Lemon fresh - Mediterranean-inspired recipes
Nothing says summer quite like citrus: squeeze every last drop of the season into your cooking with Ursula Ferrigno's Mediterranean-inspired recipes
Deep-fried Baby Lemon Calamari
This simplest of dishes, prepared well, fills me with nostalgia for my beach holidays as a child in Puglia; after a day in the sun it would more than satisfy the need for something salty and crisp. I enjoy this lemon calamari now as an adult with a glass of chilled white wine.
500g baby calamari, cleaned
50g '00' Italian flour or plain flour (rice flour also works)
1 tsp freshly ground cumin seeds
Zest of 1 lemon, very finely grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Groundnut oil, for deep-frying
2 tsp dried oregano
2 quartered lemons, to serve
Sliced red and green chillies, to serve (optional)
Chopped fresh coriander, to serve (optional)
Slice the calamari into thin rings. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, ground cumin seeds, lemon zest and a little salt and pepper.
Heat the oil to 180°C/350°F in a medium non-stick saucepan.
Toss the calamari in the flour and cumin mixture, and shake away any excess. Deep-fry in batches for around 4 minutes until lightly browned and tender.
Remove with a slotted spoon and drain the excess oil on paper towels. Sprinkle the calamari with the oregano. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of chilli, if desired, and serve scattered with coriander leaves.
Cabbage Leaves Stuffed with Gochujang and Lime Pork
Gochujang is a fiery Korean chilli paste, which partners so well with the fragrant sweetness of lime. It is easy to find, either in grocery stores or online. These delicious appetisers are colourful, simple and packed full of flavour.
12 large Chinese cabbage or Savoy cabbage leaves
400g minced pork
2 tbsp gochujang paste
Zest of 3 limes
4 spring onions, finely sliced
75g fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 tsp tamari soy sauce
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp Chinese rice vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the cucumber relish:
1 medium cucumber
2 tsp clear honey
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tsp tamari soy sauce
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
Juice of 1 lime
2 medium fresh red chillies, finely chopped
Lime wedges, to serve
Cut the tough ribs out of the cabbage leaves. Finely chop the ribs, place in a large bowl and set aside.
Submerge the whole leaves in boiling water for 3 minutes. Refresh in a bowl of ice-cold water, drain and pat dry with paper towel. Set aside.
Mix the minced pork with the gochujang paste, lime zest, spring onions, ginger, garlic, tamari soy sauce, toasted sesame oil and Chinese rice vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.
Divide the pork mixture between the leaves. Fold in the top and bottom and then lightly roll up to encase the filling. Place seam side down on a baking sheet as you finish each one.
Steam in batches in a steamer or metal sieve set over a pan of boiling water for 15 minutes until the pork inside is cooked through.
To make the cucumber relish, bash the cucumber with a rolling pin, then roughly chop and place in a bowl. Add the honey, garlic, tamari, sesame oil, lime juice and chopped chillies, and toss everything together. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
Serve the parcels warm with the relish on the side for dipping and extra lime wedges to squeeze over.
Mini Feta & Lemon Spanakopita
I love serving these neat little parcels to family and friends - it always looks like you have been slaving away, but really nothing could be simpler! I have plumped for the traditional Greek filling of salty feta cheese and earthy spinach beneath crisp buttery pastry; the addition of lemon zest brings everything together beautifully.
Makes 16, to serve 4
1.5kg spinach or chard, stems trimmed
1 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tsp nutmeg, finely ground
Handful each of chopped fresh mint, dill and flat-leaf parsley leaves
200g feta cheese, crumbled
4 spring onions, finely chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
125g unsalted butter, melted
16 sheets of filo pastry
3-4 tsp white sesame seeds, to sprinkle
2 baking sheets, greased
Boil or steam the spinach or chard until just wilted. Drain, squeeze out the excess moisture and chop coarsely. Set aside in a large bowl.
Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan and cook the onions over a medium heat until golden. Stir in the garlic and nutmeg, and fry for a few more minutes until fragrant. Remove from the heat and mix together with the spinach in the large bowl.
Add all the herbs, feta cheese, spring onions and lemon zest, and mix to evenly combine.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Have the prepared baking sheets, melted butter and filo pastry (covered in a damp kitchen cloth to prevent drying out) to hand. Lay a sheet of filo pastry out on the work surface and brush (but do not soak) all over with melted butter, and fold lengthways into two thirds, brushing with more butter between each fold.
Put a rounded tablespoon of the spinach mixture at the bottom on one side of the narrow edge of the folded pastry sheet, leaving a border clear of filling. Fold one corner of the pastry diagonally over the filling to form a large triangle. Continue folding to the end of the pastry sheet, retaining the triangular shape. Repeat with the remaining ingredients to make 16 triangles in total, placing seam side down on the prepared baking sheets as you finish. Brush the parcels with the remaining butter.
Sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes until lightly browned. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and serve warm or cold.
Steamed Asparagus with Saffron Lime Aïoli
The asparagus I grow on my plot is such a highlight for me each year. I am always thrilled. My neighbour David Geer grows a bumper crop and, I fear, I might never have such splendid asparagus as his. Thank you, David, for your marvellous asparagus. This is another simple side dish or starter. Tasty and visually stunning.
1kg fresh asparagus, thick stalks removed
For the saffron lime aïoli: 1 whole egg and 1 egg yolk
1 tsp French mustard
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp granulated sugar
1 garlic clove
150ml olive oil
2 generous pinches of saffron, soaked in 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp lime juice
Zest of 1 lime
Handful of freshly snipped chives, to garnish
Steam the asparagus until tender and refresh with cold water to retain its lovely bright colour.
To make the aïoli, put the egg and egg yolk, mustard, salt, pepper, sugar and garlic into a food processor and whizz, adding the oil little by little until you have a thick mayonnaise.
In a small pan, warm the saffron-and-vinegar mixture with lime juice and zest to soften. Cool, then whizz into the mayonnaise. Serve with the asparagus and snipped chives on top.