pickled lemons

i treated myself to a couple of new cookery books at the end of year and am trying to make the effort to cook from them, and learn new things. yottam ottolenghi and sami tamimi’s jerusalem was the easiest book to get into, not least because i’d seen so many recipes online, so when i got the book i marked up some “must cooks” and got stuck in.

it was also easy to do as so many of the dishes are very flexible, easily working as the focus of a meal (such as these meatballs with broad beans) or as one of many dishes (i adore these roasted aubergines). plus, as ever with ottolenghi recipes, the sweet options (such as this muhallabieh) are just as tempting as the savoury. also very delicious are the accompaniments – for me, the lemon pickle is what really made this starter of fish and caper fishcakes with burnt aubergine and the aforementioned pickle, so delicious.

the fishcakes were wonderfully light – a combination of white fish (i used haddock), finely diced and mixed with capers, dill, spring onions, lemon juice and zest, a little cumin, tumeric, salt and pepper plus a scant handful of breadcrumbs and a little beaten egg to hold it all together.

the burnt aubergine was the a combination of charred-over-gas-until-blackene,d and then peeled, aubergine flesh enriched with a little greek yoghurt and balanced with some crushed garlic and chopped parsely. this is a flavour that appears in so many north african and mediterranean dishes, and i really do love it.

in this dish the richness contrasted wonderfully with the fresh-flavoured fishcakes and the tang of the pickled lemons, which obviously had the sourness of lemon but also hints of garlic, paprika, cumin and tumeric, to make them so much exciting than you might have expected; they are the sort of thing you will want to have in your fridge all the time.

quick pickled lemons*

½ a red chilli, chopped

3 tablespoons lemon juice

3 small-medium unwaxed lemons, halved lengthways and sliced widthways as finely as possible

35g caster sugar

½ tablespoon coarse sea salt

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

¼ teaspoon, ground cumin

½ teaspoon ground tumeric

use a pestle and mortar to smash together the chilli with 1 teaspoon of the lemon juice; you want a rough looking paste. transfer this to a bigger bowl along with the other ingredients. use your hands to mix everything together so that all the flavours get massaged into the lemons. leave in a bowl, covered, overnight. transfer to a sterilized jar the next day – it will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

* from jerusalem