Snapshots from our journey - Paris, as usual is soooooo beautiful but... I’ve always avoided July and I’m reminded why. The heat is debilitating. With its core of 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th century buildings, how could one possibly air-condition Paris? We are on rue de Verneuil, (where lived Serge Gainsbourg, his house graffitied by fans) in a miniscule ground floor apartment, minus the graffiti.
Eclairs are the new macarons. More satisfying then macarons, less etherial than macarons, more varied than macarons, they are everywhere, sporting different colours, different flavoured crème patissière, fruit and glazes. Watch it happen here.
Left: Salt crystals (proud, pure, natural, organic, macrobiotic) and from our own River Murray. Salt is certainly the new collectable. There were ridiculous raspberry-flavoured salts, ranging from pretty pink in colour to strident puce, mushroom-flavoured salts (a grubby beige), smoky salts (for when you're too lazy to fire up the barbie). The Oz salt was delicate and in good taste, of course.
Right: Alluring displays of spices and dried herbs, arranged to make you want to cook.
Both from the Fine Food department of Galleries Lafayette. (Don't pronounce the S.)
I adore supermarkets. Monoprix is a great attraction and it’s FREE entertainment. The yoghurt section is my particular favourite with many brands still coming in tiny glass or earthenware pots, all of which, when empty, I have to then cram into my suitcase to bring home.
These are two “must-eat” places every time - the casual Comptoir du Relais (place de l’Odéon) and the very special Le Grand Véfour (le Palais Royal, my spiritual home - the apartment above, once the home of Colette).
Le Comptoir – No tablecloth and a table the size of a darts board, they bustled, we hustled. I indulged in my personal weakness, the funny bits. Started with a grilled terrine of boudin noir, followed by crumbed, boned pigs’ trotters. Promised myself I’ll do these at home on return.
Le Grand Véfour – Perfection. Sat down (this time in the seat reserved in the past for Colette) to a beautiful plate by Bernadaud, Limoges, in the centre of which was a folded napkin. The quality of the napery made me tremble. No-one flicked open the napkin to invade my space by flapping it on my lap.
And, as we were enjoying the relaxing atmosphere, we realised there was no music! Absolute bliss.
Half way through the meal, the immaculate maître d’ approached our table, raised one hand in a questioning gesture and asked simply, “Tout... ça va?” No-one asked me how my day had been. We were not asked at every bite whether we were enjoying our meal.
Why is this appalling Americanised (sorry, dear American friends) behavior seen as good service?
Left: Le Grand Véfour - Elegance and comfort - and note a choice of salted or unsalted butter. What more could you ask for?
Right: Le Comptoir du Relais - a bit squashy but...
Le Tour de France finished in Paris on the Sunday. The city was packed with people and tour busses. Roads were roped off, access everywhere was difficult. We hid out in the gorgeous museum of decorative arts (le Musée des Arts Décoratifs), at the end wing of the Louvre - quiet, unhurried and safe - my second spiritual home - plates, cups and saucers, soupières everywhere.
I could fill this blog with images but let this one suffice - a cup in milk glass with ormolu mounts - late Napoleonic Empire. If I had this for my SFTGFOP Darjeeling, (Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe), I swear I could give up alcohol.
Also did some damage at Laure Bassal (shoes, 3 rue de Grenelle, 75006) and at Issey Miyake (with a "onesie" that could make me look like a "teletubby" in black unless I lose the holiday kilos).
"Spap-shots - the cruise", coming up.
Comment /questions below...
Last week, I was watching a programme on the state of agriculture in Oz and heard that 25% of all potatoes harvested are discarded because they are the wrong shape. The wrong shape? Are we absolutely stark raving mad?
I was reminded of an article - https://straight cucumbers - from Atlas Obscura sent to me from the indomitable BM. For afternoon tea (never "High Tea", please) cucumber sandwiches needed straight cucumbers and this is how they did it.
They might have been absolutely barking mad but do we need uniformly shaped potatoes? It must break a farmer's heart.
This has to be the best mash in the world.
Joël Robuchon died 6th August this year from pancreatic cancer. His name is not as well known around the world as say, Bocuse, Ducasse, Blumenthal or Gordon Ramsay (who was a protagé) despite being idolised by his peers. The food magazine, Gault & Millau, named him chef of the century in 1989. In 1995 he retired from the pressured world of Michelin stars and fine dining having at that stage opened and operated over a dozen restaurants around the world. Articles refer to his "relentless perfectionism".
He simply turned his back on three star cuisine to live better and to have a family life. Later he did re-invent himself - simpler food, simpler presentation and simpler settings, with dishes using just three to four basic elements. By this time, nonetheless, he had accumulated 32 Michelin stars, the most of any other chef in the world.
Left: Joël Robuchon - the chef's chef
Right: a "three star cuisine" presentation of eye-watering precision - caviar on lobster aspic, topped with gold leaf and enhanced by tiny cushions of crème fraîche mounted by individual petit pois.
But I do make his mashed potato...
Purée de Pommes de Terre (World’s Best Mashed Potato)
Follow this to the letter the first time. You can loosen up on the effort once you’ve got the hang of it and know what you’re aiming for.
1K potatoes (starchy rather than waxy)
(Choose potatoes of similar size for even cooking.)
up to 250 ml (1 cup) real milk (i.e. not low-fat)
200 – 250 gm unsalted butter, cubed and chilled.
The original Jöel recipe from his book Simply French (written by Patricia Wells) suggests “For exceptionally rich potatoes, the quantity of butter may be doubled”. Now, that’s my kind of recipe!
His mash became "iconic" with grand restaurants and hipster bistros following his lead.
Left: Mash, exquisitely served at the Grand Véfour, Paris, individually portioned, sitting in a jus, fragrant with truffle. (More on that later.)
Right: Mash served at Le Comptoir du Relais, Paris, to support a crisply bread-crumbed, boned pig's trotter - simple bistro that belies a menu of heavenly dishes. (More on that later.)
Tell me how you get on...
Above- Mary Berry's QUEEN'S PUDDING from "The Great British Bake-Off".
We’re still thinking of Tony Bourdain. I’m lounging around while my partner reads out the funny bits (Medium Raw). Funny and acerbic, these are ideas all cooks and chefs relate to. He’s writing about real food, hospitality, conviviality, culture, all with a reminder that pleasure and sumptuousness are as important as restraint and simplicity. He loved excess and hated waste.
In contrast, flipping through the TV channels recently, I caught a few moments of Master Chef, a show that purports to be about good food. Instead of warmth and friendship, the show promotes humiliation, suspense, aggression, fear and panic. It’s “Game of Thrones” in a kitchen. Worse can be said of My Kitchen Rules, which adds downright rudeness, plastic surgery disasters and bad table manners. I won’t elaborate on their bad suits.
If asked, I’d probably accept a stint as guest judge on MC. The money could add an extension to the house, repaint the sitting room, add a few Iranian rugs to the collection. It could for heaven’s sake even get me a Rothko or pay Willy Nelson to sing at my birthday. But honestly, what was Prince Charles doing on the show? Was that a new low? Who pulled that off? Why did he do it? Did the stables need re-roofing? Did the organic garden at Highgrove need to be expanded?
The charismatic Lee Lin Chin is leaving (retiring?) the news desk at SBS. Beautifully spoken, her dress sense is exquisite with just enough eccentricity to balance style and good taste. Would she have time at least to help the image of the gentlemen from Master Chef and MKR – five of the worst-dressed men on TV?
-The Great British Bake-Off
I came to it late, I admit, but The Great British Bake-Off has entertained and inspired me. I even “binged” on six episodes in a row, one Sunday.
Mary Berry – cookery writer, Paul Hollywood – master baker, Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc (comedians) host the show. Contestants work in a delightful marquee set in some bucolic corner of Britain. Their equipment is tastefully colour co-ordinated in pastel shades. They are put through a series of “challenges” – sponges, tarts, breads, scones, biscuits – but it’s all so civilized and calm, warm, friendly and encouraging. They all like each other. As an accomplished cook, I still learnt lots; about avoiding soggy bottoms, checking for yeast development, etc. (I had to get me one of them there automatic temperature checkers, by golly, and some better piping nozzles.)
“Tear’n share” breads were a first for me as was the new “all in one method” of cake mixing. Works well on a Victoria sponge (which leads, of course, to the differences between a Victoria, a Génoise, a Madeira).
I wasn’t happy with serrated knives cutting across cake racks nor with jumper sleeves pulled down to thumbs while cooking. I can’t believe that twice, salt was mistaken for sugar with disastrous results. The judges would criticize my love of dark pastry crusts - they prefer pale - and was it the British love of the double-entendre that gave so much attention to “nice buns”, “cream horns” and “soggy bottoms”?
The BBC couldn’t believe its luck when the show went viral with most of the population glued to the finals. The Great British Bake Off – catch it somehow – catch it on youtube – and for a laugh, watch David Walliams and Joanna Lumley do their thing!
https://www.youtube David Walliams Joanna Lumley
(based on Mary Berry’s recipe)
This is spectacular and easy.
*To prepare ahead of time, finish the custard and fruit part. Have the meringue whipped just before friends arrive. It will hold and can be “revived” with a light whisk before putting into the piping bag.
** If you have the privilege of eating this dessert, pour the cream AROUND your serve, not on top of it. (See Blog Post – “Respect” – 12/12/2017.) The chef has spent time cooking and presenting a lovely piece, with the meringue just right. Don’t dishonor it and cover it with cream. (The rugged individualists among us, of course, will do what they want.)
I first made this for a friend who is seriously gluten intolerant. For the base, I used part blanched almond meal, part gluten-free breadcrumbs. It worked so now I suggest the almond meal every time.
The recipe can be successfully adapted to the dish available. The pilluyvit dish in the photograph needed the recipe x 1.5.
For the base
600 ml real milk (i.e. not low fat)
25 gm butter (plus some for buttering the dish)
zest of one lemon (optional)
50 gm caster sugar
3 egg yolks
75 gm bread crumbs
(or better still, 50 gm blanched almond meal & 25 gm breadcrumbs)
Meringue: 175 gm caster sugar & the 3 egg whites
Fruit: 500 gm frozen raspberries & 200 gm caster sugar
Serve: pouring cream
Preheat the oven to 170C / 325F
Butter a 1.5 ltr (approx.) shallow oven-proof dish (one that will fit into a roasting tin as a bain-marie).
Base: Warm the milk, butter and sugar.
Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl and pour over the milk mixture.
Add the lemon zest.
Spread the breadcrumb mixture over the bottom of your dish. Pour over the milk mixture.
Place this dish of “custard” in a roasting tin, half filled with warm water.
Bake 20 – 25 minutes until set. Remove from bain-marie.
Fruit: Meanwhile, place the raspberries and sugar in a saucepan and heat gently for about 4 minutes or until you have a loose jam-like consistency.
Pour / spread over the custard.
Meringue*: Whisk the egg whites until fairly stiff. Gradually add the sugar and continue whisking until mixture is stiff and shiny.* (See above.)
Spread the meringue over the fruit, creatively forming peaks or better still, put meringue into a piping bag and pipe attractively.
Bake: Return to the oven (150˚C) for 20-25 minutes until the top is lightly brown and crisp.
Serve**: immediately with pouring cream.**
Comments below ...
Left - Mad, bad, and dangerous to know.
Right - Sane & compassionate commentator on food and culture.
I've been off the air for a few weeks (in more ways than one). I've been taken up with hospitality training and evaluation. I also had a break in Tasmania, but more of that later. But no sooner am I back at the keyboard than I have to deal with the sad loss of another hero. Vale Anthony Bourdain. He died while filming in France, 8th June, 2018. So sad for us that he needed so drastically to be free of his demons.
He had graduated in 1978 from the American Culinary Institute. He was executive chef at the Brasseries Les Halles in New York when he came to prominence in 2000, with the publication of his best-seller, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, a deep-down and dirty story about the parts of a restaurant no-one wants to see and a homage to those who make the place happen, the chefs and line cooks.
It was not a pretty picture. It was also probably the most foul-mouthed book you will ever read. I religiously recommended it to every cook, chef or dishwasher who came through our restaurant kitchen. It was compassionate, unflinching and full of realistic advice for anyone thinking of going into hospitality - and a far cry from the glory and pretty stories of magazine food pages.
And as a “Little Goody Two Shoes”, while I didn’t (and don’t) relate to the casual and frantic sex in the cool-room or on the stuffed bags of soiled linen in the passage, or the smack or lines of cocaine to get through the day, I grabbed at the plain, sane, essential advice for the kitchen - show up on time, keep your station clean and in order; the kitchen is a dangerous place. Furthermore, I related to his thinking about food and the significance of sharing. Perhaps it’s best to simply offer some random quotes.
“Your body is not a temple, it's an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.”
“Skills can be taught. Character you either have or you don't have.”
“Don't lie about it. You made a mistake. Admit it and move on. Just don't do it again. Ever”
“Don't touch my dick, don't touch my knife.” (Sorry about that one, but you get his drift.)
“Few things are more beautiful to me than a bunch of thuggish, heavily tattooed line cooks moving around each other like ballerinas on a busy Saturday night. Seeing two guys who'd just as soon cut each other's throats in their off hours, moving in unison with grace and ease, can be as uplifting as any chemical stimulant or organized religion.”
“Garlic is divine. Few food items can taste so many distinct ways, handled correctly. Misuse of garlic is a crime. Please, treat your garlic with respect. Avoid at all costs that vile spew you see rotting in oil in screw-top jars. Too lazy to peel fresh? You don't deserve to eat garlic.”
“For a moment, or a second, the pinched expressions of the cynical, world-weary, throat-cutting, miserable bastards we've all become disappears, when we're confronted with something as simple as a plate of food.”
“So who the hell, exactly, are these guys, the boys and girls in the trenches? You might get the impression from the specifics of my less than stellar career that all line cooks are wacked-out moral degenerates, dope fiends, refugees, a thuggish assortment of drunks, sneak thieves, sluts and psychopaths. You wouldn't be too far off base. The business attracts 'fringe elements', people for whom something in their lives has gone terribly wrong. Maybe they didn't make it through high school, maybe they're running away from something, be it an ex-wife, a rotten family history, trouble with the law, a squalid Third World backwater with no opportunity for advancement. Or maybe, like me, they just like it here. ”
“The last thing a chef wants in a line cook is an innovator, somebody with ideas of his own who is going to mess around with the chef's recipes and presentations. Chefs require blind, near-fanatical loyalty, a strong back and an automaton-like consistency of execution under battlefield conditions.”
“Our movements through time and space seem somehow trivial compared to a heap of boiled meat in broth, the smell of saffron, garlic, fish-bones and Pernod.”
“If you look someone in the eye and call them a ‘fat, worthless, syphilitic puddle of badger crap’ it doesn’t mean you don’t like them. It can be – and often is – a term of endearment.”
“Having a sous-chef with excellent cooking skills and a criminal mind is one of God's great gifts.”
“Cooking is a craft, I like to think, and a good cook is a craftsman, not an artist. There's nothing wrong with that: the great cathedrals of Europe were built by craftsmen, though not designed by them. Practising your craft in expert fashion is noble, honorable and satisfying.”
“Food had power. It could inspire, astonish, shock, excite, delight and impress. It had the power to please me.”
“Luck is not a business plan.”
His writing and TV programs around the world were brave and revealing. He put so easily into words what I believe (with more expletives that I’ve ever used). His heroes are my heroes, his villains my villains.
“I am not a fan of people who abuse service staff. In fact, I find it intolerable. It’s an unpardonable sin as far as I’m concerned, taking out personal business or some other kind of dissatisfaction on a waiter or busboy.”
“We know, for instance, that there is a direct, inverse relationship between frequency of family meals and social problems. Bluntly stated, members of families who eat together regularly are statistically less likely to stick up liquor stores, blow up meth labs, give birth to crack babies, commit suicide, or make donkey porn. If Little Timmy had just had more meatloaf, he might not have grown up to fill chest freezers with Cub Scout parts.”
“Context and memory play powerful roles in all the truly great meals in one’s life.”
“As incisively pointed out in the documentary Food Inc.," an overwhelmingly large percentage of "new," healthy," and "organic" alternative food products are actually owned by the same parent companies that scared us into the organic aisle in the first place. "They got you comin' and goin' " has never been truer.”
“These are the end products of the Masterminds of Safety and Ethics, bulked up on cheese that contains no cheese, chips fried in oil that isn’t really oil, overcooked gray disks of what might once upon a time have been meat, a steady diet of Ho-Hos and muffins, butterless popcorn, sugarless soda, flavorless light beer. A docile, uncomprehending herd, led slowly to a dumb, lingering, and joyless slaughter.”
“I'm asked a lot what the best thing about cooking for a living is. And it's this: to be a part of a subculture. To be part of a historical continuum, a secret society with its own language and customs. To enjoy the instant gratification of making something good with one's hands--using all one's senses. It can be, at times, the purest and most unselfish way of giving pleasure (though oral sex has to be a close second).”
His life had imperfections and on re-reading “Medium Raw” one senses an unease and depression, even an omen, despite his addictions being safely locked away in the past.
“Only one in four has a chance at making it. And right there, I knew that if one of us was getting off dope, and staying off dope, it was going to be me. Iwas going to live. I was the guy.”
“I'll be right here. Until they drag me off the line. I'm not going anywhere. I hope. It's been an adventure. We took some casualties over the years. Things got broken. Things got lost. But I wouldn't have missed it for the world.”
I will decidedly not be regretting missed opportunities for a good time. My regrets will be more along the lines of a sad list of people hurt, people let down, assets wasted and advantages squandered.”
Of the still prevalent macho kitchen atmosphere and gender inequalities that lurk beneath the glamorous “celebrity” chef culture shown up by the #metoo movement, he said “I think about this daily with real remorse.”
I recommend Medium Raw and give a copy of Kitchen Confidential to that niece or nephew who watches too much Master Chef (with perhaps a warning about the oral sex).
The death of Stéphane Audran in March 2018 (aged 85) prompted many of us of to consider again the impact of the film “Babette’s Feast”. Too young to have seen it in 1987, I urge you to make a date with yourself. View it alone or with an empathetic friend. (I watch it about twice a year and I still fall apart.)
Directed by Gabriel Axel, it was a Danish –French production. “Coming to a theatre near you”, was also “Coming to a restaurant near you”, when thousands of themed dinners popped up around the world, not to mention the private dinner parties. (I've seen a few doozies - check cookingwiththemovies Oh dear!)
The film won "Best Foreign Language Film" at the Academy Awards in 1987, as well as four Baftas, a César for Best Film from from the European Union and "Un Certain Regard" at Cannes.
But anyone who sees the film as just a big, decadent, elaborate feast has certainly missed the point. I leave it to you. For an intense, academic analysis… http://press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago
Some interesting trivia.
It’s based on a short story by Baroness Karen Blixen (pen name Isak Dinesen).The story appears in a collection Anecdotes of Destiny (1958) and was the last work published in her lifetime. (Go to Amazon, if you do that sort of thing.) Two of the stories from the collection have been adapted into film. As well as Babette’s Feast, there's The Immortal Story (1968), directed by Orson Wells. She was a prolific author. Read Out of Africa, about her time as a coffee farmer and see the film with Meryl Streep and Robert Redford.
Blixen was anorexic. She suffered throughout her life from a mercury treatment for syphilis but she died of malnutrition, aged 76. (Her short story gives no thorough description of a meal.)
Axel wanted to shoot the film in Berlevåg, the Norwegian village of the book, the last village before the Arctic Circle. Unfortunately it had become too pretty, with its quaint muti-coloured houses so the setting was transferred to the barren, windswept coast of Jutland in Denmark.
Babette flees France during the violence and unrest of the Prussian siege and the Paris Commune. Murdered communards are buried and commemorated at a wall in the Père Lachaise cemetery. Others were deported to what is now New Caledonia.
The dinner service used in the film was created in 1982 (Havilland Limoges) Impératrice Eugénie. This design is in the Second Empire style (Napoleon III) and being modern, with no gold trim, it’s dishwasher safe! On the other hand, see the beautiful severity of both the Beidermeir style of the sisters' house and the Gustavian mansion of the Lieutenant's aunt.
When Babette comes in from the storm, at her first meeting with Martine and Filippa, they are drinking from these cups (above). (Well not these exact ones, which I found at an auction - Bing and Grondahl.)
Catherine Deneuve was considered for the part, hesitated and Stéphane Audran jumped at it. Undisputedly a great actress, her movements in the kitchen were natural and true and she insisted on real wine in her glass. In private, she was an avid cook.
She was described by the Guardian as the archetypal bourgeois French woman, graceful, aloof, elegant, reserved yet passionate. She displays this in her role. (I might try it sometime.)
She was married for 16 years to the director Claude Chabrol.
The two sisters were played by Danish actors, Bodil Kjier and Birgitte Federspiel, both household names in Denmark. Bibi Andersson, a favourite of director Ingmar Bergman, played Lorens' wife.
Babette is shown how to make Ølebrød (beer and brown bread soup) for the villagers. If you're tempted, there's a slightly more appetising recipe in Magnus Nilsson's massive tome on Scandinavian cuisine. – the-nordic-cookbook-magnus-nilsson (Magnus has the looks of a wild teenage Viking. His restaurant "Faviken", opened in 2008, seats 16 and is booked months in advance.)
And , like Magnus Nilsson, Babette brings life to the food because she forages. So very now!
In the film, when one of the sisters holds up a bottle and worriedly asks “But Babette is this wine?” She answers reassuringly “No, it’s Clos de Vougeot, 1846!” Now, that line could be useful...
Jan Pedersen of "La Cocotte" in Copenhagen worked with two assistants on the food for the film, using 148 quail for the shooting of Quailles en Sarcophages (the one dish that I believe cannot work). With care and attention to detail, you can certainly re-create the dessert (Savarin au Kirsch). Quite coincidentally, friend CM, in Melbourne, did just that as I was writing this piece. His Savarin, (sitting on its Demeuldre-Coché Limoges plate c. 1900,) glows with deliciousness.
Babette’s Feast is the favourite film of Pope Francis. See Pope Francis & Babettes Feast
Her dress was made by Karl Largerfeld (Chanel).
I cry when Babette, switching to French, asks permission to prepare a real French dinner - "Un vrai diner français." I cry at the end of the meal, when tired, exhausted, dignified in her apron and grey Lagerfeld frock, having a final glass of wine, she reveals her past. Aaah - I'm just a Babette tragic!
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Salt rocks - yes it does. Above, I've been breaking up a huge slab of Himalyan rock salt
Back in the day, a million fetishes away, in an innocent world, pre-chia, pre-kale smoothies, pre-manuka honey, during the sizzling Australian, beach-filled summers, when KE Holdens had no air-conditioning, we were warned not to risk a day without taking a salt tablet. Back then, we were told that we lost dangerous amounts of salt through perspiration. Left unheeded, this would lead to muscle cramps, dehydration, brain-damage (and probably ultimately, a change in Monopoly tokens and feminism).
We purposefully added salt to our diet, over and above our tinned spaghetti on toast and hot chips.
What happened? Next we were told we ingested too much salt. We became salt-phobic. The warnings were intended to save us from among other things, high blood pressure. Now dietary studies suggest the salt fear is overblown and that it’s more a high carbohydrate problem (that wonderful crusty, sourdough bread).
I remember when giving cooking classes years ago, I would add salt and the class, in unison, would gasp in horror. (They also gasped in horror when I buttered anything.) But no-one complained when the tasting started.
In her just published book, Samin Nosrat (see review Salt Fat Acid Heat) writes about how to cook, rather than just recipes. She gave lessons to Michael Pollan and any friend of Mr Pollan is a friend of mine. As a young prep cook at Chez Panisse, she watched the chef adjust the salt in a polenta she was working on. (She also gasped, apparently!)
“Cal grabbed spoons and together we tasted. Some indescribable transformation had occurred. The corn was somehow sweeter, the butter richer. All the flavours were more pronounced. I’d been certain Cal had turned my polenta into a salt lick, but no matter how I tried, the word salty did not apply to what I tasted. It was as if I’d been struck by lightening. It’d never occurred to me that salt was anything more than pepper’s sidekick.”
Salt is natural and necessary – for health and for good cooking. It enhances. Purposefully withholding salt leads to bland. (Remember that salt can also come from adding olives, fish sauce, capers, anchovies, soy sauce etc.)
All salt comes from the same place originally, whether it’s fleur de sel from the Ile de Ré (Poitou-Charentes), or Himalayan Pink or basic rock salt at the supermarket.
My friends have not given up mountains of crispy bacon, or mountains of crispy chips or fries – they simply repeat the mantra “I know I shouldn’t but…” Get over it. You know you want to.
So here’s my salt challenge. The optimum “good health” amount of salt a day is 5gm – that is 1 teaspoon of sodium chloride. The salt challenge is for those who eat their own food at every meal. (If you don’t eat your own food, you’re on your own.) Put a teaspoon of salt per household-person in a small bowl on the bench or windowsill to use during your cooking. I challenge you to get through that salt in a day.
(For next time, I’ve been talking to marathon runners and “science” types, tasting black, red and pink salt, and seeking to debunk some fears and myths.)
Meyer lemons are the lemon of choice in North Africa (and lovely they are) but they’re hard to get and I rather like the thicker skins of a common Lisbon lemon.
A measured teaspoon is 5 gm. Use 12 teaspoons of salt for every 5 lemons (i.e. 4 tbsp).
(Just ordinary salt)
Tradition is good but sometimes there’s a more practical way. Some recipes may tell you to keep lemons whole (slitting them lengthwise with two inter-crossing cuts, nearly to the bottom). That’s fine if you’re doing your lemons in huge jars or barrels. It’s much more practical to cut them into 8 crescents. They stack better and come to maturity more quickly and you can put them in manageable-sized jars. (The jars above are excellent having a glass lid which will not corrode. They are wide at top, making it easy to get you hands or food tongs in. (They will be available if you look. I found mine at Aldi. WECK preserving jars.)
Arrange the slices (crescents) in the jar, spooning over salt as you build the layers. You'll soon get the hang of how much, to finish with just enough for the final layer.
Close the jar and set aside for 2 days.
After this time, you will see that the lemons have given up a lot of juice. It the lemons are not covered by juice, be prepared to juice some more to cover. You may find a way to hold them below the surface of the juice. The juice or lemons should not touch a metal lid.
The salt will react with the lemons and make them silky, even slightly oily. This is the natural pectin. My batch is only three days old. If the salt you can see on the nearest slice does not dissolve, I will be annoyed with myself. Salt remaining after a week tells you you have over-salted. This is a waste of salt. Even if you love salt, salt cannot get saltier.
They will be ready in a month.
I'm assuming you're using lemons from an overloaded tree. If buying lemons (and nothing wrong with that) give them a light scrub if they've been polished with wax.)
You'll find many recipes using these (chicken with green olives and preserved lemon is a classic) and they can be chopped or slivered into salads. Take one out of its brine, detach the pulp and discard. You only use the skin.
This also works well with limes but I've not had great joy with oranges. Cumquats (cut in half) are glorious and look very special.
In the photo, you'll see Hawaiian red salt and some handsome looking extra large pyramid crystals (larger even than Maldon salt). More on that later.
Latest home-page is the end of a casual meal (no dessert).