When we first moved into our house, my wife Engogirl, declared that we MUST get a lemon tree. I said I didn’t want one because I thought it would take up too much room and I wouldn’t have that much use for the fruit. Engogirl insisted, so her mother bought us a Meyer lemon tree. Since my mother in law isn’t someone you want to get on the wrong side of and it pleases me to see my wife happy, I did as I was told and planted the tree.
It took about 3 years before we got any lemons but when we finally did, I was stunned at how good they were. The lemons are almost sweet enough to eat without any sugar added and the skins are fairly thin and a deep yellow.
Our little tree (it’s only about 180cm or about 6ft) now produces about 60 to 80 lemons a year, all year round. The great thing about lemons is that you can leave them on the tree for about three months after they are ready to eat and you just pick them as you need them. That way they are always fresh and I don’t have to worry about them going off. Any lemons that I can’t use, I juice and make ice cubes with to cook with later. I usually cook something with lemon at least once a week.
There ain’t going to be any scurvy on my watch!
Here’s one of my favourite recipes (I’ve made this so many times) that I cooked for some friends last Friday night. The recipe originally comes from “Delicious” magazine (this magazine is fantastic has totally changed, for the better, the way I cook) and it’s by Belinda Jeffery.
Roast lemon chicken with Sicilian olives.
4 large onions, halved and thinly sliced
4 large garlic cloves
1 heaped tablespoon of thyme leaves and 8 sprigs
8 skinless chicken thigh cutlets (I use fillets)
Plain flour to dust
2 lemons, scrubbed, seeds removed and thinly sliced
1 and a half cups (375ml) of chicken stock
1 table spoon of chopped preserved lemon rind (you can get this from food stores catering to Arabs)
24 Sicilian olives or any other large green olive.
Preheat your oven to 190C (375F).
Fry the sliced onion, garlic and thyme in the olive oil over medium-low heat until the onion is a light golden colour (about 20 minutes). In the meantime dust the chicken in flour. When the onion is cooked turn up the heat to medium high and fry the chicken on both sides in the same pan for about four minutes a side until it’s golden.
Lay the cooked onion in a casserole dish and arrange the chicken on top. Then overlap the sliced lemon over top of the chicken. Heat up the chicken stock and chopped preserved lemon rind until it boils and then pour it into the pan the chicken was cooked in to deglaze the pan. Pour the contents of the deglazed pan around the chicken and place the dish in the oven for 50 minutes uncovered. Baste with the stock a few times while it’s cooking. After cooking for 50 minutes spread the olives over the lemon and cook for another 30 minutes (don’t think you can toss the olives in earlier to take a short cut, because they will burn and go black).
I serve this dish on a bed of cous cous that I mix lightly steamed asparagus into. For wine to go with this meal I recommend a lightly chilled soave.
By the way I didn’t adjust this shot to make the lemon look more saturated (as you can tell by my pasty winter complexion).