemons but at what price? Regular lemons work very well (it’s a good idea to not only wash the lemons VERY very well but also remove all the seeds before preserving them…).
We first read about preserved lemons in “At Home in Provence” by Patricia Wells. She wrote:
The process of preserving a lemon transforms the texture so that it is soft and yielding. Even more amazing is the chanige in taste to pure lemon, removed of any bitter or acrid flavouring […] keep the lemons on hand to mince and toss with couscous, to slip inside a whole roasted fish, and to flavor Chanteduc Rabbit with Garlic and Preserved Lemons.
Patricia Wells, Patricia Wells at Home in Provence, p.323
Are all the vitamins preserved as well? I don’t know. But frankly, I don’t care. Preserved lemons taste so good.
Read more about preserved lemon:
- Some previous posts featuring preserved lemon:
» Backyard Pizzeria: Roast chicken, fennel, preserved lemons and olives (WHB#136)
» blog from OUR kitchen: preserved lemons
» blog from OUR kitchen: Preserved Lemons and Couscous
» Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska: 3 Recipes: Preserved Lemons & Candied Lemon Peel & Sparkling Lemonade and Mint (WHB#120)
» Mike’s Table: Moroccan Lemon & Olive Chicken (WHB#119)
» Modern Beet: Moroccan Salt Preserved Citrus: Blood Oranges and Meyer Lemons modernbeet.com/archives/97
» Morsels & Musings: Moroccan Chicken Tagine (WHB#173)
» Myfrenchkitchen: Sweet-sour preserved lemons
- Wikipedia – preserved lemon
This week’s WHB host is Graziana (Erbe in Cucina (Cooking with herbs) erbeincucina.it/). The deadline for entering WHB#226 is Sunday 28 March 2010 at 15:00, Utah time (GMT-7). For complete details on how to participate in Weekend Herb Blogging, please see the following:
edit 29 March 2010: Graziana has posted the WHB#226 Recap erbeincucina.it/495.html. Mmmmmmmm!
» “Mediterranean Street Food” by Anissa Helou (please read my review)
» Patricia Wells at Home in Provence: Recipes Inspired by Her Farmhouse in France by Patricia Wells (please read my review)
- anissahelou.com: Anissa Helou: biography; Anissa’s blog
- patriciawells.com: At Home with Patricia Wells information about Wells’ cooking classes, books, etc.