I have just had the most fabulous weekend in the Hawke’s Bay with my husband for his birthday treat. The weather was fantastic, the sky completely cloudless for the entire time and we walked for miles over the rolling hills of Cape Kidnappers.
We tend to just get on with our lives and forget about the rest of our beautiful country but we have now made a pact to go exploring whenever we can and visit new places, shop in local farmers markets and soak up the wonderful regionality of New Zealand. I always feel quite envious when I see things growing so robustly in other parts of the country that I can’t grow at home in our Christchurch climate.
On the way home we stayed with old friends in Pahiatua and I was able to forage in the garden which has always been a wonderland of self sufficiency. I get goose pimples when I see so much citrus hanging on the trees so even though I had shopped to the limit over the weekend, nothing was going to stop me from filling yet another bag and bringing home lemons and grapefruit. I am an avid jam maker and my marmalade is in constant demand from my family to the point where two of my daughters’ partners have been known to fight over the last jar in the cupboard!
I truly could not live without lemons and not just for the gin and tonics! My childhood memories are full of lemon curd, lemon meringue pie, lemon chutney, lemon cake. I love that lemons cover all the flavour spectrums from savoury to sweet and so many things are just taken to a whole new level with a squeeze of lemon. Our kitchen at home always has a lemon bowl and the commercial chiller at work always has a case of them on hand.
Yen Ben lemons are the largest crop produced in New Zealand and are exported in huge amounts to Japan. The most common variety for the home gardener is the Meyer lemon which has a thinner skin and slightly sweeter juice. I have just planted two in a sheltered part of my garden and will be lovingly tending to them so that eventually I will be able to pick my very own.
This leads me to share with you a fun recipe that is simply perfect for this time of year. Cook it & love it!
Lemon Salad with Crumbed Schnitzel and Lemon Sauce
Slices of beef or veal schnitzel
Season flour and coat schnitzels then dip in seasoned, whisked egg and coat with a mixture of two thirds breadcrumbs to one third freshly grated parmesan cheese. Refrigerate until ready to cook in olive oil in hot pan.
2-3 washed lemons
1 red pepper
2 telegraph cucumbers
freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley
Slice lemons as thinly as possible and flick out all seeds. Spread slices on a tray, then sprinkle with salt and leave for 30 minutes. Rinse and dry slices and pat dry. Cut pepper into sections following its natural curves. Peel with a vegetable peeler. Remove all seeds and ribs from pepper and cut lengthwise into very thin slices. Cut cucumber into paper thin slices. On a shallow serving platter arrange a bed of overlapping cucumber slices and top with lemon. Decorate salad with red pepper slices. Grind over pepper, drizzle with oil and scatter over parsley.
Lemon and Caper Sauce
Juice of two lemons
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon milk
1-2 tablespoon capers
Melt butter with lemon juice and salt. Mix egg yolk with milk in a bowl, pour melted butter and lemon onto yolks and whisk together. Return mixture to the pan and heat very gently, whisking for 1 minute until sauce thickens. Add capers and keep warm but do not boil or the sauce may curdle.
To make in advance, pour into a warmed thermos.