It’s Mothers’ Day today…. and there may be some of you struggling still to think of a last-minute present.
Decades ago I used to make lemon infused oil, and I used it over everything. It’s quick to make, it’s ‘handmade’, and it’ll certainly be appreciated.
Uses, just a few examples, for lemon-infused oil
- I used it as a last minute dressing, it did at least have an element of bright, acid taste
- For example on a courgette and walnut salad
- Over roast monkfish
- or warm focaccia it was sublime
- or drizzled over flatbreads
- Drizzled at the last minute over slightly dried out roast vegetables, aubergines especially, it was a life-saver
- It was grand over grilled fish
- Greek salad….
- even giving butter a run for its money on new potatoes
- it was particularly good on broccoli
- or as a marinade… again for chicken
- use it to make pastry as in Neolithic Meat Pie
Two more uses for infused lemon oil: roasted leeks and olive oil pastry
And then it just dropped out of use. Until I went to a cooking session run by Iain Longhorn, at Limewood. And there he was, using it everywhere, as I used to, most notably over roasted leeks.
Then Covid struck. And I began research for a book about pies. A revelation was the Neolithic meat pie. This is encased in pastry made with olive oil… and the taste of the oil does a lot for the pastry – it’s quick, crumbly, and full of flavour. Substituting some, if not all, of the oil for lemon infused oil results in something wondrous.
Adding lemon grass
The idea of enhancing the taste of the oil further with lemon grass came from my adventures in developing N-Gin, a gin which recalls the spark and crash of an engine.
Adding fennel seeds
And the idea of infusing oil with fennel seed comes from a number of blogs in New Zealand… a lovely idea which adds a bit of complexity to the whole thing, memories of a decadent pastis.
To find various simple ways of sterilising bottles, follow this link.
- 1 large unwaxed lemon
- 240 ml/1 cup olive oil
- 1 stick of lemon grass (optional)
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- Give the lemon a bit of a wash – you’re using the peel so you don’t want any chemicals on it. Dry thoroughly.
- Put the olive oil, in a small saucepan and begin to warm gently.
- Use a very sharp knife to cut off the lemon peel in longish lengths… pretend you’re making a horse’s neck cocktail! The important thing is to only take off the peel, not the pith beneath it, which is bitter.
- Dry fry the fennel seeds, then put them in a pestle and mortar, grind a couple of times, add the lemon peel, grind gently a couple of times to encourage the oil in the peel to escape.
- Add the lemon peel, fennel seeds, and lemon grass if you are using that to the oil and warm for about ten minutes.. You don’t want the oil to get even close to a simmer (if you notice any small bubbles, turn the heat down immediately) or you risk destroying the flavour (of the oil itself, as well as the other ingredients).
- Take the pan off the heat and leave for about an hour. Then pour it through a sieve, via a funnel, into a sterilised bottle.
- Store in a cool, dark place for about a month; or in the fridge for three or four months.