Preserved Lemons & a Non-Boring Broccoli Salad

Most people don’t know this about me, but I have an acute need for control. I consider myself a highly organised individual and will plan itineraries down to the hour with connecting transport down to the minute. I like to bake a cake knowing that it’s going to take 20 minutes in the oven, and it’s the perfect amount of time to prep dinner at the same time, while simultaneously starting the washing machine. I plan what I’m going to have for lunch today based on what I’m going to be having for dinner later in the week.

I will openly admit that I’ve previously struggled with anxiety; it’s so difficult to avoid in this day and age where we are each expected to juggle multiple commitments and chores, keep up with pop culture and our social lives and eat amazing and look fit while we are at it. So it’s no surprise that I react quite badly when things don’t go as I’ve planned.

If I take too long deciding on an outfit because the one I had in mind makes me look square, I miss the bus which causes me to be late, which then causes a whole domino-ripple-effect and makes me sulky and bad-tempered for at least half the morning. Not too long ago I baked a chocolate frosted cake for a party on a very warm day and to my dismay it started to slip and slide. I frantically rushed it across the apartment from the warm kitchen to our cooler bedroom in an attempt to save it – but it was too late and it slumped on the cake decorating board. Dispirited and down, I requested Night Owl to dispose of it…and it fell onto the carpet (!!) while she was attempting to transfer it back to the kitchen.

At this point I firmly shut the bathroom door, climbed into the dry bathtub and put my head between my knees to take some deep, calming breaths. Night Owl – bless her – didn’t quite know how to react to my inner implosion, and was quite obliviously stuffing her face with Devil’s Food Cake a la Carpet.

It’s difficult as I guess I’ve always felt that I should feel more in control of my life as I get older; but if anything it’s the smallest things that drive me up the wall – like how citrus is so expensive in summer! It seems so ironic that citrus fruits are in season and at their cheapest in winter, yet all the delicious recipes and drinks I want to use them in are primarily summer-centred.

I have a terrible habit of not checking in on my fruit bowl and a couple of months before some lemons and oranges got away from me and got mouldy; there are seriously few things worse in the world than mouldy citrus! So I bought a bag of imperfect lemons on the cheap and kept an eagle eye on them – when they started to reach peak ripeness, I decided to preserve them for some salad recipes I had in mind.

Preserved Lemons

Preserved lemons possess an entirely different quality to the OG lemon. Strip away its raw, bright acidity and waxy skin and after sitting in a salt and spice bath, it takes on a beautifully floral perfumed soft aroma, with a mildness that lends itself perfectly when chopped up finely with seafood dishes and roasted vegetables. Oh and definitely divine with roasted chicken!

To make your preserved lemons, have a few clean and sterilised jars on hand. Cut the lemons into quarters Place a tablespoon of salt into the bottom of the jar, and put a few layers of lemon quarters into the jar, pressing down firmly to release the fruit’s juices. Choose a spice (chillies, peppercorns, coriander seeds if making savoury; or I like just bay leaves and cinnamon sticks) and slide it down the side of the jar. Sprinkle over another layer of salt, then add another layer of lemon quarters and repeat these layers until the jar is full. Remember to keep pushing down as you go. The fruit needs to be completely covered in salty juice.

Leave 1cm of space between the top of the fruit and the lid of the jar – if the salty fruit touches the top of the lid, it will corrode the metal. Seal the jar and let them sit in a cool, dark place for six weeks. You know they are preserved when the salt has completely dissolved into a gel-like liquid. These preserved lemons will keep for years un-opened, but once open are best stored in the fridge.

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When using I like to give it a quick rinse and shake dry to get rid of any excess salt before chopping it up.

Roasted Broccoli Salad with Toasted Almonds, Garlic, Chilli and Preserved Lemon

The inspo for this came after making the Cauliflower salad from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Simple, where he combines raw cauliflower florets with roasted florets to create an amazing contrast of textures to make the salad pop. Unfortunately this was a bit of a cooking-by-feel recipe, so the measurements are not precise – however this recipe is to taste and so very forgiving.

Broccoli with lemon, garlic and chilli is like a polyamorous match in heaven.

You will need:

  • One large head broccoli;
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil;
  • Two teaspoons salt flakes
  • Two cloves of garlic, minced;
  • Handful of slivered/flaked almonds, toasted;
  • 1/4 preserved lemon, rinsed and chopped finely;
  • Hot dried chilli flakes, to taste

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celcius, fan forced.

Cut up the broccoli (including the stem!) into 2-3cm sized florets and 1cm chunks for the stem. Place one quarter of the chopped broccoli to the side (this will be the raw part of the salad) and chop a little smaller if you prefer.

With the remaining broccoli, spread onto a large parchment-lined baking tray. Add the leaves for added crunch. Drizzle over the oil and scatter over the salt flakes before placing in the preheated oven and allowing to bake for 15-20 minutes or until the edges of the broccoli are slightly brown.

Scatter the garlic over the broccoli and cook for a further 5-10 minutes.

Remove the broccoli from the oven and allow to slightly cool before combining it with the reserved raw broccoli and the remaining ingredients. Season to taste with dried chilli flakes and salt and pepper, if desired.

Brilliant as a side for roast chicken or any other protein, really.

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