I waited a month, and then patience grew thin. I had to taste those lemons! We were leaving soon, and I couldn’t take off without making one last tajine with a twist of homemade pickled lemon.
I opened the jar to a nose-clearing waft. If you’ve smelled preserved lemons, you’ll know what I mean. One friend likens the aroma to Lysol—an unfortunate comparison, as I’m sure the pickled lemon came before the household cleaner. But now we’re left with such associations, which really detract from the monumental scent of this lovely ingredient. So don’t be put off by your first whiff. These lemons are very good things.
We were entering that home stretch of last-minute meals and final BBQs before our departure. I was trying to rid the kitchen of ingredients, knowing we would be away several months. So I started pulling ingredients from the shelves and brainstorming ideas for a “kitchen-sink tajine” with a pound of ground lamb I had in the freezer.
I mixed the thawed meat with minced garlic, fresh garden oregano and mint, and a heaping handful of Ras el hanout. The meatballs sat covered in the fridge all day.
That night, I dumped a pile of sliced red and white onions into a drizzle of grapeseed oil in the tajine and fried until tender. I added sliced carrots and a jar of marinara sauce (I think any tomato sauce or fresh tomatoes would do), then plopped the meatballs into the mix and let everything steam in the tajine for several minutes. Then I added a few black olives, a pinch of salt and a dollop of Ras al hanout. When the meatballs had cooked through, I added more chopped oregano and parsley, one full lemon (cut into quarters) and a big glug of the lemon juice.
Served with rice.
There is something magical in the combination of lamb and mint, and it’s transcendental with the addition of homemade pickled lemon. But that’s just my humble opinion. You’ll have to try it for yourself and tell me what you think.