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Zest for life

June 2, 2009

lemon zestFurther to our earlier discussion of simple but essential kitchen gadgets, I hereby withdraw my remarks to Hughesy about the humble zester being interchangeable with a grater.

For I now am in love with a six-dollar zester – it takes up no space, and is perfectly designed to take exactly the right depth of citrus peel for flavour and texture.

I realise now that a grater either takes too much or (in the case of our super-fine Microplane), too little, with the latter result being a sort of vaguely citrusy fairy floss instead of the sharp, fresh zing required. And digging too deeply, of course, means icky bitter pith. 

And as for lemons, oranges and limes, and why these zesty friends must be included in  life’s truly essential ingredients – well, you all know. ‘Sundry items too numerous to mention’, as the old clearance sale adverts in the Cooma-Monaro Express used to say. We’re talking sharpening up and /or sweetening everything from lamb shanks to roast chook to fruit salad to curries to chocolate cake.

Maggie Beer puts citrus peel in everything – from this incredibly delicious Moroccan poached ocean trout (have cooked several times, it’s from my treasured copy of  Maggie’s Table that chefbro Hamish gave me for Christmas – personally signed and everything, following their cooking gig together in Shangers) to the completely different but equally luscious  Haloumi & Citrus Lentils (ditto).

Skye Gyngell is another lemon freak, and her wonderful book A Year in My Kitchen is one of my favourites.  Here’s what she says about lemon zest:

The zesting of a lemon could never be described as a recipe, but this is an ingredient I use so often that it warrants a mention …  

Lemon zest works beautifully when tossed into a simple salad whose leaves include basil, mint, chervil and rocket. The addition of grated Parmesan, lemon juice and good olive oil is all that is needed, in my mind, to creat a perfect green salad. 

The tangy zest also cleans up the flavour of many desserts that would otherwise seem a fraction too sweet. Similarly, it works well to counteract the potentially cloying flavour of pickled fruits. In essence, lemon zest is a simple, quick way to add freshness to your cooking. There is no real secret, just be sure that to use the finest holes on your grater and only use the yellow part of the skin. The white pith tends to taste very bitter. Grate your zest as close as possible to the time that you are going to use it, as it will dry out fairly quickly if left out uncovered, or indeed even covered in the fridge overnight. 

3 comments

  1. My husband is a lemon zest fanatic, but I think I’ve only ever seen him use the microplane… hmm will have to send him a link to this, methinks.


  2. I’m quite keen on using lemon zest as well, especially
    as part of a lemon and Parmesan risotto.

    I’ve doubted the need to have a zester instead of a grater though- I will have to try one and see.


  3. You are saved my children.
    Th church of zesterastra welcomes you.



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