Henrik Vilain and Ingo Schauser’s cookbook, from their Andalusian kitchen, is an exceptionally beautiful and compelling tribute to lemons. With great creativity, the couple has re-imagined green dishes, where lemons play everything from demanding and decadent leading roles to understated supporting roles. Here’s a taste of three recipes with lemon.
I love lemons so much that the yellow fruit is always in my kitchen, and I would go so far as to say that the lemon is my favourite fruit. I put it in everything from my water and gin and tonic to salads, fish dishes, cakes and desserts. So expectations are high when a cookbook is published that focuses on the yellow, edible jewel, and that is even based on a Spanish kitchen. It felt like stepping through the gate to lemon heaven when I opened the cookbook, which is called Lemons . You’ll be hungry and inspired to use lemons in new ways when you look at the sensory images of the colourful dishes.
The authors, Henrik Vilain and Ingo Schauser, invite us into the kitchen of their finca, Garden of Lemons, which is surrounded by old lemon and olive groves in the Lecrín Valley, south of Granda. The finca is the centre of cultural experiences, people and, not least, food.
The cookbook opens with the story of how the former professional musicians found the perfect place for Garden of Lemons and, with Henrik’s passion for food and wine (which has been refined on cookery courses), began a whole new life in the south of Spain. Today, Henrik and Ingo hold courses at Garden of Lemons, where food is the natural focal point.
Lemons are not only a long tribute to the lemon, but also to green cuisine and herbs. The cookbook’s 78 green recipes with lemon were created with inspiration from the couple’s many travels around the world, and particularly the Middle East and Mediterranean, where lemons grow everywhere. The couple is also inspired by conversations with guests around the dining table at Garden of Lemons, where Henrik is the house chef and Ingo is the cultural facilitator.
Lemons for every occasion
In the kitchen at Garden of Lemons, Henrik and Ingo use lemons in almost everything because, according to them, lemons create depth, complexity and balance between sweet, salty and sour. The cookbook features lemon recipes ranging from marinades, jams, sauces, snacks, soups, starters, main courses and desserts to drinks, and includes dishes for brunch, lunch, dinner, socializing and everyday and festive meals.
Here are Garden of Lemons’ interpretations of Spanish classics like Andalusian salmorejo, romesco sauce and soplillos (Spanish almond and lemon meringues), and inspiration from world cuisine includes Italian white pizza, Greek dolmades and Persian herbal omelettes.
The cookbook is divided by dish, and each chapter is peppered with personal stories about where the inspiration for the dishes came from, the occasions on which Henrik and Ingo serve them, and the history of the ingredients. The couple also take us on a journey through the cultural history of lemons, which of course includes a visit to Denmark.
I spent some time at the Garden of Lemons, walking among the trees with the bright lemons and tasting the couple’s homemade lemon marmalade, pasta with lemon (for which there are recipes in the cookbook) and baked carrots with cinnamon, lemon and thyme, (for which you’ll find the recipe below). So I’ve already had a taste of Henrik’s culinary skills, but I feel like heading straight to the kitchen, armed with a fistful of lemons, and trying to do his bidding as I browse through the recipes. They are simple and easy to make – even for the less kitchen-savvy.
Sophisticated aesthetics for the kitchen
Lemons are insanely beautiful photographed by Mikkel Adsbøll. The photographer visualises and highlights Henrik and Ingo’s passion for food, the explosion of colour in lemon dishes and the care with which they are created, in a dark universe that is both elegant and aesthetic. The dark universe also provides a visual depth that matches the depth added to the cookbook in the background stories of the dishes and ingredients, and how Henrik and Ingo were inspired.
The book has a hard cover, a lemon yellow marker to help you quickly find your favourite recipe, and is in a delicious paper quality that can withstand being picked through and used in the kitchen. And it’s so beautiful, you’ll want to leave it on the kitchen table.
Can turn even the sourest lemon
Now, reading this review, you might conclude that Lemons is mostly for lemon aficionados like me, but if you think that, then according to journalist Adam Holm, who wrote the book’s foreword, you might think again. Adam Holm approached the book about “perhaps the sourest fruit” with a great deal of wonder and prejudice, but after trying out the recipes, he claims that both he and his family have been converted – and wiser.
Whether you’re a lemon lover or not, you can get in the kitchen and try out some of the dishes in Lemons. Below you will find a taste of three recipes from the cookbook.
Recipe: Beetroot hummus with walnuts, pomegranate and lemon
When beetroot is in the kitchen, the colours go wild. Beetroot is a colourful cousin, but so mild in flavour that something has to be done to it to bring out its best. The tangy, bitter – yet sweet – notes of the pomegranate complement the mild flavours of the beetroot, and the taste is rounded off with lemon, garlic, mint and a good olive oil.
250 g beetroot
2 teaspoons salt
250 g cooked chickpeas
1 clove garlic, finely chopped or 4 garlic cloves, confit
1 tbsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground
4 tbsp olive oil
1 lemon, finely grated peel
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice – taste for yourself
salt and freshly ground black pepper
seeds from 1/2 pomegranate
salted lemon slices in olive oil, halved
mint leaves, shredded
Wash the beetroot, but be careful not to damage the skin, and keep both the tail and a few cm of the top, so that they do not bleed during cooking. Heat a pot of water, add salt and cook the whole beetroots covered with water. The cooking time depends entirely on the size of the beetroot, but a knife should slide through easily. Allow 1/2-1 hour. Cool them and rub off the skin while they are still warm.
Blend the chickpeas with the cooked beetroot and garlic and add the other ingredients. Adjust the consistency with a little ice-cold water while the blender is running. Pour the spread into bowls, sprinkle with pomegranate seeds, half-salted lemon slices and mint, and drizzle with olive oil.
Serve with bread, crackers or crispbread, or let the spread be part of a larger meal.
Recipe: Baked carrots with cinnamon, lemon and thyme
Many vegetables benefit from a baking in the oven with olive oil and herbs, because it potentiates the flavour and softens the texture. This is particularly true for root vegetables. We therefore often bake carrots for a tapas, a lunch dish or as part of dinner. For example, eat the warm or hot carrots with a bowl of cool Middle Eastern tarator sauce flavoured with lemon, tahini and parsley.
Here the carrots are baked with a bit of cinnamon. But you can also use crushed coriander seeds, cumin and chilli. Carrots are masters at absorbing the flavours around them.
1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp cumin, toasted and crushed
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, zest and juice
Middle Eastern tarator sauce
fresh thyme sprigs
2 lemons, cut in half and grilled/fried
Peel the carrots and cut them lengthwise into halves or quarters, so you end up with carrot sticks of roughly the same size. Place them on a baking tray lined with baking paper and toss with olive oil, cumin and cinnamon. Bake in the oven at 200 degrees for 15 minutes, or until they start to caramelise slightly in the corners. When slightly cooled, drizzle with lemon juice and finely grate the lemon peel over the roots.
Serve the carrots with a Middle Eastern tarator sauce, fresh thyme sprigs and fried lemon halves. The lemons are fried or grilled in a hot pan. Keep the lemons in close contact with the pan by pressing them down against the pan until the cut surface has a beautiful golden colour.
Recipe: Lemon tart with lemon curd and fresh citrus fruits
Lemon curd tastes wonderful in a pie, spread on top of a crisp and golden shortcrust pastry. The tart is decorated with a symphony of fresh fillets of orange, pink grape and lime, and it is a wonderfully beautiful cake with the different colours of citrus fruit uniting on top of the cake. Sprinkle leaves of roses or other edible flowers over the pie at the last minute for a poetic effect.
150 g butter
90 g icing sugar
1 knsp vanilla powder
25 g almond flour
250 g wheat flour
225 g sugar
5 egg yolks
3 lemons, peel
2 dl lemon juice
225 g butter
1 pink grape
To make the pastry, gather all the ingredients either by hand or in a food processor. The dough comes together quickly without kneading. Wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for 1 hour or until the next day.
To make the lemon curd, mix the sugar, egg yolks, lemon zest and juice in a bowl set over a water bath – i.e. place the bowl over a pan with a smaller diameter than the bowl so that the bowl does not reach the surface of the water in the pan. While the water bath slowly heats up the mixture, gradually whisk in the butter in small lumps. Continue whisking for 10-15 minutes until the lemon curd has thickened and reached a temperature of 80 degrees – use a sugar thermometer if you like. It must not boil, or it will split.
Pour the lemon curd into the cooled pie crust.
Cut the peel off oranges, lemons, grapefruit and limes by first cutting the top and bottom off the fruit, standing it on end and then cutting down the sides all the way around. Make sure to get all the white of the shell cut away. Over a bowl, cut fillets from all the fruit by turning the fruit around in one palm and cutting in between the membranes. Arrange the fruit on top of the lemon curd by building up a circular shape from the inside – a bit like the spokes of a wheel. Sprinkle with flower petals just before serving.
Henrik Vilain & Ingo Schauser: Lemons
Photo: Mikkel Adsbøll
Muusmann Publishers. Price: DKK 299,95
Buy the book here (only available in Danish)