‘Crazy Water Pickled Lemons’ Cookbook

Did I mention I love cook-books? I may soon have to build a new room to house my ever-growing collection!

I was delighted to receive a review copy of Diana Henry‘s re- released ‘Crazy Water Pickled Lemons‘ from Octopus Books . This is a beautiful book with such evocative writing that you can almost taste the food. In fact I got so engrossed in reading the book I almost forgot to cook some of the dishes!

The recipes are grouped together by ingredients with lots of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean recipes – all food that I love. Each chapter starts with a description of the ingredients, each is given a personality – cardamon is a ghost that walks through dishes; figs are like hungry kisses; pomegranates are temptation;  honey has a split personality, using saffron is likened to cooking with gold…..

The food styling and photography is excellent BUT there aren’t pictures of all the dishes 😦  Note to Cookery Book Editors please show us what the finished dish should look like!

Valentine’s Day didn’t really happen Chez  Hey Pesto! this year due to work commitments so I decided to reschedule it and try out some recipes from Crazy Water Pickled Lemons at the same time

I picked out the recipes I wanted to try,  then went in search of ingredients which didn’t prove that simple! It appears dried rose petals or  fresh pomegranates and figs are not easily obtained in Tullamore! The pomegranate season is coming to an end but I did manage to find 2 on a trip to Dublin – I’m still searching for dried rose petals for the Jewelled Persian Rice…

For starters we had the Aubergines with Mint – with added feta cheese. Neither of us are big aubergine fans but the verdict was positive. I’d use it in a starter mezze with a few more additions.

The main event was  Breast of Duck with Pomegranate & Walnut Sauce made with the elusive pomegranate. The texture of the sauce was very different and the pomegranate seeds gave an unexpected crunch!

The dish was accompanied by salt baked potatoes (yum!) and fruited couscous – finally a use for the jar of preserved lemons that have been lingering in my cupboard! It’s the first time I steamed couscous (I normally cook it in a curried stock) and it definitely made it fluffier!

I also tried to sneak in roast beetroot because they looked so pretty but he wasn’t having any of it!  The meal was washed down with a very pleasant McGuigan’s Shiraz Viognier.

Dessert was to have been chocolate and rosemary sorbet but we’re not really dessert people so it never happened!

The verdict – I’ll definitely make the duck again and I may try the sauce with chicken or lamb. The couscous will be redone, simply to check if the soaking and steaming is worth it! The potatoes are now on my favourites list – I have to try them with the suggested roast garlic and créme fraiche.

I only realised afterwards that I had prepared all these dishes without using any butter or cream so they have to be good for you!

Crazy Water Pickled Lemons has already earned it’s place on my ‘favourites shelf’ – there are lots more recipes I want to try. Tonight’s dinner is going to Sausages & Lentils with Sweet & Sour Figs – I found the dotiest mini figs to use!

Thanks again to the lovely people at Octopus Books for sending me the book – but you’re not getting it back!!!

Here’s the recipe for the duck if you’d like to try it ………

Breast of Duck with Pomegranate & Walnut Sauce

What you need: 

  • 4 duck breasts (I got mine from Pat Whelan)
  • 150g shelled walnuts
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (I used rapeseed oil)
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses (I knew I’d find a use for it!)
  • seeds of 2 pomegranates
  • 400ml chicken or duck stock
  • Seasoning
  • Chopped mint

What you do:

  • Toast the walnuts in a dry pan, then grind in food processor but not too finely – you want some chunkiness for the sauce.
  • Sauté the onion in the oil until soft and starting to colour. Add the cinnamon and stir for about a minute. Then add in walnuts, molasses, pomegranate seeds and stock. Bring to the boil and then allow to simmer for 15 minutes until sauce has thickened.
  • Season the duck breasts and seal on both sides in a very hot pan, then transfer to preheated oven (200C/Gas 6) for 7 minutes.
  • Stir in the fresh mint into the sauce and serve alongside the duck breast.

Diana Henry suggests serving the duck with ‘simple side dishes such as rice and sautéed spinach’ – I hope she doesn’t mind me adding a few more bits!

The above recipe serves 4. I halved everything but had more than enough sauce for 2.

Happy Cooking!

PS Valentine, I’m still waiting for the flowers……

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