you said i must eat so many lemons, because i am so bitter

1. I have nothing clever to say about the presidential election, no one comes to this blog for politics, and it was with massive sorrow and anxiety that I watched the livestream chug on endlessly with a friend (we got so stressed that we had to break for ice cream and then we both felt sick immediately after and I was like OH THIS IS THE LAST STRAW U MADE ME BE NEGATIVE ABOUT PRECIOUS, BEAUTIFUL ICE CREAM) and it was with massive sorrow and anxiety that I found out the confirmed results. There’s nothing exciting or able-to-be-romanticised or hilarious about Trump being president elect and it’s not even my battle by any means but if you’re hurting then I’m hurting with you and if you need support I support you and if you need compassion, I love you.

2. It’s possible that it’s really just a conflation of a million different things and feelings but I’m feeling almost overwhelmingly devastated by the death of Leonard Cohen. It’s weird, like…he was so old. People die. As I said, I guess it’s just the timing, really. But his songs have been so important to me ever since I was around 16 and I was introduced to him when my aunty made an offhand comment about how his music was nice to play when you’re going to sleep. That year I went off to boarding school and I would play the CD of his that I got for Christmas every single night when I went to bed. But only when I was home. His music to me feels like safety and warmth and calm; yet of aching and longing and quietly waiting for something that might never arrive. In 2009 I spent an enormous amount of money on a ticket to see him live – years later I would joke that if I’d known he was going to keep touring every year to pay off his debts I would’ve just waited and spent less money – but now I’m glad I did it. Like I said, he was OLD and it’s hardly the most shocking news, but like, spare a thought for the guy at the supermarket checkout who innocently asked how I my day was going and who had to listen to me tearfully talking going on about it (him: “oh that guy, yeah we sang Hallelujah in my primary school” me: “that sounds right” him: “was he really religious?” me: “well he used a lot of religious imagery…he was kind of a bad ass” also me: “I should go now.”)

3. Last week I travelled with friends to Otaki for the wedding of two of our very good also-friends. Gosh, if weddings don’t make you just THINK about your LIFE, you know? But, it was a happy, lovely, full-of-love day from start to finish and I was super grateful that I got to witness it in all its beauty. And that I didn’t fall out of my surprisingly practical strapless jumpsuit. The couple generously gave away little jars of homemade preserved lemons as party favours and I adore preserved lemons so gathered up every spare jar I could find.

On Monday I halved a bunch of tomatoes and smothered them in a mixture of olive oil, spices, some sliced up preserved lemons, and sugar, and roasted them first at a low heat then at a high heat. They were incredible and I accidentally ate all eight tomatoes in one sitting rather than leaving some for future use because they were just that delicious.

Preserved lemons have a compelling lemony (duh) saltiness; and strange though it seems all you need from each soft piece of fruit is the actual yellow skin – slice off as much of the flesh and white pith as you can (and then inevitably eat it to see if it could be that salty: yes it bloody is.) The remaining zest is full of concentrated sourness and salt, yet it’s somehow kind of mellow too – a bit like how garlic can be rich and sweet and make your eyes water at the same time. Stir it into pasta, use it in anything even vaguely Mediterranean, eat on its own out of curiosity, use it to flavour olive oil. Or do what I did: make these gorgeously scorched little roasted tomatoes, warm with cinnamon and caramelised slightly and stir them into pasta or anything vaguely Mediterranean, or just eat them squashed onto a bagel with some thankfully perfect avocado.

fast slow-roasted tomatoes with preserved lemon, cinnamon and garlic

a recipe by myself

  • eight smallish, ripe tomatoes
  • two big garlic cloves
  • about three tablespoons of olive oil, but y’know, whatever
  • half a lemon’s worth of preserved lemon
  • two teaspoons coriander seeds
  • a pinch of ground cinnamon
  • a teaspoon of brown sugar

Set your oven to 150 C/300 F. 

Roughly chop the garlic cloves or mince them if you’ve got one of those contraptions. Rinse the lemon slices (I’m assuming your preserved lemons came sliced into quarters) and slice off as much flesh and pith as you can, leaving you with just the actual skin of the lemons. Now that you’re finally at this point, roughly or finely slice them as you please. Mix the garlic and lemon slices in a small bowl with the coriander seeds, olive oil, cinnamon and sugar. Taste it – if you want a bit more sharpness, add in a dash of the preserving liquid from the jar of lemons or indeed, another quarter lemon’s worth of sliced lemon rind. 

Halve the tomatoes and lay them, cut side up, in a small roasting dish. Spoon the lemon-garlic-oil mixture evenly over them, scraping every last bit of flavoursome oil into the dish. 

Roast them at that low heat for 20 minutes, and then turn up the temperature to 220 C and continue to roast until the tomatoes are slightly scorched.  

The sweetness of the tomatoes is intensified under the heat and the lemon’s bite works beautifully with this. They taste best when they’ve had some time to sit and lose that scalding heat, which means you can put the whole tomato half in your mouth and allow the seeds to burst, pleasurably, full of garlic and cinnamon and salt, without causing yourself any damage. The coriander seeds have a hint of bitter lemon to them as well but if you don’t have them just leave them out or use cumin seeds instead for a different kind of earthy spiciness. I feel like this would be particularly spectacular with mint leaves scattered on top, but alas my mint plant has died from neglect and I was like, I don’t know if I’m actually ready to commit to another one and I shouldn’t reward myself for my bad plant husbandry by just replacing the erstwhile one immediately. But definitely mint or indeed, basil, would be perfect here.

 what a beautiful wedding what a beautiful wedding

Thanks Vanessa and Reuben for the sour lemons that provided some definite sweetness this week. And also for playing I Want You by Savage Garden at the reception.

If all of this appeals and you want more, I recommend using preserved lemon in my recipe for Slow Cooked Lamb with Cumin, Cinnamon and Feijoas;  or in this Barley, Lentil, Eggplant, Pomegranate and Mint salad; or get high on your own supply with Nigella’s delicious recipe for preserved limes.

PS: thanks for reading, always.

title from: Kate Nash’s debut single from 2007, Foundations. The whole Made of Bricks album that this comes from makes me feel way too many things, I love upbeat songs about sad things and this is a classic example of that genre. 

music lately: 

I don’t even know where to begin with Leonard Cohen but listen to him singing Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye live at the Isle of Wight in 1970 if you dare.

The Saddest Song, from the musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Not even trying to be funny about the political timing of it all, I just can’t stop listening to this song.

Laura, by Girls, which contains everything I love: surfy sound, sad sad sad lyrics set to upbeat music, my name in the title.

next time: well I still have a lot of jars of preserved lemons, guys. 

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