Lemony snippets

The guaranteed sunshiny zing of citrus is a wonderful foil for all kinds of things especially grilled or fried fish

 Scallop and bulgur boats. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Scallop and bulgur boats. Photograph: Aidan Crawley


Of all the flavours that literally smack of summer, citrus has got to be top of the list. Lemons, limes, oranges . . . they are an essential part of everything from salad dressings to marinades, mojitos to margaritas.

In the deep, dark, dank bits of winter, they also bring a much needed dose of sunshine for when you’re feeling scurvy-ridden and miserable.

Maybe it’s because term time is looming, but there’s something about this time of year that makes me want to savour fully – and as often as possible – what is left of the summer season and all of its wonderful flavours and produce.

Or maybe it’s just that looming countdown to when everyone knuckles down to hard work, that makes you want to cook for friends and enjoy these last blasts of long evenings and glasses of rosé wine.

The guaranteed sunshiny zing of citrus is a wonderful foil for all kinds of things, but for grilled or fried fish it seems to do something almost magical, particularly if, like me, you have a weakness for partnering it with butter.

Citrus juice’s ability to lift a recipe (and any hint of blandness) out of the ordinary gets a good showcasing in this week’s recipes – one for a dish of fried scallops (yes, fried in butter), the other for a lemon drizzle cake with a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern twist, adapted from a recipe in a wonderful new book on my shelves, Honey & Co. I substituted polenta for semolina in this cake, because I prefer the texture.

Don’t be put off by the fear that you will overcook the scallops. They require searing for just shy of a minute each side. They can then be set aside for a few minutes (they continue to cook off the heat), while you make the accompanying salad and salsa look pretty. The same goes for the cake: don’t let making the lemon syrup stand in your way. It’s easy, even if it does involve a couple of stages. And it is delicious with this moist, golden cake, which has a wonderfully light texture thanks to the polenta in the recipe.

This is smart food, with a bit of polish and poise rather than pep and swagger. Still simple, mind – simple but definitely delicious. Nothing that’s going to take you away from the table, or the conversation, for too long.

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