20 things to do with lemons

The internet has many suggestions of what to do when life gives you lemons, some more practical than others. You can, naturally, make lemonade, drink tequila or re-gift them. Other less useful suggestions include telling people they’re apples and selling them online, throwing them at people, and using them to charge your iPod. (See a handy how-to video, complete with large sections devoted to the maker’s cat, Luke.)

Personally, we prefer to squeeze them over braaied prawns, whip up a batch of creamy lemon bars, or make lemon ricotta pancakes.

Here’s how to use up that big bag of lemons you bought before they go off.

1. Tenderise meat

Squeeze a lemon over your meat to soften it up before cooking. The acidity of the juice tenderises the collagen in the muscles. But don’t leave it for too long – it can toughen the muscle fibres in the meat.

2. Keep produce fresh

Lemon juice can keep sliced fruit perky for longer, and keeps dishes like salsa with chopped onion, avocado and herbs fresh.

3. Bring out flavour

Lemon brings out the flavour of salads, risottos, sauces and vegetable dishes, as well as white meat like chicken and fish.

4. Lemon twist

Peel the skin of a lemon into long strips (being careful to avoid the white pith) and freeze them in a jiffy bag. When you want to liven up your cold or hot water, or a cocktail, pop one into your glass.

5. Beat a cold

Lemons are crammed full of vitamin C. When you feel a cold coming on, make some rooibos tea with the freshly squeezed juice of half a lemon, or add a few slices to your cup of hot water. A tablespoon of honey sweetens the deal and soothes your throat.

6. Freeze the zest

Lemon zest can be frozen and sprinkled into salads, cookie dough and rice dishes. Use a microplane and spread the zest out onto a flat surface to dry.

7. Preserve them

Preserved lemons are commonly used in North African countries along with almonds, dates, green olives and spices such as cumin, ginger, paprika, coriander leaves, cinnamon and saffron. To make preserved lemons at home, pack slices tightly into a sterilised jar with sea salt and mature for three months, turning every day. Once matured, use the rind, chopped finely, to spice up mashed potato, stirred into risotto, or with fish dishes.

8. Make candied lemons

Candied lemon can be used as a garnish for baked goods. Cut a large lemon into 12 very thin slices (discard the seeds and rind-ends). Bring a medium pot of water to boil and add the lemon slices. Remove from the heat and stir until lemons have softened (about one minute). Drain and plunge the slices into an ice-bath, and drain again. In a new pan, bring one cup of sugar and one cup of water to the boil. Once sugar is dissolved and the liquid is clear, reduce heat and add a layer of lemon slices. Simmer until rinds are see-through. Remove from water and allow to cool.

9. Pair them with herbs

You can’t go wrong with lemon in conjunction with black pepper, thyme, basil, rosemary or mint. The flavours of lemon and fresh coriander are great with white fish.

10. Make dressing

Use lemon as a substitute for vinegar in salad dressings.

Need some more guidance? Try out these recipes:

11. Garlic and chilli prawns with lemon risotto

Try this zesty risotto, with a hint of spice, for a light, warming supper, paired with a Peroni.

12. Lemon and black pepper pasta with stracciatella cheese and artichokes

A scrumptious mix of melted cheese, sweet artichokes and lemony broad beans, this recipe is simple but impressive. Make it for vegetarian guests, or tuck in on meat-free Monday.

13. Lemon curd and coconut cake

Using Ready Egg’s free range bottled egg and Pick n Pay’s ready-made lemon curd, this moreish cake recipe saves busy bakers plenty of time.

14. Lemon meringue cupcakes

Making meringue and tangy lemon curd topping may take some effort, but – as just one mouthful of these cupcakes will prove – it’s so worth it.

15. Lemon spring chicken kebabs

Try these tangy lemony chicken kebabs with grapes and red onion at your next braai, paired with some Durbanville Hills Rosé.

16. Primavera pasta with lemon dressing

This beautiful veggie pasta with courgettes, mange tout, frozen peas and pine nuts, is healthy, tasty and meat-free.

17. Bulgar wheat salad with fried herb feta

Serve this tasty salad with lemon wedges on the side.

18. Greek-style roast lamb

This delicious lamb recipe with lemon juice, garlic, rosemary and oregano cooks for 8 to 10 hours, leaving the rest of the day to work or play.

19. SA Idol

A local speciality cocktail featuring rooibos, vodka, juice of a lemon and soda water.

20. Glow-in-the-dark jellies

A fun dessert with a difference. You’ll need a UV lamp to light these babies up to full effect.

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