Lemon is the queen of citrus. It rules the kitchen. When life hands you lemons, don’t make lemonade! Instead, try some of my favorite lemon-based recipes.
Growing up, we had several fruit trees in our backyard: avocado, mango, peach, banana, paw-paw, litchi, and lemon. My favorite was undoubtedly the lemon tree, primarily because of its fragrance. It’s the reason that when I moved into my home thirteen years ago, I immediately planted a lemon tree in my garden. In retrospect, it has always reminded me of my childhood home.
We’ve learned through the years that lemons have various health benefits. It’s an important source of Vitamin C, so it’s beneficial to have a glass of warm water with a slice of lemon in the morning. It’s also a refreshing addition to water to make it more palatable for those who are not fond of drinking water.
Spring started with an abundance of lemons in my garden. The tree continues to flower, so in a few months, I will have to drop lemons off to friends and family. In the meantime, I’ve used the ones I’ve found in various ways, delving into old family recipes and newfound favorites. These are three lemon-based recipes that I frequently use.
My mom loved to pickle lemons. She would heat a little oil, with salt, sugar, fenugreek seeds, chili powder, and a few other spices and add it to chopped-up lemons. She would bottle the mixture and leave it to rest for a month before allowing us to eat it as an accompaniment to our meals.
I prefer a simpler method for preserving lemons. This allows me to use the preserved lemons as an ingredient in other dishes and as a meal accompaniment. There are only three critical ingredients in my preserved lemon recipe, salt, lemons, and a touch of sugar.
Preserved lemons are great with seafood, curries, and even pasta dishes. You can also use the syrup as a healthy salad dressing. I’ve found that preserved lemons can last for months in your fridge or pantry.
Recipe for Preserving Lemons
- Lemons – the quantity depends on what you have lying around. I normally use about a dozen at a time. I will base the recipe on this quantity
- Salt – for a dozen lemons, I use about 3 tablespoons of salt. I prefer coarse salt, but fine salt works too
- Sugar – I normally add a tablespoon to the mixture to even out any residual bitterness
- Place whole lemons in water and boil on high for 10 minutes until soft
- Once the lemons are cool, cut into quarters. You could also halve or slice them
- Place the cut lemons in a sterilized glass bottle or mason jar. Fill the lemons to the top. I recycle bottles, so my preserved lemons are in old jam bottles
- Add coarse salt and sugar to the lemons
- Close the bottle. Shake it well. Store in a cool place. I usually keep the bottles in the pantry or the fridge
- Shake the bottle at least once every 2 days. You should see the lemon juice thickening into a nice syrup
- The preserved lemons are ready for consumption in a week
Lemons lend themselves well to baking. You can use the juice and/or rind and incorporate it into your mixture. Unlike in cooking, you add the juice of the lemon to the mixture before it goes into the oven.
You can also use the rind of the lemon in various ways. I like to incorporate it into frosting and glazes. I also make candied lemon peels to top off cakes.
Lemon and poppy seed muffins are popular, as are lemon loaves. However, lemon cupcakes are a household favorite. They are easy to make, and you can quickly whip up a batch in time for afternoon tea.
Lemon Cupcake Recipe
- 2 cups self-raising flour
- 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 cup sugar
- A pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon lemon rind
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup oil
- 1 cup milk
- 1.5 teaspoons vanilla essence
- Preheat the oven to 180° C or 350° F
- Mix the ingredients well. Portion into cupcake holders
- Bake for 12-15 minutes
- You can frost/ice the cupcakes once cooled
- Icing recipe:
- 2 tablespoons icing sugar
- 1 teaspoon of lemon rind
- Tub (250g) of mascarpone cheese
- Mix well. Allow cooling in the fridge
- Ice/frost the cupcakes
Oven-Baked Fish With Lemon
Lemons are an essential ingredient in many North African dishes. It adds a mouth-watering depth to tagines, such as fish tagines. I liberally use lemon juice on a variety of seafood, but I especially love it when paired with fish.
Lemons elevate the flavor of seafood, and chefs usually add it to finish a dish. However, I like to incorporate lemons as an integral part of the fish dish. Baked fish is an excellent partner for lemons.
Baked fish dishes are versatile, and you can add a bit of flavor from around the world. Previously, I’ve added olives, tomatoes, and onions for a Mediterranean feel. You can also add your own blend of spices to fish, depending on your taste buds.
Baked Fish Recipe
- 2 pieces salmon, filleted
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- 1 onion, finely sliced
- 1 tomato, finely sliced
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 whole lemon, sliced or preserved lemon slices
- Optional: spices
- Preheat the oven to 175° C or 345° F
- Place the filleted fish, skin side down, in a flat casserole or oven tray
- Brush a little oil over the fish
- Add a pinch of salt and pepper
- Add the tomato and onion slices to the top of each fillet
- Add the thyme & lemon slices to the top of the fish
- Add salt and pepper to taste
- Bake for 20 minutes until soft and flaky
- I prefer to cook salmon at a lower temperature so it remains soft
When we cook the lemon as part of the dish, it adds another layer of flavor. You can add preserved lemon slices to the dish if you’re opting for softer, quicker-cooking fish like salmon. Firmer fish takes longer to cook in the oven, so you can use freshly sliced lemons.
You can also make a lemon butter sauce as an accompaniment to fish and other seafood dishes. Alternatively, try baked lemon slices. They are sweet and packed with flavor and can elevate chicken dishes.
We can use lemons in a multitude of ways in our homes. It’s good for your skin, your hair, and helps to lower your blood pressure. It is equally versatile in the kitchen. I hope you try some of these recipes above and add your twist. What are your favorite uses of lemons in the kitchen? Share in the comments below.