The very first tagine I had was in Marrakesh in a small restaurant just off Jamaa el Fna, the main square. It was stinking hot and me and my friends were starving after flying in that morning on a 6am flight…from Stanstead. This was the first time I’d ever been to a Muslim country and I was loving every minute of it. Everything from the busy markets, the food, the smells from the spice markets :) and tannery :( , the riad style houses, the noises (calling to prayer) – were all so foreign and new to me; I couldn’t soak it all in quick enough.
Anyway, I will always remember that first tagine I had that day. I had no idea what it was but I was looking forward to it all none the less. I was so confused about what to order because cous cous was the extent of Moroccan cusine I knew. I decided to order the Lemon Chicken Tagine and to this day it is still listed in my top 5 food moments of all time. I’ve discovered that lemon plays quite an important part in Moroccan cuisine (along with pomegranates, mint, lamb and loads of spices) and thanks to Jamie Oliver, I’ve now discovered what gives their dishes the fresh zesty flavour- preserved lemons.
Last week I went Op shopping and bought a big bunch of lemons for 20c each – bargain. Then later in the week we met up for dinner with Seb’s aunty who gave us about another 10 from her garden. It was very tempting for me to make all sorts of different lemon cakes, biscuits and slices (all my favourite) but I knew I’d want to eat them all…not good for the waist line. So, preserved lemons. A must for Moroccan food and according to Jamie, once you start adding them to dishes, you can’t stop. All I have to do now is wait a good month.Recipe by Jamie Oliver
Moroccan Preserved Lemons10 small unwaxed lemons 200 g coarse sea salt 2 fresh bay leaves 7 black peppercorns 2 sticks of cinnamon
1. First you’ll want to sterilize a 1 litre jar. Wash it in warm soapy water and ensure you rinse it well. Take off any rubber seals and place it in a 100°C oven for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, put the seal in a bowl of boiling water. After 20 minutes remove the jars from the oven, taking care not to touch anywhere near the opening of the jar and leave them to cool.
2. Squeeze the juice from 5 of your lemons and put to one side. In your other 5 lemons, cut a deep cross into the top and keep going until you’ve cut 3/4 of the way through. They should stay joined at the base. Pack a teaspoon full of salt into each one and place in the staralized jar.
3. Layer the lemons up with the cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and peppercorns. Once all your lemons are in the jar, pour in your lemon juice and top up with water.
4. Seal up the jar and leave it for a month in a dark space. Give the jar a gentle shake every couple of days to move the salt around.
After a month the lemons are ready for using. Jamie has a few different recipes in his book “Jamie Does” where he uses these Preserved Lemons. After a month I’ll try to make one of them to use the lemons I’ve made. Yum.