Lemon paste – endlessly useful preserved lemon substitute

I had a number of recipes incorporating preserved lemons that I was yearning to try out. But where I was sitting out Lockdown Number Three there were none to be had.

I was considering experimenting with maple syrup, when, browsing through the Masterclass website (which I had been given as a generous Christmas present), I noticed a course in quick condiments being given by Ottolenghi.

Blow me down if he wasn’t championing one which was a preserved lemon substitute.

I gave it a go.

It did, indeed, turn out to be very useful. I added maple syrup to replicate the slightly syrupy sweetness good quality preserved lemons have. And I never add salt to the dish I’m making until I’ve tasted carefully, because it’s VERY salty.

It keeps in the fridge for months.

How to make the lemon paste, and some tips

This is what to do. Slice off the top and bottom of an unwaxed, fertiliser-free lemon. Then very thinly slice the lemon across horizontally. Put it in a small, heavy bottomed saucepan.

Add four tablespoons of lemon juice. You can either use lemon juice from a bottle (or one of those squeezy plastic lemons. If you use real lemon juice, bear in mind that an average lemon yields 3 tablespoons of juice. You can ‘encourage’ the lemon by warming it a little (you can do this quickly in a microwave) and then rolling it on the worktop. In any case you can make up the difference with a little water.

how to make lemon paste

Add a tablespoon, maximum, of salt. Bring the lot to a simmer to dissolve the salt.

Add a teaspoon (or two) of maple syrup. Reduce the temperature so that it is not quite simmering, and cover. Leave to cook for 10-12 minutes, or until the lemon peel starts to look translucent. Take off the heat and leave to cool a little.

Once it’s cooled off, put the lot into a small blender/chopper/grinder. Chop until you have a rough purée – the same sort of consistency as baby food.

Pour into a sterilised jar, cover with a film of olive oil. Cover again, and use as required.

how to make lemon paste
You want the same sort of consistency as baby food. There should still be tiny bits of soft peel.

How to use the lemon paste

Wherever you want lemony zing, this paste will do the trick. You can use it anywhere a preserved lemon slice or two is required. But remember NOT TO ADD SALT until you have tasted first.

It makes a very good gourmet present.

It’s great in dressings (for example, I used a couple of teaspoons of it in the cracking good chicken and cauliflower salad instead of the juice and zest of half a lemon… which I didn’t happen to have).

Also good served over roast vegetables.

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