Last Updated on November 13, 2019 by Chef Mireille
It’s time for Food of the World again and this month we are going to Egypt – a country of flavorful flatbreads, smoky kebabs, scented rice dishes and floral infused desserts. I initially thought of making some babousa, a rich semolina cake topped with a sweet syrup, but on the day I had decided to do the recipe for FOTW, my house was loaded with sweets. I had come back from a meeting with some local food blogger friends the previous weekend, which also happened to be my birthday weekend. I came home with birthday cake, brownies and two bags of cookies. I needed no more sweets to be added to the mix. I needed something savory and quick to do, as my time has been limited to work picking up quite a bit. This is a recipe that is super quick and easy – you just have to remember to do it at least 2 weeks in advance, as it needs time to ferment.
Many Middle Eastern and North African countries from Morrocco to Israel use preserved lemons. They are made in slightly different ways from country to country and utilized in different ways from country to country. In Morocco, they are generally added to tagines. In Egypt, they are often eaten as is as a condiment, served with anything from rice dishes to kebabs. The rind can also be chopped and used in salads and even desserts.
The Egyptian ones are flavored with nigella (black onion seed) and dried safflower. When my mother was in Turkey, she brought me back packages of different spices. One of them was labelled as Turkish saffron, which looked very different from other saffron I usually use. It was lighter in color and had longer threads. I haven’t really used it much as I had my doubt about it being saffron. I used it some rice recipes for color, but not really in anything else that called for saffron After reading this post and seeing the pictures, I realized that it was actually dried safflower, which is used interchangeably with saffron in Egypt and other Middle Eastern cuisines. Mystery solved. My mother had brought back both the threads and ground spice for me. I have since used the threads, but still had some of the ground Turkish saffron, otherwise known as safflower, so I used that in my version of the recipe from the post referenced above.
Since you will eat the rind, use organic lemons only.
Egyptian Preserved Lemons
Prep Time: 2 weeks
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Yield: 5 preserved lemons
Jar Preparation Ingredients:
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (I used Himalayan rock salt)
- 1 cup boiled water
- 5 lemons, preferably organic
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon salt (I used Himalayan pink rock salt)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons nigella seeds
- 1 1/2 tablespoons ground dried safflower (or saffron threads)
To prepare the jar. Dissolve salt in the boiling water. Pour in the glass jar you will be using to ferment the lemons. Let it cool.
Wash the lemons well with cold water. Combine lemons and water in a pot. Heat on the stove and turn off just before it comes to a boil, about minutes.
Slice off the ends the lemons. Quarter the lemons, cutting them open but not all the way through.
In a small bowl, combine salt, nigella and safflower. Sprinkle a little of this mix on the insides of each lemon.
Place in the glass jar, cover and leave it at room temperature for 2 weeks.
Use as desired to compliment your meals.
Boost up the flavor in some plain steamed rice by adding a little of the chopped preserved lemon and a little of the preserving liquid. Or add a little to pineapple salsa for an Egyptian twist.
Egyptian Preserved Lemon
- To prepare the jar. Dissolve salt in the boiling water. Pour in the glass jar you will be using to ferment the lemons. Let it cool.
- Wash the lemons well with cold water. Combine lemons and water in a pot. Heat on the stove and turn off just before it comes to a boil, about minutes.
- Slice off the ends the lemons. Quarter the lemons, cutting them open but not all the way through.
- In a small bowl, combine salt, nigella and safflower. Sprinkle a little of this mix on the insides of each lemon.
- Place in the glass jar, cover and leave it at room temperature for 2 weeks.
- Refrigerate and use as desired.
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