Encyclopedia of Food and Cookery

It is hard to imagine cooking without lemons; indeed, lemons have been called ‘the fruit with a thousand uses’. The juice and rind, or zest, containing essential citrus oils, are used to season and flavour a great number of dishes, and both are as indispensable as salt and pepper.

Lemon juice: A medium-size lemon yields approximately 2 tablespoons juice. To extract the maximum amount, warm a whole lemon in a preheated moderate oven 180°C for 2 minutes, or roll it over a hard surface to soften slightly before halving and squeezing.

Ways to use lemon juice:

Use lemon juice instead of vinegar in salad dressings.

When a recipe calls for sour milk, buttermilk or sour cream and you have none to hand, the addition of 1 teaspoon lemon juice to 250 ml milk or 125 ml cream will provide a good substitute.

To keep peeled fresh apples, pears or peaches from browning when not using immediately, immerse in 250 ml water plus 2 teaspoons lemon juice.

Brush cut avocados or bananas with lemon juice to prevent browning.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter, mix in the juice of 1 lemon, some chopped parsley or snipped chives and use as a sauce over boiled new potatoes, green beans, asparagus, baby (patty pan) squash, zucchini (courgette), grilled (broiled) fish or chicken.

Rub lemon juice over a joint of lamb before roasting.

Lemon zest: The zest can be grated off the surface of the lemon with a fine grater, rubbed off with sugar lumps or removed by paring very thinly with a vegetable peeler. Do not include any white pith because it leaves a bitter taste.

Ways to use lemon zest:

Add 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest to 125 g cream cheese and beat until creamy.

Sweeten with 1 tablespoon caster (superfine) sugar and use to fill stoned dates or prunes, or serve with fresh berry fruits.

Mix grated zest into mixture for meatballs, meat loaves or hamburgers.

Mix grated zest into rice or bread stuffings for fish or poultry.

Rub sugar lumps over a lemon and use to flavour custards.

Stir a little grated zest into cake fillings or frostings.

Add a small strip of lemon zest to the poaching syrup for fruit.

See also Zest.

Lemon Sugar: Combine grated zest of 2 lemons with 170 g caster (superfine) sugar. Store in an airtight jar until needed. Use sprinkled over fresh fruit, hot cereals, fruit pies or pastries. Add ½ teaspoon cinnamon to 55 g lemon sugar and sprinkle over the top of hot buttered toast.

Gremolata: The traditional accompaniment to Osso Buco Milanese.

Lemon Shells: Halve lemons, scrape out the membrane and pulp and use as containers for individual servings of ice cream or sorbet.

Lemon as garnish:

Lemon twists: Slice very thinly and make a cut from the centre to the edge. Twist the 2 sides of the slit in opposite directions to act as a base so the slice will stand up.

Lemon wedges: Quarter the lemon lengthways, cut the rib off in a small wedge, then cut lemon wedges to size required. The centre rib is removed to prevent squirting when the wedge is squeezed.

Julienne strips: Pare peel thinly, using a vegetable peeler. Trim into thin strips the size of a matchstick and blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and dry before using.


Quantity Ingredient
see method for ingredients


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