Food & Drink Lemon recipes with the zing factor, from fragrant fish...

Lemon recipes with the zing factor, from fragrant fish to sticky cake and limoncello

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I have always regarded lemon as a third seasoning in the kitchen, after salt and pepper. A thin slice of raw salmon, say, is transformed with a squeeze of tart citrus and a tiny crunch of sea salt (then again, any simply cooked fish fillet demands a discreet spritz). A chicken thrives on a halved lemon thrust up its bum when being roasted to a golden crisp, and the Italian dish of pork slowly simmered in milk would be unthinkable without several strips of lemon zest to help reduce the dairy
to a delicious smudge of a sauce.

Looking back to my childhood, one of my mother’s sweetie specials, usually made in summer, was lemon cheese. Generally speaking, this is known as lemon curd, but in the North of England it was, emphatically, cheese (regional damsons cooked to a stiff paste were given the same moniker).

Whatever you’d like to call it, many years later I would successfully use the lemon lotion to make a splendid meringue confection we called angel pie. A pavlova-style meringue mix was formed into a thick disc, baked until crisp and golden, cooled and then thickly spread with a spoonful of lemon cheese before being topped with folds of loosely beaten, vanilla-flecked cream. Pure joy.

Although certain restaurants eschew imported ingredients, I, for one, could never live without lemons. Just to imagine an Amalfi lemon growing on its tree in the hot Mediterranean sunshine, then not occasionally having a bowl of them in my kitchen – the odd leaf still attached – would be a crying shame. And to be deprived of lemons altogether – just where would the Tommy Rowles martini be?

But my lemon lecture cannot end without talking of bad and good lemons. Until recently, bad lemons would frustrate me beyond belief. So many seeds within the tiniest fruit; truly, I once extracted and counted 38 seeds within one lemon. Now, in my local supermarket, I can purchase seedless lemons. Wonders will never cease.

And so it goes that we find ourselves amid an orchard of glorious yellow fruits with this, The Gourmand’s second volume in a series of books celebrating ingredients with storied pasts, presents and futures. Today we explore the culinary and cultural charm of the lemon, an entity that remains central to our imaginations, and yet morphs and shifts more than you might ever think.

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