Written by: Mpho Deane

Flavour… probably the only memorable take out of a good meal. Yes, texture and colours play an important role too, but if it didn’t hit the flavour notes, its just as notable as the last big mac meal you had. So let’s kick things off right. Start with laying the foundation of flavour as we traverse this food journey together.

A lot of aspiring foodies/home cooks sometimes struggle with flavour, ending up with complicated dishes that have the whole pantry load of ingredients in the dish all in the name sake of chasing for that savour. Good thing is, if you enjoy your way around the kitchen, overtime you learn and unlearn new skills that really turn you into a more confident cook who understands when to use what and how, with that said too, there aren’t any rules.

I partially blame it on culinary practitioners – I mean we all buy recipe books, google recipes follow food blogs etc but I feel there isn’t enough emphasis and recipe sharing about creating pantry hacks from the professionals themselves, recipes that can help the everyday cook create winning dishes. Where are the recipes and blogs on creating, 4-5 must have hacks in your pantry and I refer to the foundation again. From flavoured oils to ferments to pestos, all the arsenals that with just a drizzle or spoonful can really lift a once was bland dish into something that’s just bursting with flavour – helping you navigate your way in the kitchen with much ease. Well fear not, I come bearing gifts… over the next few articles I want to share a few recipes of my favourite trusted hacks that have saved many of my meals.

To start, my absolute favourite and go to hack… Preserved lemons. This requires patience, as the magic takes about a month. Its literally a quick process of jam packing cut and salted lemons into a sterilized jar then waiting it out for about a month or so – in this time the salt cures the lemons, creating a flavour like no other. Nothing is will ever be the same again… a month of patience will have you gaining intense, bold lemony flavour that transforms salads, roasts etc into sublime dishes. It is one of North African’s best discoveries yet.

Enough talking, lets make this simple un-intimidating pantry hack… this recipe was extracted from Yottam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook.

Preserved Lemons

What you need:
1L glass jar
boiling water
6 unwaxed lemons
6 tablespoons coarse sea salt
2 sprigs rosemary (optional)
1 large red chilli
juice of 6 lemons
olive oil

What you do:
Fill the jar with hot, boiled water and let it sit for a few minutes to sterilize it. Pour the water out and let it air dry without touching the inside or drying it with a cloth.
Wash the lemons and cut a cross in them from one end to about 2cm from the bottom so the 4 quarters are still attached. Pour a tablespoon of salt into each lemon, then fit them tightly into the jar. Seal the jar and leave it for at least a week. I left mine in a cupboard.
After the first week, remove the lid and push the lemons down to squeeze as much juice out as you can. Add the rosemary, chilli, and as much lemon juice as you need to cover the lemons. Pour a thin layer of olive oil on top. Seal the jar and leave in a cool place for at least 4 weeks. And voila!