An almost Deja Vu
Corfu, summer 2015 - Something like a lemon
On summer holidays in Greece I’m at my best. That year I went for few days to the island of Corfu, which is known for the wide variety of citrus fruits, among others islands’ trademark, the Kumquat.
If you’ve been in the city of Corfu walking through the small streets of the Italian-style old town, you should have noticed various products made from kumquat on the fronts of many local stores.
Having in mind kumquat, I couldn’t expect an exciting encounter with another citrus fruit that took place shortly after arriving.
We reached soon our destination, the village of Paleokastritsa in northwestern Corfu, renowned for an array of small bays with turquoise, cool waters.
The woman who accommodated us, came to pick us up from the street and led us to the studio. After a short guide and before leaving, she told me that there are two lemons in the fridge from her garden that we could eat.
I thanked her and after she left I looked my friend and wondered what she meant by ‘we could eat them’. How can you eat a lemon?
Curious as I became, I opened directly the fridge and saw the two lemons. But something was strange. They were extremely big. I haven’t seen lemons like those before.
I took one and cut it in half. Contrary to a lemon, it had a thick white flesh (rind) and an almost dry pulp in the center, devoid of juice whatsoever. I cut off a piece from the rind and put it in my mouth and surprisingly I could eat it. It tasted great! It wasn’t so aggressively sour as a lemon, but it had instead a mild and pleasant, sweet and sour taste. I still couldn’t believe that I was eating a whole lemon. I spent the afternoon chewing it (it was big!) together with some chocolate.
It was one of the greatest snacks I ever had!
Berlin, winter 2019 – An unexpected meeting
A typical Saturday morning in Berlin I was shopping in my favorite food market. While I was walking through people and foods, a rather old man walked by me holding a big lemon in his hands. I was about to have a deja vu, but I recalled the Corfu memory and stopped the man politely.
Akis: “Excuse me sir, where did you find this?”
Man: “ Just back there, beside the peppers.”
Akis: “ Do you know what is it exactly?”
Man: “ Yes, of course! It’s a Citron.”
Hearing the word I realised what it was. In Greece we call it also citro (κίτρο) and traditionally is cooked with sugar syrup and served as a spoon sweet.
Akis: “Ok! But do you also know that you can eat the whole of it?”
Man: “ Yes, I know, but I like to make a risotto.”
Akis: “A risotto sounds a great idea! Thank you and have a nice day.”
Needless to say, that meeting made my day. I bought a whole citron and went back home to play with it in my kitchen, thinking already the risotto recipe.
Citron is one of the original citrus fruits. The name, like its family, originates from the Latin citrus. Together with pomelo and mandarin are considered to be the ancestral types from which all the other citrus fruits developed during evolution. It has many varieties and it’s usually big, oblong, with a big inner white rind and a somewhat dry pulp (exactly the opposite from a lemon). Interestingly, I read afterwards that Corfu was among the first places in Greece where citron cultivation appeared, giving rise to the variety known as the Greek citron. In Greece except served as spoon sweat (γλυκό κίτρο), it’s also distilled into an aromatic liquor known as kitron which is made traditionally on the island of Naxos.
Back to my kitchen, I washed the citron, took the peel and separated the rind from the pulp. The rind was a lot and I kept some to make a kind of marmalade together with few apples. I combined the rest with some schwarzkohl (black cabbage) and made a risotto.
Citron and Schwarzkohl Risotto
· Bay leaf
· Salt/pepper (not much)
- Cut the vegetables in big pieces and sauté them briefly with a bit of olive oil.
- Add water, bring to boil and let cook for 20 min.
- Remove the bay leaf, blend the mix using a hand blender and keep it hot.
· Vegetable broth (ca. 2 lt)
· Citron rind, peel and a bit if any from the juice
· Schwarzkohl (remove the main steams that are fibrous and chop the leaves)
· Risotto rice (200g make 3 portions)
· Glass white wine
· Olive oil
· Butter (optional)
· Parmesan (optional)
- Chop the onion in as small as possible pieces and sauté on medium to high heat with olive oil until it starts being translucent.
- Add the rice and toast for a couple of minutes.
- Add the wine and let it evaporate while stirring with a spatula.
- Add the first batch from the broth, together with the chopped citron pulp and the schwarzkohl.
- Continue by adding gradually the broth and proceed cooking using the classical risotto technique, checking and adjusting seasoning.
It will take in total ca. 18 min.
- When rice cooked but still al-dente and risotto juicy enough, remove from fire, add the citron peel and juice, some butter and parmesan, mix well, cover and let it relax for a couple of minutes.
- Serve, drizzle with some olive oil, grate some more parmesan and enjoy.