Preserved lemons are pickled in salt and their own juices; the result is salty morsels that add a punch of intense lemon flavour to savoury dishes.

The flesh can be used for its pungent flavour, but the most useful part is the peel. Simply cut the lemon into quarters, remove the flesh, and then very finely slice the peel into slivers.

You’ll find that preserved lemons are common in North African cuisine, especially Moroccan tagines. The use of preserved lemons adds fantastic depth to vegetarian dishes, creating that umami taste normally achieved with meat. They also taste great with olives.

Stewed meals benefit wonderfully from the inclusion of chopped preserved lemons, but they can also shine in summer salads. Finely slice fennel on a mandoline and add to a bowl with torn fresh mint, parsley, pomegranate seeds and the slices of lemon. Dress with a light vinaigrette.

If you’re preparing rice for the Egyptian dish kushari, you can add pieces of preserved lemon to the rice while it boils to add intensity, or finely dice some and add it to a saffron risotto or a couscous salad.

So next time you see preserved lemons in a delicatessen and almost pass them by, pick up a jar and enjoy experimenting with them in a few dishes. You’ll add so much flavour, even to the simplest vegetable dishes.

This originally appeared in Vegetarian Living NZ, which is NZ Vegetarian Society’s seasonal magazine.