Imagine a world without lemons, or a kitchen that didn't always have a lemon tucked away. Can there be a more widely used fruit or absolutely essential ingredient in cooking in the Western world?
Lemons, which are available all year round, contain lots of sharp, acidic juice, but also a fragrant oil that's found in the zest (the coloured outer layer of the skin). In a drink such as a dry Martini or gin and tonic, this pared-off outer skin releases its fragrant oil to give a subtle lemon hint. In cooking, lemon zest is every bit as treasured as the juice, and our heritage of rich fruit Christmas cakes, puddings and mincemeat all contain not only lemon juice and zest but candied lemon peel, giving extra fragrance and flavour. It's always best to use lemons as fresh as possible, but I find extra lemons keep better if they're stored in a polythene bag in the salad drawer of the fridge.
Squeezing: It is said that rolling the lemon with the palm of your hand on a flat surface using a bit of pressure will ensure you get more juice. When my mother made pancakes on Pancake Day, she would put plates to warm in the oven and pop the lemon in, too, as this, she said, produced more juice. Either way, I think a wooden lemon squeezer inserted into a half lemon and squeezed and twisted is a wonderfully easy way to extract the juice.
Zesting: If you want finely zested lemon, a grater will do the job, but you need to take care not to include the bitter pith just beneath the zest. Best of all is a lemon zester, which removes only the outer zest and the fragrant oils.
A great lemon recipe is Grilled Lemon Chicken Kebabs with Gremolata.
Cooked in a matter of minutes, pancakes are traditionally eaten on Shrove Tuesday, but they are good enough to have any time of the year.
Although it may have connotations of grand Victorian breakfasts or the Raj, kedgeree is, in fact, an easy dish for lunch or supper that is packed with good nutrition.
Born out of frugality (using up stale bread) this lovely pudding has, quite rightly, pushed itself to the top of the list when it comes to family favourites - and Delia's version is particuarly good.
This is a recipe for mashed potato that's great served with fish. I love it with some freshly grilled mackerel or herring, and it's also extremely good with smoked fish.
This is a lovely spicy salad with Moroccan overtones – perfect for a buffet lunch, party or serving with cold cuts and spicy chutneys.
This is a very refreshing marmalade, good wake-up food on a dull morning. Its other advantage is that it can be made at any time of the year. Although this does need fast boiling, the quantity is small enough for a modern hob.