One of the few advantages of living in my original condition unrenovated post-war house in Melbourne is the fifty year old lemon tree in my back yard. This grand old dame has been presiding over the veggie patch, hills hoist and the asbestos shed since the early 1950s, and the complete lack of landscaping and renovation has ensured that she has remained untouched.
I truly love this tree. Season after season she delivers me an endless supply of fresh lemons. There are waaaaay more lemons on this tree than I could ever cook, so I generally end up putting boxes of lemons out in front of my house for my neighbours to take.
So this weekend I ended up with about 20kgs of lemons in my kitchen and ten friends due to arrive for lunch on Sunday, so the theme for lunch was a no-brainer.
I started out making lemon butter (otherwise known as lemon curd). It’s really easy and absolutely delicious. Mix eggs, butter and sugar with lemon juice and zest in a bain marie for about twenty minutes until it thickens enough to coat the back of the wooden spoon. Great with any dessert.
I had some poppy seeds that had been kicking around my spice box for a while, so I also made a good old-fashioned nanna-inspired lemon and poppy seed cake. Mix eggs, butter, buttermilk, SR flour, sugar, lemon juice and zest with a generous handful of poppy seeds. Stick in a loaf tin, sprinkle with castor sugar and bake until the top has risen and cracked like a Californian geological fault. Eat warm thick slices straight from the oven and send any remainders away with guests while being mindful of the size of your waist in impending wedding photos.
Next came the chicken. Two chickens with whole lemons and fresh herbs in the cavity, and thick arcs of lemon rind and parsley tucked under the skin and over the breasts. Stick on the rotisserie for an hour or so, basting occasionally with lemon juice and olive oil. Mmmm…
Then there was the Nigella-inspired piece de resistance: The Pavlova Identity Crisis Cake. Line two springform pans with about 4cms of sponge batter (eggs, SR flour, sugar, buttermilk) and then top with an indecently thick cloud of meringue. Bake both pans for about 35 minutes on a low heat (I use both elements for the first 20 minutes then switch to the bottom element to ensure the sponge is cooked). When cooled, smother one of the cakes in generous swathes of lemon butter and cream, and then top with the other cake. Ensure you are excessive with the lemon butter so that it oozes seductively out the side of the cake making your guests drool in anticipation…
There were a couple of non-lemony items too. Pork spare ribs marinated in home made marmalade and ginger. Steaks marinated in Guiness (the perfect tenderiser) and assorted spices. And sausages of course. We enjoyed a barbecue without the actual barbecue (O and I haven’t got one yet) so instead I cooked all the meat on the griddle plate of my beloved Ilve and even succeeded in setting off the smoke alarm!