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.
Kedgeree... to good to only have for breakfast.
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.
These are excellent to serve at a buffet, as they are so much easier to deal with than the unwieldy large jacket potatoes. The topping can vary, and for those with rather less time to spare for preparation I would recommend a soft cheese mixed with g
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 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 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.
This is a very flexible Christmas recipe, allowing you to adjust the quantities as you wish...and if unexpected guests arrive, just add more water and fruit to eke it out!
This has decidedly Mexican overtones. It isn't too hot and spicy but the presence of the chilli does give it a nice kick, and the flavour and texture of chickpeas is perfect for soup.
Suntinas are available from mid-December to the end of February and have a charming tangerine flavour which makes a delightfully different marmalade, and I think the nice thing about having a choice of marmalades is you never get bored.