1 Apr 2012
I just used the last jar of preserved lemon that Robert and I made in 2008. We made maybe 10 size 20 Vacola jars of preserved lemon. We had kilos and kilos of lemons. It was our first large cooking project together. In 2008 I rented a house in Curtin. It had an old garden that was full of treasure.
This old garden had a quince tree, garlic in the vegie garden, mint under the tap, a chestnut tree and lots of beautiful ornamentals. But the best thing about this old garden was its lemon tree. It was the most prolific lemon tree I have ever known. It just keep going and going. It bore hundreds of lemons. There were so many, even after we preserved kilos of them, there were still enough to take into the office to give away and to leave outside the letterbox in a bucket for passers-by.
During August, Robert and I, while making all our other big plans, prepared easily 100 lemons ready for preservation. Loads of salt. Packets of cinnamon and whole branches of a bay tree, went into this endeavour. We spent the whole day working through the task, and working each other out. Chopping, salting, packing lemons into jars. Sharing a kitchen and working together side by side. For the first time, I had found someone who I could actually cook with, not only for, but with.
This afternoon, with the extra hour delivered thanks to the end of Daylight Saving, and not a moment too soon, I made my favourite preserved lemon dish. It is a chicken casserole. The recipe is handwritten in an abbreviated form, by me in my kitchen note-book. The recipe, which I have cooked over and over and over, was lifted from a magazine long past. It is Mediterranean, but the precise location is now forgotten. My rendering of the recipe has no quantities. So sure was I, when I copied it, that I could remember exactly how to make it, I omitted the details of them. It starts, as all good casseroles, with an instruction to make stock from the bones of the chicken. I have done this precisely once before I have made this dish. I now use this recipe as a super fast standby. I make it quickly and almost without even thinking about it for the next day. It is always better the next day. In short, I cheat and use wine instead of stock, but it is 10 minutes work, and time in the oven and the next night, I come home, turn on the oven and it’s ready.
It has preserved lemon, saffron, green olives, red onion and chicken pieces. Here it is, you’ll have to make up your own mind about how much and whether or not to make the stock. I will say that you need to be generous with the saffron, it lifts the chicken to new heights.
I am really not sure what to make of the fact that there are no more jars left. Patiently waiting their turn.
Better find another lemon tree.