& how to Cure food without a smoker.

Cure it, smoke it & keep it.

Preserving the harvest and storing food for the winter months has always been an intrinsic part of survival and while no longer necessary as a survival tool, there is something special about opening jars of produce and serving them to family and friends. Served regular and keen home cook Ljuana Xuereb demonstrates how easy it is to preserve, cure and even smoke food at home using regular kitchen items. Using seasonal produce such as beetroots, artichokes and local lemons, Ljuana preps a few jars to create two or three delicious and original salads and platters.

How to smoke food without a smoker.

Smoking food at home without an actual smoker is easier than you think. And all you need is a large pot or wok and some aluminum foil. To create the smoke element, line your pot with a sheet of tinfoil, and then top it with a handful rice which you can flavour with lemon and fresh herbs. Place your choice of vegetables directly on top. You can also use wood chips instead of rice which will heighten the smokiness. Alternatively add another layer of foil on top of the rice or wood chips and place a small steamer on top with the veg laying inside it.

Smoked beetroots

Serves 3

Prep time 60 -70 mins

Ingredients

125g long grain rice
Shaved rind of ½ a lemon
2 sprigs of thyme
6 medium beetroots (skin on)

Method

Preheat the oven to 270°C. Line a large frying pan or wok with two large sheets of foil, large enough to generously hang over the sides. Place rice, lemon, thyme and 1 tablespoon of water. Stir well.
Place beets (well washed) over the rice and cover with a tight fitting lid, then fold over extra foil tucking it well to prevent any smoke from escaping. Place on a very high heat on the stove.
Once you see a bit of smoke coming through,(roughly 4 minutes), leave to smoke for 8 minutes.
Remove from the heat, discard rice mixture.

Transfer to a baking tray and roast for 45 – 50 minutes or until a skewer penetrates easily.
Set aside to cool then peel and chill.

Will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Cured salmon

Serves 6 to 8 as part of a spread

Prep time 5 mins + overnight curing

Ingredients

500g fresh salmon (skin on)
100g sugar
150g coarse salt

Method

Mix salt and sugar together. Rinse the salmon and pat dry. Place salmon skin side down in a non-corrosive dish. Cover with salt/sugar mixture and pack well. Cover dish with cling film and refrigerate for 24-36 hours.

Nettle Salsa Verde

Makes one small jar

Prep time Prep time 15 mins

Ingredients

20 g nettle leaves
4g capers
4g gherkins
½ tsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp.. olive oil
½ tsp. sherry vinegar
Salt and pepper

Method

Wearing gloves pick the leaves, blanch them and the plunge in cold water for one minute to prevent discolouration. Roughly cop all the ingredients and mix in the olive oil, vinegar and lemon juice. You can either pulse briefly or use a pestle and mortar for a chunkier result. Season to taste and serve with the cured salmon. This will keep in a jar in the fridge for at least one week.

Preserved Artichoke hearts

Serves 6 – 8 as part of a shared platter

Prep time 60 mins

Ingredients

6 artichokes
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion (minced)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
200ml white wine
Salt
½ tsp. nutmeg
Juice of 1 lemon

Method

Prepare a bowl large enough to hold the cleaned hearts. Pour in the lemon juice and top up with water ready to receive the hearts.
Remove the stalks and outer leaves from the artichokes, trim tougher bits and cut into 4.
If needed remove the central “hairy” core with a teaspoon and plunge in the lemony water to avoid discoloration.
Heat oil in pan. Gently fry onion and garlic for 2 minutes.
Add well drained hearts. Stir to coat and cook for 2 minutes.
Add nutmeg and wine, season and bring to the boil.
Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 – 40 minutes till hearts are done.
If the liquid should reduce too much, top up with water.

Can be stored in a sterilized jar covered with olive oil and preserved for at least 3 months.

Preserved Lemon mayonnaise

Makes one small jar

Prep time 15 mins

Ingredients

1 egg yolk
½ tsp. dijon mustard
1 small garlic clove – crushed
1½ tsp. white wine vinegar
½ tsp. castor sugar
30g preserved lemon (flesh and skin, seeds removed)
75ml sunflower oil

Method

Put all the ingredients except the oil in a small food processor bowl. Blitz well. With the motor running, slowly pour in the oil to achieve a glossy firm mayo. Transfer to a sterilized jar and refrigerate till needed. Will keep for one week.

Preserved lemons

Preserved lemons are used extensively in North African and Middle Eastern cooking imparting sophisticated lemon undertones to tagines and Moroccan salads.

Prep time 15 mins + 4 weeks to preserve

Ingredients

6 unwaxed lemons
6 tbsp. coarse salt
2 sprigs thyme
Juice of 6 lemons
Olive oil

Method

Wash lemons and cut a deep cross lengthwise to 2cms from base leaving base intact. (4 segments still joined at the bottom). Pack each lemon with a tablespoon of salt and place in a sterilized jar. Push lemons so they are all squeezed tightly together. Seal the jar and refrigerate for a week. Remove the lid and squeeze the lemons to release as much juice as possible.

Add thyme and lemon juice and cover with a thin film of olive oil. Seal jar and allow to sit in the fridge for a least 4 weeks. These will keep for at least 6 months.

Ljuana Xuereb

Ljuana Xuereb

Ljuana loses herself in her kitchen, with fresh local and homegrown produce. In her words, they don't eat to live, rather they live for food.

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