Cook this: Three recipes from The Miracle of Salt, including preserved lemons

food, cook this: three recipes from the miracle of salt, including preserved lemons

Clockwise from top left: Salt-Preserved Lemons, Warming Bean Soup with Salt-Preserved Lemon and Miso, Salt-Preserved Lemons, and Slow-Cooked Lamb Shoulder with Anchovies and Rosemary from The Miracle of Salt.

Our cookbook of the week is The Miracle of Salt by Naomi Duguid. Tomorrow, we’ll feature an interview with the author.

Jump to the recipes: Salt-Preserved Lemons, Warming Bean Soup 
with Salt-Preserved Lemon and Miso, and Slow-Cooked Lamb Shoulder with Anchovies and Rosemary.

Salt-preserved lemons are like sunshine in a jar, says Toronto-based writer and photographer Naomi Duguid . Just seeing them seems to add flavour. “They’re so beautiful to look at that even if you don’t use them, they’re heart-lifting.”

Duguid first learned about salt-preserved lemons from Claudia Roden’s seminal work, A Book of Middle Eastern Food (1968). In the Moroccan style, cooks cut lemons into quarters, leaving the stem end intact, before stuffing with salt. But Roden included another version in her cookbook debut, which appealed to Duguid in its practicality: slicing lemons into rounds.

“I find it more flexible,” says Duguid. “Then you can just take out one or two pieces.”

She has since taken to using the versatile ingredient in all manner of dishes, such as dal , roasted chicken and sauces — even mixing it with cooked onion for an “improvised chutney.”

In The Miracle of Salt , Duguid features them in a yogurt cake with ground salted nuts, and the following recipes for a warming bean soup and slow-cooked lamb shoulder . Salt-preserved lemons add more than acidity, Duguid underscores: They’re an invitation to experiment.

“They’re just a wonderful extra dose of flavour and colour in lots of places,” she says. “And they’re simple. What are your ingredients? Good lemons, salt and a nice jar. I like a straight-sided jar so you can really get to see them and admire them.”

food, cook this: three recipes from the miracle of salt, including preserved lemons

The Miracle of Salt is Toronto writer, photographer, traveller and home cook Naomi Duguid’s latest cookbook.

Duguid divides The Miracle of Salt into two sections: “The Salt Larder,” a collection of salt-preserved ingredients; and “From Larder to Table,” which features recipes building on those ingredients.

Her warming bean soup incorporates two such base ingredients — salt-preserved lemons and red miso. (You can, of course, buy your own versions of both.)

Having cooked beans at the ready in the fridge, which Duguid is an advocate for, will give you a head start.

“I like (beans) as the days get colder, as we head into a time change again. It’s just a pleasure,” she says, adding that there’s plenty of room for improvisation in the soup recipe. “Add extra fresh herbs. You can play with it differently. But that’s a keeper.”

Duguid’s slow-cooked lamb shoulder also draws on two ingredients from “The Salt Larder” — anchovies and preserved lemons — layered with rosemary and garlic.

Anchovies can be a divisive ingredient. As long as you’re sure your guests aren’t allergic to fish, Duguid suggests not mentioning the specifics. The anchovies melt into the dish, losing their form but lending an unmistakable depth of flavour.

“Nobody is going to run into a piece of an anchovy or even taste the anchovy taste. They’re just going to have the lovely impact of them,” says Duguid. “When people say it’s wonderful, give them the secret.”

food, cook this: three recipes from the miracle of salt, including preserved lemons

Salt-Preserved Lemons from The Miracle of Salt.


You will need a cutting board, a sharp knife, and one 1-quart (1 L) or two 2-cup (500 mL) wide-mouthed glass jars.

About 2 lb (900 g) lemons (7 to 10 medium-large lemons), preferably organic

About 1/2 cup (130 g) coarse sea salt or coarse pickling salt

About 1 tbsp mild-tasting extra-virgin olive oil or nut oil

Step 1

Sterilize one 1-quart (1 L) or two 2-cup (500 mL) wide-mouthed glass jars and their lids in the dishwasher or in boiling water, then air-dry.

Step 2

Wash the lemons; if using nonorganic fruit, scrub them well in hot water, then rinse. Trim off and discard the small nubs at both ends of each lemon.

Step 3

Cut several of the lemons into 1/4-inch ( 1/2 cm) slices, flicking out any seeds you encounter. Sprinkle a little salt on the bottom of the large jar or one of the smaller jars. Add a layer of slices to cover the bottom of the jar, then sprinkle on some of the salt. Continue to layer the lemon slices and salt, slicing more lemons as needed. Press down occasionally on the slices to force out air and give you more room, and tuck smaller slices into the gaps to even out the layers. Continue to pack the slices and salt to just short of the top of the jar, and press down again to compress them. The lemon juice given off by the slices should now come up to the top of the jar. If it does not, then squeeze a lemon or two and add the juice so that the slices are covered. Add the oil (or half the oil if using two jars) to help seal off the lemons and juice from the air. Put on the lid. Repeat with the second jar if using. Set aside, away from direct sunlight.

Step 4

The lemons will be transformed after about 1 month, and they will continue to evolve after that and become sweeter. Refrigerate after opening. They keep indefinitely.

Makes: about 2 lb (1 kg)

Note: Claudia Roden includes a dash of cayenne with each layer of lemon slices; follow her example, if you wish. I prefer to leave them without extra flavouring, for greater flexibility. I can always add spices or aromatics when I use them.

food, cook this: three recipes from the miracle of salt, including preserved lemons

Warming Bean Soup with Salt-Preserved Lemon and Miso from The Miracle of Salt.


1 lb (450 g) dried navy beans, lima beans or cowpeas, soaked overnight in lightly salted water to cover, or 4 cups (700 g) canned beans, rinsed and drained

1/4 cup (60 mL) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1 medium onion, minced or grated

6 or 7 medium garlic cloves, minced

1 tbsp ground cumin

2 tsp fine sea salt

2 tsp ground ginger

A 1-inch (2.5 cm) cinnamon stick

2 tsp chili pepper flakes

2 tbsp tomato paste or 2 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped

2 bunches flat-leaf parsley or fresh cilantro, or one of each, trimmed of coarse stems and finely chopped

2 tbsp red miso

3 slices Salt-Preserved Lemon ( see recipe , or store-bought), finely chopped

Step 1

If starting with soaked dried beans, drain them, place in a large heavy pot, and add water to cover. Bring to a rolling boil, then drain and set the beans aside in a bowl.

Step 2

Put the pot back over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, toss in the onion and cook for several minutes, until starting to soften. Add the garlic and cumin and cook for a minute or so. Add the reserved soaked beans to the pot. Add the salt and water to cover by 1 inch (2.5 cm) and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to maintain a steady low boil and cook, partially covered, stirring occasionally and adding extra water as necessary to keep the beans covered by about 1 inch (2.5 cm), for 45 minutes. If using canned beans, simply add them to the onions, garlic, and cumin, along with the salt, and then add enough water to cover them by 1 inch (2.5 cm).

Step 3

Add the ginger, cinnamon stick, chili flakes, tomato paste or chopped tomatoes, and half the chopped herbs and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly and cook at a low boil, partially covered, until the beans are very soft, about 15 minutes for canned beans, another 20 to 45 minutes for dried, depending on your beans. Add extra water if needed to loosen the texture of the soup.

Step 4

Scoop about 1 cup (240 mL) of the liquid into a small bowl, add the miso, and stir until completely dissolved, then add back to the soup. Add the preserved lemon, bring to a boil, and cook for another 15 minutes at a medium boil. Remove from the heat, cover, and set aside until ready to serve.

Step 5

About 10 minutes before serving, bring the soup back to a low boil, stirring. Add extra water if you want it less thick, then add the remaining chopped herbs. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Serve in large soup bowls, drizzling about 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil over each serving.

Serves: 6

food, cook this: three recipes from the miracle of salt, including preserved lemons

Slow-Cooked Lamb Shoulder with Anchovies and Rosemary from The Miracle of Salt.


A 2 1/2 lb (1.2 kg) boneless lamb shoulder roast

1 lb (450 g) red onions, thickly sliced

6 or 7 anchovy fillets, rinsed and minced

1 tbsp minced fresh rosemary

6 to 8 garlic cloves, minced

3 slices Salt-Preserved Lemon ( see recipe , or store-bought), or 1 lemon, preferably organic

About 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 cups (350 mL) white wine

1 lb (450 g) small white turnips or carrots, peeled and chopped into 1-inch (3 cm) chunks

Step 1

Preheat the oven to 350F (175C).

Step 2

With the tip of a sharp knife, make shallow cuts all over the fat side of the roast.

Step 3

Line the bottom of a Dutch oven or other wide heavy ovenproof pot with the onion slices. Place the roast on the onion slices and set aside.

Step 4

Put the anchovies, rosemary, garlic and 1 slice of the preserved lemon, if using, in a food processor or mortar and process or pound to a paste. Stir in enough olive oil to make a spreadable paste. If using a regular lemon, zest half the lemon and stir the zest into the paste; cut the lemon in half and set aside.

Step 5

Rub the paste all over the roast, then turn it fat side up on top of the onion slices. Add the remaining preserved lemon, or the lemon halves, to the pot.

Step 6

Place the pot in the centre of the oven and cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes, then cover and bake for 45 minutes longer.

Step 7

Take the lamb out of the oven and pour the wine into the pot, then scatter the turnips or carrots around the roast. Cover again, lower the oven temperature to 300F (150C), and bake until the lamb is falling-apart tender, another 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Step 8

Cut up the lamb and serve hot or warm, with the turnips or carrots, and the pan juices drizzled over.

Serves: 6

Recipes and images excerpted from The Miracle of Salt by Naomi Duguid (Artisan Books). Copyright ©2022. Photographs by Naomi Duguid.

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