A staple in Indian home cooking
In my “Lemon Dishes from Around the World” series, I was eager to see a submission called lamoon me-asfar, or safflowered lemons. This Egyptian preserved lemon is a tangy, salty, and bold version of the fruit we know and love. It serves as the perfect accompaniment to any meal, and I really enjoyed the simplicity of the preservation process!
This lamoon me-asfar recipe comes from Rehaam in Cairo, Egypt. As Rehaam puts it, this dish encompasses everything you never expected from a humble lemon. Lemon flavor is actually foundational to the flavor profile of much of Middle Eastern cuisine. The first known published recipe for preserved lemons appeared in the 12th-century Egyptian work, “On Lemon, its Drinking and Use,” by a Jewish doctor, Jumay. All subsequent lemon preservation recipes are based on this one, and they are still being eaten in Egypt all these years later.
Rehaam recalls fond memories of driving up to the coast with her family, spending lazy afternoons by the sea, and returning home to find her grandma on the floor, surrounded by countless vegetables. Her grandmother would chop, wash, rinse, and pickle away, preserving certain foods in jars for her family to enjoy throughout the entire summer season. Rehaam hopes you try lamoon me-asfar because there isn’t a better way to understand someone’s culture than tasting the food they grew up eating every day.
I love the idea of savoring a food and simultaneously thinking of those for whom that food is tradition. My lamoon me-asfar was lemony perfection, and it is easy to replicate. The lemons took two weeks to be ready, and when they were, the skin was so soft. They emitted strong lemony smells, which were so pleasant. The sourness was lovely, and I enjoyed them with lentils.
Lamoon me-asfar will keep in your fridge for months. I hope you try this unassuming lemon dish and think of Rehaam’s family as you do!
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