Imagine a life without lemons. No spritz over butter fried sole. No squeeze on a parsley and tomato salad. No marinade on that spatchcocked chicken. No candied rinds. No zest. No slices garnishing your roasted fish. And no lemonade.
It is believed that lemons originated in India over 2500 years ago. From there they travelled around the world and became a culinary necessity. There are over 200 cultivars in America alone. Some are better in arid climates, other in humid, some for lemon oil and others for sweetness, fewer seeds, more seeds and so on. Surprisingly lemons are hand picked. There is no machine that can pick a lemon. They are picked green and cannot be wet. As they cure the colour changes to yellow, the skin thins and the fruit becomes juicier.
Lemon Ricotta and Almond Flourless Cake
This rich, dense and moist lemony cake is almost a cheesecake. Homemade ricotta and ground almonds are bound together with eggs and flavoured with a generous amount of lemon zest. The cake benefits from a couple of days of rest before serving. Lightly dust with powdered sugar and you have a dessert worthy of any dinner party.
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 c. sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1/4 c. lemon zest
4 eggs, separated and at room temperature
2 1/2 c. almond meal
10 1/2 oz. ricotta
Flaked almonds, to decorated
Icing sugar, for dusting
Heat oven to 325 F. Generously butter the bottom and sides of an 8 inch round springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper and set aside.
Place the butter, 3/4 cup sugar, vanilla seeds and lemon zest in an electric mixer and beat for 8-10 minutes or until pale and creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then gradually add the egg yolks, one at a time, continuing to beat until fully combined. Add the almond meal and beat to combine. Fold ricotta through the almond meal mixture.
Beat the egg whites in a clean bowl with electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar to the egg whites mixture and whisk until stiff peaks form. Gently fold a third of the egg whites into the cake mixture. Repeat with the rest of the egg whites.
Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin, smooth the tops with a spatula, decorate the cake with almond flakes, and bake for 45-50 minutes or until cooked and firm to touch. Turn off, open oven door and leave pan in the oven to cool. Allow to cool completely in the cake pan overnight. Dust with icing sugar to serve. (Adapted from Donna Hay)