The gift of lemons to nourish the soul

Recently, I have been blessed with lots of lemons. So much, that to begin with, I was just not quite sure what to do with them! A very good problem to have!

My children have picked lemons from our family tree, I have received them from local friends, and a couple of weeks ago, I drove home with a big bag whilst visiting my godparents in Altona.

These are the simple gifts that just keep on giving.

6c45b5ed-82c6-49c4-8e86-1b1244121ae1.jpegLemons are rich in Vitamin C and widely used to heighten the flavour of both sweet and savoury dishes. It can help to provide the balance in your palate between fat and acid and has the magical ability to prevent oxidation in food. Lemons are so versatile that they can be also used as a disinfectant – to name just a few ideas here.

Lemons have existed for a very long time. Its journey started in Asia and then moved to the Middle East where the Arabs probably then took the lemon to Europe in the tenth century.

Lemons remind me of Sicily and the stunning Amalfi Coast in Italy.

Sicily are famous for their citrus.  They produce 90 per cent of Italy’s lemons (650,000 tonnes per year) with others grown in Calabria and Sardinia.

In Sicily, lemons are used to flavour savoury dishes – such as seafood – and the ever array of sweets which are flavoured and adorned with candied cedro (a large fragrant citris fruit) to decorate the popular Cassata di Siciliana. A true celebration!

Some of the highest quality lemons come from the Amalfi coast in Campania where the incredibly delicious limoncello liquor was created.

The first time I tasted limoncello was when I was visiting dreamy Sorrento on my honeymoon. I still remember that moment – sitting outside on the beautiful terrace overlooking the stunning purple bougainvillea cascade when the cold glass arrived. That first sip. It tasted sweet and bitter all at the same time. The most delicious memory.

Since then, there is always a bottle stored in my freezer. I am very fond of the creamy type called ‘Crema di Limoncello’. The Villa Massa brand is my favourite.

CDE57617-6E88-46FA-B195-102C889355C8This beautiful liquor inspired the creation of my famous limoncello semi-freddo ice cream cake. A summertime favourite for those who pop over for a lazy Sunday lunch.

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The gift of giving and receiving lemons will almost guarantee that you not only nourish the soul of others – but your soul too.

This year we were lucky to have some lemons growing on our small lemon tree. I have had a very hard time growing lemons over the years. This year, I was successful! I was thinking of all the things I could bake with these beautiful yellow lemons – but the children were keen to make some old fashioned home-made lemonade. How could I say no to their enthusiasm!

3CFD2EA3-268F-4089-994F-7EAB855D18C3They were prepared to put in the ‘hard work’ to pick the lemons, extract the beautiful rich juice and cook it up with some sugar (well lots of sugar).

Upon tasting the final product they said…’Mum..this tastes so much better than the lemonade from the shop…’. Of course it does! They are learning that ‘home made’ is far superior.

The natural interaction between siblings through the process of picking fresh produce, cooking a recipe, cleaning up and devouring the finished product is quite special. It allows them to learn about fresh ingredients and new cooking techniques, share the task at hand (even though they fight from time to time) and enjoy each other’s company.

This sets them up for positive childhood memories and a supportive and close relationship as they get older.

After making and devouring the beautiful lemonade, they raced outside and jumped on the trampoline together. I witnessed in that small moment in time their bond getting stronger. I was so happy to see this – even though I was cleaning up the final mess in the kitchen! (A mothers work never ends).

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Creating a safe home environment and supporting simple moment-by-moment interactions with children are a priority for me because I don’t like the way that technology devices are invading our lives. It distracts us from meaningful connection with people and our natural world around us. We need to put boundaries around their use.

This is also true for nurturing friendships. One night Chloe invited a friend over after school. As they plonked their school bags on the ground, they walked past the big bowl of lemons that I had received from my godfather that week. Their eyes lit up and begged me to make old fashioned lemonade – again! Of course I said yes! So out came the aprons, tray and juicers! So much fun.

F3CB47A4-3EF5-4648-806E-BA443E39BC0EThis friend comes from one of the most inspirational families who live in our community. They live with the day-by-day relentless task of caring for a teenage boy with special needs.

The way they care for this child is humbling to watch because they love him and want the best for him – always striving to give the highest care and quality of life. He is very lucky. They remind me that it’s the simple things in life that matter.

This boy is beautiful. When I visit and he is home he will come up to me and touch my face. If I stay for a coffee he gets a little jealous and begins to let us know that he is in the house too! I am always in awe of how intelligent he is.

People with special needs are part of our community and we need to make sure they are included in our society and given the best level of care. I sometimes feel our system fails us in this regard. We need to be doing more for the most vulnerable in our society and for the carers who support them.

From time-to-time I try to cook for them. Just something simple. The criteria is to give them a little ‘spark of joy’ in that moment and some nourishment. Even if its just warm fresh cake. I am conscious that this small gesture doesn’t ease their load at all. I suppose it helps a little in that moment. That is my wish.

So whilst the children were making the old-fashioned lemonade I baked a simple lemon bundt cake. Playing with ingredients and creating a new recipe by just throwing a few ‘bits and pieces’ together in a mixing bowl is always fun for me. Success. It worked!

B34F617A-764B-4295-889C-DF796FE40D80The cake looked very pretty so I was inspired to put together a ‘care package’ for this lemon bundt decorated with fresh tuscan rosemary, greek yogurt (for dolloping), a bouquet of freshly picked herbs (lemon verbena, tuscan rosemary, lemon thyme, bay leaves) and a small jar of warm lemonade. It only takes an extra five minutes to do this!

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I always keep my leftover ‘Bonne Maman’ raspberry jam jars in the cupboard with some red and white string ‘on hand’ to make a very simple food package look a little special. It’s those little touches. Those tiny little things that make these home-made gifts extra special.

My favourite moment is the anticipation and excitement I feel when I drive there. And then I ring the doorbell and walk through the corridor of their home holding my favourite french provincial basket to gift them a little moment of joy.

In return, I see smiles and receive a warm embrace. This is not only nourishing for them – it is also nourishing for me! It gives me immense joy to do this from time-to-time. I drive home happy and sleep well that night.

In closing, it would be remiss of me to share that just this week I received a very big bag of lemons from another beautiful friend. I received a message from her saying that she was pruning her tree and that she had collected a ‘truck load’ – well a Tonka truck load!

4FA8665F-0AC5-4212-B583-51E4E90E36F2I very promptly rang my husband, who was out shopping, and asked him to go and ‘pick them up’ before 2:30pm (and to not be late!). I was super excited!

At the time, we were about to go away on a road trip for two weeks so I have lovingly stored these lemons in the fridge. They will keep very well and I am already dreaming up what I will do with them when I get home!

All I can say is – what a very special problem it is to have so many lemons! It is clearly the gift that keeps on giving.

Allow me to leave you with my beautiful ‘one bowl mix’ lemon bundt cake recipe which I have only recently created since receiving all these lemons.

And…of course, the beautiful old fashioned lemonade recipe from the incredibly talented Nellie Kerrison from the Relish Mama Cooking School in Melbourne.

Silvia’s lemon bundt to nourish the soul recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of self raising flour
  • 1/2 cup of caster sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 rind of lemon, grated finely
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 200g greek yogurt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil

Method

  • Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees celsius fan-forced
  • Grease a 20cm bundt tin (see tip below)
  • In a bowl combine all the dry ingredients
  • In another bowl whisk all the wet ingredients
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix with the whisk until well combined
  • If the batter is a little dry add some milk and if it is a too wet and runny add some extra flour
  • Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake for approximately 25 – 30 minutes (these cakes cook much quicker because there is a hole in the middle – so keep an eye on it!)
  • Once cooked, let it rest and cool in the tin for at least 20 minutes before taking it out of the bundt tin
  • It is delicious eaten warm or will last for approximately 5 days (it never does though!)

What is so special about a bundt cake tin?

A bundt cake tin is special. The beautiful shapes of these tins creates such a beautiful looking cake that I sometimes wonder why we would even bother purchasing a ‘material gift’ for someone when we can bake such a pretty cake!

I was given this bundt tin for my birthday from a very dear friend. Once again, a gift that keeps on giving!

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For those who are worried about their cakes ‘sticking’ within the grooves of these pretty bundt tins – I was given a recipe to create a ‘paste’ that I brush onto the tin very well using a pastry brush (you need to really get into the grooves). It is 100% fool proof with my lemon bundt cake recipe. I used: 75g shortening; 75g plain flour and 75g vegetable oil. I store the leftover paste in a jar for next time. Give it a try.

Nellie’s old fashioned lemonade recipe

And…the old fashioned lemonade recipe is from my dear friend Nellie Kerrison who is the Founder of the Relish Mama Cooking School in Melbourne. Her cook books are incredibly beautiful and her cooking classes are a very special experience.

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Until next time.

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