Citrons Confits for Christmas

Citrons Confits by Sue Style

A friend recently posted something on Facebook along the lines that ‘if life gives you lemons, put them in the freezer, then chuck ’em at whoever’s making your life impossible’. Here’s an even better idea: make them into citrons confits, lovely to have on standby in the fridge – they keep for months – or better still, bestow them on fortunate friends at Christmas. Here are two recipes for doing them, plus another couple of ideas for how to use them.

CITRONS CONFITS (1)

The simplest way to do preserved lemons. Done like this, the lemons remain quite firm so it’s best to add them at the beginning of recipes like daubes, tajines or casseroles whose long, slow cooking will soften the lemons.

Cut the lemons in quarters, not quite through to the bottom, and open them up like a flower with 4 petals. Pack 2 tablespoons of coarse salt into the center of each lemon, pushing it down well. Choose a Kilner jar (glass, wide-mouthed, with a rubber seal) into which the lemons will just fit. Press the salt-stuffed lemons tightly into the jar and snap the lid shut. Leave for about 1 week in the fridge, during which you will periodically open up the jar and press them down firmly. They should make plenty of their own juice – enough to completely cover them. If not, add a layer of olive oil on top to exclude air. Re-cover and leave for another 2 weeks before using. To use, rinse the peel and dice small; discard pith and pips. Cook the peel in with meat, fish or vegetable tajines or daubes.

CITRONS CONFITS (2)

Citrons Confits, recipe from Thierry Voisin, by Sue StyleIn this recipe from Thierry Voisin, former chef at Les Crayères in Reims, the lemons are first blanched, then packed into jars and covered with a sweet-salty syrup. They are a bit softer and less salty than in the first recipe and hardly need any further cooking – great for adding to veggie dishes or couscous. Both kinds will keep for several months.

4 lemons
100g coarse salt
150g sugar
½ litre water
several sprigs of fresh thyme
olive oil

  • Blanch the fruit three times in boiling water, discarding the water each time and starting again with fresh
  • Drain and pack the lemons into a jar just large enough to take them all
  • Dissolve the salt and sugar in the water and pour it over the fruit
  • Cover tightly and refrigerate for 2-4 weeks before using

ROAST PUMPKIN, PARSNIPS AND POTATOES WITH THYME, CITRON CONFIT AND BLACK OLIVES

A gorgeously gaudy (golden/orange/black/red/green) celebration of winter veggies, great for entertaining as you can do all the prep work ahead, put the veggies in a roasting pan, massage in the olive oil and herbs and leave till ready to roll. Good enough to eat on their own, or serve with leftover Roast veggies with citron confit by Sue Styleturkey or ham, or roast/grilled meats or fish.

Serves 6-8
About 1 kg mixed pumpkin and squash (e.g. potimarron, butternut, acorn squash)
500g parsnips
500g ratte potatoes
1 citron confit, or juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
2-3 sprigs of thyme, leaves only
1 bay leaf, crumbled
salt and pepper
6 tablespoons olive oil
125g black olives, stoned/pitted
plenty of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

  • Wash pumpkins and squash, cut in half, scoop out seeds and cut flesh in 1-cm slices, and then in half again
  • Peel parsnips and cut in 1-cm strips
  • Scrub potatoes and cut in half lengthwise (don’t peel, pas la peine)
  • Cut preserved lemon in half, scoop out and discard pips and pith, cut skin in strips and then in tiny dice (or if using lemon juice, add later)
  • Line a large roasting pan with baking parchment and put in all veggies
  • Add peeled, halved garlic cloves, thyme leaves, crumbled bay leaf, salt and pepper, olive oil and lemon dice – mix well with your hands
  • Heat the oven to 200oC
  • Bake the veggies for about 45 minutes, or until almost tender and beginning to brown a little at the edges
  • Add the olives, mix them in well and return pan to the oven for another 15-20 minutes
  • When veggies are done, lift them out on their paper and tip them into a serving dish, sprinkle with lemon juice (if using instead of citron confit) and flat-leaf parsley and serve

SALAD OF ROAST ARTICHOKE HEARTS WITH BEANS AND CITRON CONFIT

arti hearts and beans with citrons confits sue styleI’d never have attempted this gorgeous recipe (adapted from an Ottolenghi one) without the help of the wonderful Picard frozen food shops here in France, which stock ready trimmed and blanched artichoke hearts as well as broad beans.  A great dish with grilled meat or fish.

Serves 6-8
500g trimmed artichoke hearts
several sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves, crumbled
½ salt-preserved lemon, pith removed, cut in strips
juice of 1 lemon
4 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, slivered
salt and pepper
250g shelled broad (fava) beans
400g French/green beans

  • Cut the artichoke hearts in slices
  • Put them in a roasting pan with thyme, bay leaves, salt-preserved lemon strips, lemon juice, olive oil, slivered garlic and salt and pepper
  • Roast at 190oC for about 30 minutes or until the artichokes are tender and the edges slightly golden
  • Tip the artichokes into a bowl or large platter and allow to cool
  • Boil some water and cook the broad/fava and French/green beans until just tender – about 6-7 minutes
  • Drain, refresh under a cold tap, add to the roasted artichoke strips, turning to mix well

COUSCOUS WITH TOASTED ALMONDS AND CITRON CONFIT

couccous with apricots and citron confit by Sue Style

Serves 8
300g medium-fine pre-cooked couscous
500ml/2 cups stock or water
2 tablespoons olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1 small citron confit
50g blanched peeled almonds
plenty of chopped mint

  • Put the couscous in a shallow ovenproof dish, boil the stock or water and pour it over the couscous, cover with plastic wrap and leave it to steam for about 15 minutes or until all the stock/water is absorbed
  • Cut the preserved lemon in half, discard all the pulp, cut the rind in thin strips, then in small dice
  • When the couscous has absorbed all the stock/water, fluff it up with a fork, add 1 tablespoon oil and lemon juice and stir in lemon dice
  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a small frying pan and fry the almonds till golden, shaking the pan often till evenly golden
  • Tip almonds onto paper towels to absorb excess oil, then chop them coarsely and fork them into the couscous
  • Keep couscous warm in an 80 C oven
  • Stir chopped mint into the couscous just before serving

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