Six things to do when you have an over-achieving lemon tree

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Winter has hung up its dancing shoes and gone home.  The warmer, longer days are a welcome change and the fence alongside our clinic is hung with intoxicating wisteria which signals that spring has truly arrived.

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There are still bags of lemons in my fridge like stragglers at a party who hang around long after the champagne is drunk and the music has stopped.  The parents’ lemon tree has been in overdrive until a couple of weeks ago but the start of September has been hectic, leaving me with no time to address the excess citrus issue.

Each morning, I drink warm water with a good squeeze of lemon juice but I knew that the lemons wouldn’t keep long enough to be used up this way.  So as I always do, I turned to Dr. Google for ways of using them up before good lemons go bad, and the world wide web did not disappoint.

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Here’s my pick of the suggestions I found:

1. Squeeze them and freeze the juice in ice-cube trays for later.

2. Use the juice and zest in salad dressings like in this Quinoa Salad, or this Zucchini and Fennel Salad or even this one with Warm Lentils, Walnuts and Goats Cheese.

3. Make Lemon Curd.

4. Make lemonade or it’s slightly salty Indian cousin, nimboo pani for those warmer spring days.

5. Make preserved lemons to use in tagines and other middle-eastern dishes.  Here is a good method.

6. Bake the lemony goodness into these nankhatai biscuits, or these lemon marmalade meringue ones.  Consider also this lemon tart or these lemon chocolate cheesecake pots with lemon peel powder.

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While we’re on lemons, check out this ludicrously cute pics of tiny humans trying lemons for the first time.

What are your favourite ways of using up citrus?

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Speaking of lemons….

…..there are still a few kicking around in my fridge.  They are a little softer than they were a week ago and I finally made myself throw out their leaves and thorns.

The thorns just amp up the coolness factor of all this.  Don’t think you can just reach in and grab the luminous fruit whenever it pleases you.  As lovely as they look, the tree doesn’t give them up without a fight and you are likely to get jabbed in the finger by that crafty defence mechanism.

You won’t see it coming of course, not with your eyes fixated on those shiny skinned lemons.  They will be yours eventually but don’t expect the tree to give in without a fight.

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I squeezed and zested as many as I could and although I can use the juice gradually, I was aware that I needed to use the zest pretty quickly.  Lemon zest, by the way, is my current favourite ingredient.  There is only so much lemon curd one needs to have in the fridge so that wasn’t an option.

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With perfect timing, the August Sweet Adventures Blog Hop was announced, hosted by Sophie from The Sticky and Sweet.  Cookies are the name of the game this month and I decided to try and make a biscuit that has been on my mind lately.

(Let’s just pretend for now that it’s perfectly normal to have baked goods on one’s mind.)

The biscuit in question is nankhatai, a traditional Indian cookie that is almost shortbread like in texture.  The chickpea flour gives it it’s richness and mouth-coating quality.  Semolina provides little spots of crunch and substance in an otherwise buttery crumbly world.  That lemon zest found it’s calling in my version and joined pistachio and cardamom to flavour what turned out to be a gorgeous tea-time biscuit.

I just love it when a plan comes together.

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Lemon and Pistachio Nankhatai

Modified from this recipe

Makes 28-30

Get:

180g butter at room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
Zest of 1 1/2 lemons, finely grated
Insides of 8-10 cardamom pods
1 tsp white sugar
1 1/4 cups besan (chickpea) flour
1/2 cup plain flour
1/4 cup coarse semolina
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup pistachio kernels

Make:

Preheat the oven to 175 C.

Using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, powder the cardamom and white sugar together.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and lemon zest with the sugar and the cardamom/sugar powder.

In a separate bowl, sift all the flours, baking powder and salt together.  Grind the pistachios very coarsely so that there are still lots of small pieces rather than a powder.  Add this to the flours and stir through.

Add the flour mixture to the butter and sugar mixture and combine with a spatula.  You will then have to get your (clean) hands in there to form a dough. Knead the dough for a couple of minutes until it is smooth.  If it is too sticky, put it in the fridge for about 10 mins. Knead again for a minute.

Form tablespoon sized balls.  Roll between your palms and flatten a little.  Mine were 3-4 cm in diameter and about 1.5 cm thick.  Press down in the middle with your thumb to make an indentation.  Lay the cookies out on baking trays lined with baking paper.  Leave 2-3 cm between cookies as they will spread.

Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 16-20 mins.  The cookies are done when they have spread a little and are browned at the top and bottom.  They will be soft initially but will crisp up after they cool.

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Fructose-free Lemon Curd from a Lemony Bounty

I’ve set about the task of growing herbs in my balcony with a stubborn determination which is not entirely typical of me.  Mind you, gardening for me is an undertaking that requires nothing short of the stubbornest of determinations because despite my best efforts, I seem to fail miserably at growing anything.

Anything apart from mould in bowls of questionable things in my fridge, that is.

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Of course like all other products of my generation, I blame my mother entirely for this particular deficiency.  She once told me that when she was a child, she planted some seedlings and rushed out excitedly the next day to pull them out of the soil to check if the roots were growing.

Needless to say there was not much of anything growing after that.

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As luck would have it, Dad is actually quite a competent gardener and I can almost forgive him for not passing on the gene as he keeps me adequately supplied with whatever is flourishing in their garden.

So while the basil languishes in our balcony and the dill shrivels pathetically next to it, my parents’ garden has a curry leaf tree that has reached alarming heights, chilli plants that frequently sprout their spicy red fruit and a lemon tree that produces impressive numbers of citrusy goodness every winter.

When my parents handed over a bag of the aforementioned lemons, it was immediately clear to me that I would not be able to use all of the fruit before they dried up to half of their juicy selves.

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Following this was the thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to try my hand at making lemon curd.  That’s right, for the first time!  Surprising as I have always found the sweet, creamy tang of lemon curd at once delightful and refreshing.

I then decided that one first wasn’t enough for the day and decided to make a fructose-free version of said lemon curd.

This version uses dextrose, which is a glucose powder.  It is slightly less sweet than regular lemon curd but I found it sweet enough.  You could probably add a little more dextrose if you wanted to.  You can use lemon curd for lots of things- tarts, lemon meringue pie, cake.  Or just spread it on toast.  I am planning more lemon curd related posts in the future so stay with me fellow citrus-lovers.

So what are your favourite ways to use lemon or other fruit curds? I would love to hear your ideas in the comments section.

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Fructose-free Lemon Curd

Makes just under a cup

Modified from Gifts from the Kitchen by Annie Riggs via The Patterned Plate

Get:

2 eggs

Juice and finely grated zest of 1 1/2 lemons

62g butter, cubed

110g dextrose

Make:

Beat the eggs and place in the heatproof top bowl of a double boiler or Bain Marie.  I used a large thick walled ceramic bowl.  Ensure the water in the lower vessel is not touching the bowl at the top.  Add the other ingredients and cook on moderate heat for 17-20mins, stirring every few mins.

Stop cooking when the mixture is the consistency of a thick custard.

Allow to cool for a few mins, then place in the fridge to speed up the cooling process.

Place into a sterilised jar and in the fridge.  Mine lasted a few days in the fridge.

Notes:

To sterilise glass jars, wash with soap and hot water and place the jars and lids upturned on a baking tray in a preheated oven at 160 C for 20 mins.

If  fructose-free is not your thing, replace the dextrose with the same amount of caster sugar.

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