I think we all know by now how I feel about fresh lemons and in particular their juice. What I haven’t shared with you yet though is my love of preserved lemons. Preserved lemons, that staple of North African cuisine, are so simple to make it always surprises me that more of us don’t give it a go (You can here). I suspect this is more than likely a by-product of their new and trendy status; gorgeous packaging and sometimes eye watering prices (especially round me where they are only really available in the delis) all give the impression that they are something super special and successfully disguise the fact that they are simply salted lemons. But despite this simplicity, or perhaps because of, they are an ingredient that nobody should have to live without; blessed as they are with that amazing ability to lift even the most mundane food with their unami flavours to something divine.
Now, if you fancied it you could, I suppose, ignore all that and make this pesto with some anchovies or maybe capers but that, although it would still make a tasty pesto, would be a mistake. I’d urge you to make the most of these spring like flavours by trying it at least once with preserved lemons. Combined with the young peas, they really do bring out the best of those broad beans. I might be unusual (yes, that was only a might) but I have a pesto for every season and this is definitely my spring one. (Here is summer’s and here is autumn’s) But yes, I know, it does take a bit more organisation than most. Only as you’ll have to double pod those beans though; a fact you’ll almost certainly forgive once you’ve tasted it. And I do love to mix beans with pasta; in my mind they right a few wrongs. The great combination of insoluble and soluble fibre will lower the GI of the finished product, so you shouldn’t, in theory, be left reaching for the cake tin to get you through a post pasta crash a couple of hours later (or if you are, you have no legitimate excuse) as well as keeping your colon in tip top shape. You’ll also be upping your iron, folate and manganese (a mineral that reportedly 37% of Americans do not get enough of) levels which really can’t do any of us any harm.
Broad Bean, Pea and Preserved Lemon Pesto Recipe.
Serves 8: (keep your leftovers)
350g broad beans (podded, simmered for 3 minutes, refreshed under the tap and tough skins slipped off)
150g petit pois (use frozen and don’t be tempted to use their cheaper and inferior cousins, garden peas. You need their sweetness)
1 clove of garlic
Large bunch of fresh coriander
1-2 preserved lemons (depending on size and personal taste) rinsed off under the tap, quartered and seeds removed
1 tsp sea salt
75g feta cheese
75ml olive oil plus more to cover if you are storing in a jar
Juice of half a lemon (or to taste)
Place all of the above ingredients in the bowl of the food processor and blitz in high power for a couple of minutes. Check the seasoning, then store with the top covered in olive oil in a jar in the fridge for 3 days, if you can resist the temptation to devour it immediately.
When it is time to eat it, cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.
Save a cupful of the cooking water to loosen the pesto as you toss it throughly the pasta as needed.
I love mine with some penne and a tomato and cucumber salad but the choice is yours.