Homemade limoncello

I love yellow.  I love sunshine.  I love lemons. 

And yes, I love limoncello, that glorious Italian digestif that transports me to the lemon groves of Sicily (where, actually I haven't yet ever been, although I definitely plan to and it's where my friend Valentina is from).

OK then, so it transports me to somewhere sunny (since I don't know Sicily) where I can smell citrus and trees and hot earth and salty breezes, and feel the sun soaking into my skin like pure life force. Somewhere like that.

Yet it's winter, in fact the first frost of winter today.  And that, dear friends, is the power of limoncello. 

It's delicious, it's bottled sunshine - and it's easy to make.  It needs three weeks from putting the vodka and lemon peel together until it's ready-to-drink, so if we start it now, it'll be ready in time for some Christmas parties and for giving as (very welcome) gifts.

You'll need:

Rachel Redlaw limoncello

6-8 (depending on size and how you feel that day) unwaxed, organic lemons

I am specifiying unwaxed and organic as due to the amount of time the peel steeps, any nasties in it will also transfer to your drink.  To be entirely honest, I once made it with the only lemons available and that definitely weren't organic, and I'm still here to tell the tale, but it's just common sense to get the most natural, beautiful ones you can find).

A bottle of vodka

Sugar for the sugar syrup - but we don't need that until two weeks' time, so I'll come back and add that bit and update the photos then.

For now, all you do is start by washing the lemons, rinsing them and drying them.

Rachel Redlaw limoncello lemons

Then using a vegetable peeler or small sharp knife (or both) peel off the rind as very very thinly as you can.  The white pith has a bitter flavour and whilst it's going to be impossible not to have any of it at all (so don't obsess), it is important to be as careful about avoiding it as you can.

So, very finely peel 6-8 lemons - I did seven - and pop the bits of peel into a jar or bottle.

Rachel Redlaw limoncello
Rachel Redlaw limoncello

Top almost to the top with vodka (we need room for a cup of sugar syrup in a couple of weeks), seal tightly and put away somewhere cool and dark for a couple of weeks or so.

Update: three weeks' later ...  although two weeks would have been enough. 

OK, so right at the very last stage I went a bit loopy and made this much much harder for myself than need be!

What SHOULD have happened is that I should have made a couple of cups of sugar syrup.  Two cups sugar and two cups water, brought together very slowly in a saucepan, simmered for 2-3 minutes and then left to cool.

You strain the peel from your liqueur then add about half the quantity of sugar syrup and taste, and add more as necessary until it's the right sweetness for you.  Easy!

But what I did, was assume I had enough sugar syrup in the fridge as I'd made vodka sours this week for a supperclub.

Rachel Redlaw limoncello
Rachel Redlaw limoncello

There was nowhere near enough and my drink was horribly bitter.

And then, to make it even harder, I decided I couldn't be bothered to make up 'proper' sugar syrup, so I just put boiling water into half a cup of sugar and stirred til dissolved.  

Rachel Redlaw limoncello

When cool, I added this to my lemon liqueur and ... it was still bitter.  So I made another cup of my 'cheat's syrup' and added half of it.  

My limoncello tastes absolutely fine, despite all this messing around, if not the very best version I've ever made!

Leave it for 24 hours to settle and then keep in the fridge until needed.

Rachel Redlaw limoncello

At least it looks pretty ... and I hope you make it the easy way, not the totally-round-the-houses-way and that you like it! 

Would love to see what you make - do share.

Lemon Prosecco Punch

I was going to save this a day and take some prettier pictures and stuff before I posted it but then decided to just ... share already!

It's so easy and such a great drink that you might want the recipe straight away for Saturday, not have to wait until Sunday for it.

And if you're looking for a snack to have with it, I can recommend these spicy cashews.

Anyway, onto the punch.

You'll need:

3 lemons

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1 bottle of Prosecco

1/2 cup vodka

Peel the lemons in nice long thin strips.

It looks lovely if you can do a single lemon spiral thing but although I try every time I haven't managed this yet.  Just try and make the strips as long as possible and make sure you only have the peel and leave the bitter white pith behind on the lemon.  Put peel to one side.

Squeeze the lemon juice from all three lemons and set that aside too.

Put the sugar and water into a small pan and bring to the boil very slowly over a low heat.  Stir to make sure the sugar is fully dissolved and then add the lemon peel and simmer for two or three minutes.

Remove from the heat and let cool completely.

Pour the whole bottle of Prosecco into a jug or punch bowl, add the sugar syrup and lemon peel, and the lemon juice and then the vodka.

Stir and serve!

Next time I make it I won't actually put the lemon peel in the glass as, pretty though it is, it was annoying to drink.

The Tiniest Thai Rachel Walder lemon prosecco punch

I also served it in wine glasses rather than flutes as I heard Prosecco should be served like this - does anyone have any thoughts or knowledge on the best glass to use?

I hope you like the punch - do let me know if you try it.


Pasta with lemon

Super-easy, super-quick lemon sauce for pasta and fittingly for today, a sunny day in June, it is sunshine on a plate. Best with long thin pasta like tagliatelle, spaghetti or linguine - but I make it with penne sometimes too.

A good lunch or easy supper, this goes well with a quick salad and it's also easy to add prawns or grilled chicken to make it more substantial. And lemon linguine alone makes an elegant first course.

My favourite sort-of-French-dressing uses:

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons white vinegar

1 garlic clove, skinned and squashed (not chopped)

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Method (if you can call it that!) - put it all in a jar and shake, and add more of any dressing ingredient as needed to balance and until you're happy.

I put the jar into the fridge after using and every day just add more vinegar and/or oil as it gets more and more garlicky ...

The Tiniest Thai Rachel Walder lemon pasta

The original recipe for the pasta with lemon is from Mireille Guiliano's 'French Women Don't Get Fat' and while her recipe serves four, this has been modified and serves two.

if adding prawns, I find it easiest to throw them in with the pasta for the last minute or two to heat or cook.

The Tiniest Thai Rachel Walder lemon pasta

Make the sauce during the last few minutes of your pasta cooking, or when it's cooked, as it's very quick.

You'll need:

2 lemons

a good slosh of olive oil

around 100g-150g creme fraiche

approx 60g Parmesan

salt and pepper

The Tiniest Thai Rachel Walder lemon pasta

Grate the zest of the lemons and halve one of them so you have it ready to squeeze into the sauce and grate the cheese.

The Tiniest Thai Rachel Walder lemon pasta

In a saucepan, warm the olive oil and add the zest. Cook over a low heat for a couple of minutes.

The Tiniest Thai Rachel Walder lemon pasta

Add the creme fraiche and bring to the boil, then squeeze in the juice of one lemon and bring to the boil again.

The easiest way to juice a lemon is to squeeze a half over your closed hand so your fingers catch the pips.

The Tiniest Thai Rachel Walder lemon pasta

Cook for a couple of minutes, then add the grated Parmesan, season to taste and cook for another minute.

The Tiniest Thai Rachel Walder lemon pasta

Combine with the cooked pasta and serve immediately.

The Tiniest Thai Rachel Walder lemon pasta

Yep, sunshine on a plate and super-quick too :)