The end goal for our little patch of paradise is to create a beautiful edible landscape. So, it's almost ironic that the only fruiting tree we inherited was a lemon in desperate need of a haircut. Now that we've pruned it back to a manageable size, though, it produces abundantly. So much so that I occasionally dismay at the sight of overripe fruit rotting on the mulch below. I imagine I'm not alone here. Apparently, there are more lemon trees growing in Australian front and back yards than there are in production. But what do we do with them all? Especially in late winter/early spring when the crop is bigger than ever.
Perhaps because the lemon tree is so common people have become a little blasé about it. But lemon is a vital flavour is Mediterranean cuisine and in my opinion, deserves a higher station. If you're like me and have a hugely productive tree then it may not bother you if a few go to waste here and there, but if your tree is small and only produces a few fruit every year or you're one of the unfortunates who actually have to buy lemons, then it's worth thinking about getting the most out of them. How many times have you used half a lemon for juice and then watched the other half shrivel and dry up in the fridge?
Aside from using lemon juice and rind in your cooking there are a few quick and easy things you can do to make sure you never see that shrunken, shrivelled up half lemon again. This morning I juiced a few lemons and filled up some ice cube trays. Each cube is roughly one tablespoon which makes them easy to add to cooking as and when I need them. We'll also use them in the summer to flavour soda water or iced tea.
Once the lemons were juiced I found it wasteful to even compost all that lovely refreshing rind, so I rang a friend who told me she freezes hers in a glass jar. That way when she's baking something that requires lemon zest she simply pulls her jar from the freezer. I used a microplane to zest my rind nice and finely.
The other trick I've discovered along the way is to freeze lemon slices. When summer comes and Gin o'clock rolls around it will be so easy to grab a slice of lemon from the freezer to garnish our G & T's. The best way to do this is to place your lemon slices on a baking tray before putting them in the freezer. Once they're frozen you can then jumble them all into a freezer bag and they won't stick together like they would have done if you tried to freeze them this way in the first place.
Of course, we use our lemons for numerous savoury dishes, but I happen to love the combination of sour tang and teeth shattering sweetness in the following lemon sorbet and lemon yoghurt cake recipes. If you have a favourite recipe that uses lots of lemons please let me know. With a tree the size of ours I'm always on the lookout for them.
Recipe: Lemon Yoghurt Cake
What I love about this recipe is that you basically make the entire mixture using only one bowl and a whisk. I'm not a fan of washing up.
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 cup plain Greek yoghurt
1 3/4 cup caster sugar
2 cups self raising flour
1 cup icing sugar
2 Tablespoons lemon juice (or to taste, I like it extra tangy but use less if you prefer it sweeter)
1 Tablespoon boiling water
few sprigs thyme leaves for decoration (if you don't have thyme growing in your garden or in a pot on your balcony then you should, but if you don't, I wouldn't bother buying it just for this. You can always replace with finely grated lemon zest).
Preheat oven to 160 degrees. Place the oil, eggs, zest, juice, yoghurt and sugar in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Sift in the flour and stir until smooth. I don't usually bother sifting flour as I'm a little lazy in that respect but in this case the pre-flour mixture was so silky that it felt wrong adding clumps of flour to it. And I was in a generous mood, so what the hey. Anyway, after you've combined the flour and the mixture is looking lovely and smooth and worthy of your sifting efforts, pour it into a 24cm Bundt tin (because they're pretty) and bake for 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow the cake to stand for 5 minutes in the tin.
To make the lemon icing, simply mix to combine the sugar, lemon juice and boiling water in a small bowl. Turn the cake out onto a cake stand and spoon over the icing while still warm. This will give you that gorgeous dripping effect. Sprinkle with thyme leaves and allow to set for about 10 minutes before eating. Makes a wonderful afternoon tea treat.
Recipe: Lemon Sorbet
As spring days go it's going to be a hot one this weekend in Melbourne and if it's going to be hot in Melbourne then I imagine the rest of the country will be pretty darn warm too. Perfect weather for a refreshing cup of lemon sorbet. You need an ice cream maker to make this recipe and if you don't have one you should seriously consider putting it on your Christmas list.
Makes around 1 litre
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup chilled lemon juice
1 small eggwhite, lightly beaten
Combine sugar and water in a saucepan over a low heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Increase heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and refrigerate until needed. Pour sugar syrup, lemon juice and egg white into the ice cream maker bowl. Set ice cream maker to sorbet setting and leave to churn. If your machine doesn't have settings then you will need to allow for around one hour but it's best to check the mixture to make sure you achieve your desired setting. Eat straight away or if you must keep some transfer to a freezer safe container. The sorbet should last around one week.
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