Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.

25.4.04

Lemon tree very pretty. And very productive.

That old song - 'and the fruit of the lemon is impossible to eat' - couldn't have got it more wrong. What were they thinking (or smoking) in the 'sixties?

A couple of years back in my previous house I had a lemon tree that produced in excess of a thousand lemons annually. I never counted them of course, but I was always able to go out and pick a bucket of fifty or so lemons, and I did this at least every fortnight.

The tree was perfectly positioned in a sunny north-sloping corner, receiving all the benefits of full sun with protection from too much wind - in fact, total protection from southerlies. (Bear in mind this is the southern hemisphere.)

There were so many lemons we did not begrudge the scores that were eaten by (o)possums - only the way they ate them: they ate the peel off of the lemon, leaving dozens of perfectly naked lemons hanging on the tree.

With lemons in abundance you need to be more prolific in cooking with them than just by squeezing a wedge over your grilled whiting every now and then (although that is sublime!)

Chicken with lemon, garlic and chickpeas.

Notice I list lemon and garlic ahead of chickpeas. This middle eastern style chicken is great on couscous or for lunch in Lebanese bread with some hummus and yogurt, maybe some sliced onion, tomato and lettuce.

Dredge some chicken thigh fillets in flour and seal with olive oil. Remove from pan.

Add more olive oil to the pan, toss in several scored cloves of garlic - say one large clove for each fillet - half a cup of white wine, dash of cumin, dash of pepper, juice of a whole lemon, two if they're not big ones. Place the fillets back in the pan along with a can of drained chickpeas. Now - take your juiced lemon outers, squeeze them convexly, so the rind expels their lemon oil, and toss them in with the chicken. The lemon oil will add to the lemony flavour. (Squeeze a lemon rind like this and you will see the lemon oil come out like a little puff of zesty steam.)

Place a close-fitting lid over the pan and simmer the whole thing very gently until the fillets are cooked through. This will depend on the heat source and the type of pan and your liquid level. Adjust where necessary.

When done, discard the lemon outers, and serve fillets over couscous, rice or however you like. The sauce should have reduced and thickened very slightly due to the flour.

Tabouleh salad is nice on the side. And don't forget to squeeze more lemon over the top!

Eat with a nice chilled white wine, maybe a flavoursome chardonnay.

I wonder how my lemon tree is doing - we moved house and I miss that tree badly.

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