Monday, June 25, 2007

A Celebration of the Lemon

Have you ever heard the saying, “When Life gives you a lemon, make lemonade”? This is good and well because what it means is ‘Make the best you can out of a bad situation’. I don’t know when this saying came about, but the humble Lemon is one of the most versatile fruit with a myriad of uses. Thus the negative connotation associated with the lemon is really invalid. Besides Chocolate, the Lemon is my next favourite ingredient in sweets. The brilliant Lori Longbotham, author of ‘Luscious Chocolate Desserts’ also devoted a whole cookbook to lemons entitled ‘Luscious Lemon Desserts.”

Used in cuisines around the globe, the lemon is a common sight in both the finest produce market and the cheapest corner store, and is essential to haute cuisine as it is to home cooking. Along with its versatility in cooking, the lemon has been known for it’s medicinal powers. In the 19th Century, the lemon was used in treating medical conditions including enlarged spleen; it has been recorded as a treatment for wounds and skin eruptions, a cure for kidney stones and prevention for scurvy.

The lemon has long been used in the home for much more than cooking purposes. For amazing household uses for lemons and lemon juice see here And this book, tells of the extraordinary uses for the lemon, amongst other ordinary things. For example, did you know that you could get rid of mineral deposits and polish chrome by simply rubbing a piece of lemon rind over it? Watch it shine after rinsing and drying with a soft cloth.

Have you ever gone to the fridge to get some lettuce for a sandwich only to find a soggy mess? Don’t throw it out. Add the juice of half a lemon to a bowl of cold water. Then put the soggy lettuce in it and refrigerate for an hour. This will crisp up the lettuce leaves. Make sure you dry the leaves completely before using it.

In the laundry, lemon juice is a safe and effective fabric whitener when added to your wash water. Your clothes will also come out smelling fresh! Now wait for it, you can also use lemon juice to lighten age spots. Before buying expensive medicated creams to lighten unsightly liver spots and freckles, try this: Apply lemon juice directly to the area, let it sit for fifteen minutes and then rinse your skin clean.

Ok, I LOVE Lemon, we have established that, so I won’t get carried away any further. Today I am sharing with you a recipe for Lemon Cake with a Crunchy Topping adapted from ‘Sweet and Savoury Bites’ by Jane Price. This is the first recipe that I have tried from this book and it was absolutely brilliant. In fact, it’s one of the best tasting cakes I’ve made in awhile. Try it and let me know what you think.

Serves 8-10
Preparation time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 20 minutes

250g (9oz) salted butter, softened
200g (7oz) caster (superfine) sugar
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
4 eggs, lightly beaten
250g (9oz/2 cups) self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp lemon juice

110g (3 ¾ oz/ ¼ cup) sugar
60ml (2 fl oz/ ¼ cup) lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 170C (325F /Gas 3). Lightly grease a 22cm (8 ½ inch) square cake tin and line the base with baking paper. Cream the butter and sugar in a small bowl using electric beaters until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the lemon zest, then gradually add in the egg, beating thoroughly after each addition. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Using a large metal spoon, fold in the combined sifted flour, baking powder and ¼ teaspoon salt, as well as the lemon juice. Stir until the mixture is just combined and almost smooth.

Spoon the mixture into the tin and smooth the surface. Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the tin and turn out onto a wire rack. To make the topping, mix together the sugar and lemon juice (do not dissolve the sugar), and quickly brush over the top of the warm cake. The juice will sink into the cake, and the sugar will form a crunchy topping. Cool.