I didn’t add the Food & Drinks section in the Bungalow “just because”… I do a lot of cooking and I can assure you that, out of my basic knowledge and every-now-and-then bravado on the subject, the results are satisfactory. There will be a few glimpses of divine delight but also a very low chance of complete disaster in my culinary maneuvers, I dare say, but I can live with that. And apparently so do my husband and my kids. To my credit: I’m adventurous and fearless in the kitchen. I’m not afraid of trying new recipes, or an unfamiliar vegetable, for example. I don’t like failure but I’m not afraid of it (to my family’s dismay).
You know that the kitchen is one of the favorite hang outs in a house… It’s where magic happens so, obviously; it’s where everybody wants to gather. Well, it couldn’t be different in my Bungalow. I have some favorite dishes and drinks that I would like to share with you, my dear friends, along with some related stories. Just for the fun! There are also some tips and ideas that make wonders for me and it might do the magic to you too.
In my opinion, cooking is like everything else in life: if you make an effort in learning, persevere and have an open mind, you’ll get the hang of it. And if you become passionate about it, the possibilities to achieve greatness are endless. There will be always room in this world for any amazing creation and food, as we all know, can be truly amazing. I also believe that the habit of cooking, the “practice, practice, practice” should be the mantra. This is how it still works for me. You learn that the first pancake to hit the pan is usually not the best one (at least mine) but you keep going and by the end of the batch, you will hold you chin up.
My latest inspiration is cooking in a tagine (or tajine) and making Preserved Lemons. I am not sure I would have dreamt of one day cooking in one or making those lemons (at least not anytime soon) if it was not for a friend that I’ll call Bella. Actually, we truly do call each other “Bella”, in an Italian accent and everything as she is fluent in Italian (I’m not, but I can deliver the word in a way that would make Vito Corleone spare my life).
My cosmopolitan friend is the living proof that a mom of three not only can look sane but also exude elegance and sophistication. On top of that she is a virtuoso in the kitchen. The woman can cook anything and set the ambience that will make you feel you are vacationing in the world’s hot spot. Isn’t it a talent or what?
She was the one coming over one day bringing a big book of Mediterranean recipes, a tagine (or tajine) and little bags of vegetables, roots, herbs and spices, including huge lemons, all fresh from a farm market.
She gave me a quick explanation of how to use the tagine and how to make preserved lemons, aware that Google could be summoned at any time. She knows I’m game and that I’d make it happen! And I did. Check it out. I will start with the Preserved Lemons. The tagine will be featured in another post.
They’re lemons that have been pickled in salt and their own juices and left to sit for a month before using. Preserved lemons are a staple in Moroccan, Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine but iIf you are like me and enjoy a zesty, lemony taste in certain dishes, you will love it! The internet is full of recipes and how-to-do’s but it’s pretty simple: all you need is lemons, salt and a pint sized jar.
1- Place 1 tablespoon salt on the bottom of the mason jar.
2- Quarter the lemons from the top to within 1/2 inch of the bottom, sprinkle salt on the exposed flesh, then reshape the fruit.
3- Pack in the lemons and push them down, adding more salt,
4- Press the lemons down to release their juices and to make room for the remaining lemons. (If the juice released from the squashed fruit does not cover them, add freshly squeezed lemon juice — not chemically produced lemon juice) Leave some air space before sealing the jar.
5- Let the lemons ripen in a warm place, shaking the jar each day to distribute the salt and juice. Let ripen for 30 days. To use, rinse the lemons, as needed, under running water, removing and discarding the pulp, if desired — and there is no need to refrigerate after opening. Rinse them quickly under cool water to remove excess salt and then chop them up for your dish. Under the influence of salt, the intense bitterness of the rind and pith mellow out and develop a sunny lemony character.
Preserved lemons will keep up to a year, and the pickling juice can be used two or three times over the course of a year.
I didn’t refrigerate or added water to my preserved lemons as some websites suggest. Some say you don’t need to as long as they are covered by the juices. I was just afraid that putting the jar in the fridge, I would end up forgetting about it. Besides, the sight of the lemons in a jar makes me and my kitchen happy and festive! “I made that!” kind of feeling.
Prior to the preparation, I soaked the lemons in water for 3 days to soften the peel, changing the water daily (lukewarm water) only because I know the juicier limes have “thin” peel and the ones my friend brought me, even though beautiful, were “thick” to the touch. After the required 3 days, I didn’t feel any major change in the peel but in reality I don’t think it matters, as the lemons will be submerged in its juices anyway. I am more familiar with limes, not lemons so I don’t know if all made sense to you. I am learning, I’ll get there someday. Speculations aside, the best way to know if it works is making it yourself . And I’d love to hear about it!