A friend & neighbour of ours turned 60 recently – welcome to the club Janet! – and, to celebrate, we put together a three-course dinner for her and her husband.
The main course was Maggie’s rendition of Beef Wellington, accompanied by a rich red wine & beef jus, fresh carrots and green beans, and a bottle of Julian and Sara’s delicious 2015 Altair Pinot Noir. And, for dessert, we prepared crepes, sauced with our homemade pomegranate molasses and a modest scoop of vanilla ice-cream.
To kick off the evening with the appropriate fanfare, we had served antipasti and some Yarra Valley bubbly. The antipasti comprised: four items from our favourite delicatessen, Stocked – prosciutto, sopressa salami, pickled cocktail onions (amazing) and Persian feta; some pieces of oven-crisped sourdough; and two homemade items – semi-dried tomatoes scented by our basil-infused olive oil and pieces of roasted lemon.
By popular acclaim, the roasted lemon was the pick of the platter, although very little of anything else was left uneaten! We prepared the lemon according to our elaborated version of a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi.
We use one good-sized lemon, say 200g-250g, cut in half in either direction, depending on its shape for the purpose. Then Maggie uses a sharp serrated knife to cut very thin slices in the opposite direction to the first cut. While the oven is heating to 160ºC (320ºF), we remove any seeds and bring a saucepan of water to the boil; use plenty of water so it will not take too long to return to the boil after you add the lemon. Put the lid on the pan and blanch the lemon slices for 2 minutes.
We drain the lemon in a coarse-mesh, wire sieve, to maximise the loss of moisture, and leave the sieve sitting over the empty pan until it stops giving off steam. Then we toss the slices in a bowl with a generous glug of olive oil, say 25ml, 1/2 a teaspoon each of salt and caster sugar, and shredded sage leaves. Maggie is very fond of sage, so we use much more than is stipulated in the original recipe, say 12 leaves for one lemon.
Then we spread the lemon on a baking tray lined with baking paper, put the tray in the oven and cook for 20 minutes, turning after 12 minutes , until the lemons have coloured to a deep brown at their thin inner edges. Stored in a fridge, the lemon will keep for at least a week.
We use them unadorned, as in the antipasti platter, or cut into a salad to accompany fish, chicken or lamb flavoured with compatible ingredients. We anticipate that we will find further applications for this new addition to the contents of our refrigerator. For instance, a simple salad of shredded lettuce, avocado, roasted lemon and a vinaigrette dressing prepared this evening to accompany some roasted pieces of spiced chicken.