Thursday, 20 February 2014

Oranges and Lemons Part Two

Right... preserved lemons this time...

Version One:

A recipe sent to me after having a wonderful lemon pasta with a friend....

Cut up the fresh unwaxed lemons into thick slices, remove the pips and then cover them with salt.  Leave in a colander for 24 hours to extract the juice.

After 24 hours shake off as much salt as possible, rinse the slices of lemon and then dry them with kitchen roll.  Place the lemon slices into a jar with a clove of garlic a fresh or dried chilli pepper if you wish and a few leaves of fresh coriander, then top it up with olive oil.  Tilt the jar and run a knife around the edge to release any air bubbles before closing the jar and leaving it for about a month before use.

Once I opened it, I kept it in the fridge and obviously the olive oil solidifies.  It shouldn't be necessary to keep it in the fridge because the covering of oil keeps the lemons fresh, but as you can see here the lemons are actually poking up over the top of the oil a bit... in this case I should simply have added more oil, but I didn't.  Either way, the lemons are still great and simply need bringing to room temperature before using.

Preserved lemons are tasty with fish, chicken or pasta and the lemon scented oil can be used for cooking, dressing salads, pasta sauces or for dipping with a nice crusty bread and some balsamic vinegar

Version Two:

This one can be found in many middle eastern cookery books... the lemons are preserved in lemon juice and salt.

Take fresh unwaxed lemons and make four cuts down towards the stem end without going all the way through.

Pack loads of salt into the cut lemons and then squash them down into a jar...

.....pack them really tightly.  Pour a little more salt onto the lemons and put the lid on.

Leave the jar of lemons somewhere where you won't forget about it and for the next four or five days give it a daily shake.  You will see more and more juice coming out of the lemons.

After five days top up the jar with fresh lemon juice and replace the lid.

The lemons can now be stored in the cupboard.  They should be left for at least one month before using... (date them in case you forget) but I think with all these things they improve with time... so maybe two or three months if you can bear to wait that long.

If you bear with me I shall be posting a recipe that uses preserved lemons in salt in about two months time.

Oranges?  er... mmmm... well I ended up simply juicing and freezing them.  I haven't done anything with the juice yet but will hopefully have a recipe for an orange jelly in the next week or two.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Oranges and Lemons part One.

Winter time is the best time for oranges here in Spain.  Although lemons grow all year round they too taste their best when the weather is cold.  Our orange and lemon trees are just babies and so far we haven't had any fruit at all but luckily our friends and neighbours are always happy to offload some of theirs.

So... what to do with all this citrus fruit?

The first thing that comes to mind with oranges is marmalade of course.  However these are not Seville oranges, they are really a bit sweet for marmalade and so I intend to juice most of them.  We have fresh orange juice every day at breakfast and we will soon go through them.

 I juiced one bagful and froze the juice in 500ml bags.  I haven't made up my mind what to do with the second bag yet

The lemons... that's another story.  I made lemon marmalade.

First of all I peeled the lemons...

and then cut the peel into thin strips...

Then I put the peel strips into a muslin cloth and tied it up.

I chopped the lemons into bits and put them in a large bowl along with the muslin containing the peel and then filled it with water and left it overnight.

The next day I removed the bag of peel and put it to one side while I strained the juice from the pieces of lemon.

I measured how much juice I had and put it into the jam pan along with a pound of sugar (450g) for every pint (500ml approx) of juice.  I heated this up slowly stirring constantly until the sugar had dissolved and then I turned the heat up and popped a jam thermometer into the pan and then put the peel back in (minus the bag).

After vigorous boiling for about half an hour the jam reached the setting point on the thermometer and I took it off the heat.  I left it for about fifteen minutes while I sterilised the jars and this allowed the jam to cool enough to leave the peel suspended rather than floating to the top.

Once full the jars were left to cool down and then labelled and put away.  I got two 500g jars and a smaller jar suitable for a gift and a half filled jar which we shall use straight away.  So not a huge batch but at least there is no danger of our getting tired of marmalade!

In Part Two I shall be making preserved lemons - 2 recipes (one in salt the other in oil) and making real orange jelly!

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Batch Baking

My oven is so large that I really never want to light it unless I can totally fill it.  So, batch baking is the way forward.  Batch baking takes a bit of organisation and forward planning but it's worth it to save money on fuel and in the long run, time too.

I started by choosing my recipes.  They could be any sort of cake but they must have one thing in common - the cooking temperature.  I chose two citrus cakes (lemons and oranges are at their best over winter) and an almond cake.  All baked at 190C.  Both almonds and citrus fruits grow in Spain and although this year we had very few almonds and the price of them in the shops is quite expensive, normally both citrus and almonds are cheap and plentiful.

I prepared the baking tins and lined them up ready.

I weighed the ingredients for the first cake and began mixing.

Once the cake mix was done I put it into the tin and left it on the kitchen work surface.  With some cake mixes it is best to get them into the oven straight away, but other's can happily sit for a little while before baking, without any harm at all.

I organised things so that I only had to wash up the bowl between each cake mix and I left the almond cake until last because it contained beaten egg whites and they collapse if you leave them to sit for too long.

The middle cake was a bit unusual - the recipe (from Leiths Baking Bible) stipulated semolina (quite a lot of semolina) but I only had ground rice, so I figured I could substitute, it seems to have worked.

As I began to mix the third and final cake I preheated the oven and just as the cake was ready the oven was at temperature.

Alas the oven is so large that when you open the door a huge amount of heat escapes and the oven thermometer dropped all the way down to 160C , 30C below what it should be.  This meant that the timings were going to be all wrong.  I set the timer for the cake that should have taken the least amount of time.

When it pinged I checked the cake and as predicted it was still not ready but the other two were almost cooked....  If you are prepared to be flexible and keep an eye on your cakes you can usually be assured of a reasonably successful outcome.  Another few minutes and all three cakes were ready.

While the oven was hot I made some cheesy snacks... cheese pastry with various extra flavourings (sweet chilli, oregano, onion seed) cut into tiny shapes and then baked with a sprinkling of salt.  (Six Nations rugby begins this weekend and hubby has to have something to nibble with his beer in front of the tv).

If I'd been even more organised I could have squeezed in a batch of biscuits or scones at the same time but alas I was not as clever as I thought!

The two citrus cakes have lemon and orange syrup poured onto them while still warm.  The one with ground rice in it is definitely a different texture, perhaps more like a pudding than a cake, certainly once I had fed it all the syrup.

All in all, I am rather pleased with the days baking.  Now to decide which ones go in the freezer and which to eat first!