Take 12 pounds of lemons, a clean jar and a stone….

Madame Guinaudeau, a French woman who was married to a doctor practising in Fez, wrote “Traditional Moroccan Cooking” over a period of three decades. The book was finally published in 1958 as “Fès Vu par sa Cuisine” and is recognised as the first collection of Moroccan recipes and cooking since the appearance in Spain, in the 12th century, of an anonymous compilation in Arabic. I have grown a deep affection for this book, even though I rarely cook the authentic recipes within, partly because I don’t have a store cupboard that boasts many of the ingredients,  especially  Cantharides  or Hashish, and partly because only one of the two of us in the house would eat many of them. Her emotionally charged and colourfully descriptive writing, however, gives me inspiration when I come to cook a dish that has a Middle Eastern flavour. Claudia Roden has the same effect on me, as does Anna del Conté when Italian food is on my mind.


The point of this post is twofold. One is to supply you with Mme. Guinaudeau’s simple recipe for preserved lemons and the other is to share with you her mesmerising description of a Moroccan cook which appears in her book.

Her recipe for preserved lemons illustrates the sort of quantities that are present in most of the recipes  in the book, which are clearly for large households. I think one has to adjust them to one’s own needs, intuitively, so I am leaving out the quantities.

Preserved Lemons from Mme. Guinaudeau’s “Traditional Moroccan Cooking”

Utensils: an absolutely clean jar and a stone.


Put the lemons to soak in water, which must be changed each morning, for five days. At the end of this time take the lemons and divide each one in four, lengthways, being mindful to leave the quarters attached at one end: so they open like a flower. Put a pinch of salt in the middle of each lemon, then close and reshape the lemon. Fill the jar with lemons and put a clean stone on top to weigh them down. A month later they will be ready. At the end of a few days a juice as thick as honey, but salty, will ooze out and the lemons can be preserved in this indefinitely if kept in a dry place.

Preserved lemons can also be made quite successfully by quartering the lemons and leaving the hinge at the bottom. Put a pinch of salt in the open lemons and a pinch of paprika, if liked. Fit all the lemons as tightly as possible into a clean preserving jar. Cover the lemons with water and seal. In about a month you’ll have good preserved lemons. Not as authentic, but good. Remember to only use the skin  in recipes. Scoop out the flesh and chop the preserved skin as you fancy.

Description of a Moroccan cook from “Traditional Moroccan Cooking”


Madame Guinaudeau

No chairs, an old carpet folded and placed on the zellijes serves as a seat for the exuberant black woman, come, according to tradition since the Algerian exodus, from Tetuan, from whence emerge the most highly esteemed cooks. The young servants, babbling little parakeets, bare feet in wooden sandals, bright coloured dresses whirling around as they bustle about, ready to obey at the slightest gesture from the dada, queen and priestess of the kitchen. She is dressed in long multi-coloured robes tucked up in front, draped and knotted at the back, with wide sleeves held in place by a twisted silken cord; a heavy flowered bulk with a face of ebony or bronze beneath the fringed turban. Her arms and ankles are encircled by silver bracelets which tinkle at every gesture. She is complete mistress and queen in her own domain.

About Food,Photography & France

Photographer and film maker living in France. After a long career in London, my wife and I have settled in the Vendee, where we run residential digital photography courses with a strong gastronomic flavour.
This entry was posted in 2013, Cookery Writers, Digital photography, Excellence, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, Fruit, Kitchens, lemons, Mme.Guinaudeau, Photography, Preserved lemons, preserved lemons, Recipes, Uncategorized, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to Take 12 pounds of lemons, a clean jar and a stone….

  1. Mad Dog says:

    When life deals you lemons… 😉

  2. I was thinking what a wonderfully descriptive post this is and then I get to your advice “…you know not to suck” And that set me off laughing! 🙂

  3. Beautiful description but yes, I too had to laugh at you and Mad Dog!

  4. This has been on our to-do list forever. Yours look great.

  5. What a woman! And what a gorgeous simple recipe. Thanks, Roger.

  6. You’ve got me wondering if I could do this. It sounds simple enough…….and the result is beautiful.

  7. Indeed Madame Guinaudeau is quite mesmerizing. Such a lovely post.

  8. I would love to witness the interaction between the dada and her staff.

  9. What a great cookbook. I think I’ll try the second method.

  10. cecilia says:

    How quite simply, wonderful. thank you. c

  11. theonlycin says:

    I often make preserved lemons, but have never heard of the method using a stone. The extract from the book is delightful and makes me drool for more from the author.

  12. lulu says:

    I love this as I am enchanted with the excerpt and love the flavors of Moroccan cooking. Recently, I’ve seen several recipes calling for preserved lemons so I’m thinking I should give them a try. BTW, I’m taking a food/travel photo course at Maine Media Workshops in a couple of weeks. We’ll see if I get any better.

  13. It still sounds like a glorious cookbook. I would read it just to read it.

  14. Wow. I have to read more of this woman, Roger! Thank you!

  15. Wow, there is the lemonious Roger again, with his delicious food poetry! I do wish I could write like you, but since my first language is German, I don’t have yet quite the richness of vocabulary in English. Moroccan cuisine is very delicate, rich in it’s flavors and colors too, I loved the dishes cooked in a Tarchine , don’t know quite how to spell it, when I was back in the days camping in Marocco.

  16. ChgoJohn says:

    Yet another reminder to use my lemons! That is some passage from her cookbook, Roger. I bet it’s filled with gems very much like it.

  17. suej says:

    Brilliant! I was at some friends the other day, and what did we mention but preserved lemons, and how easy would they be to make…and here we are! Many thanks for following my blog, now I’ve found yours…..and I love your humorous way of writing, to say nothing of the images. I’m off for a wander round your blog. 🙂

  18. what a delightful book. I think i shall wait to try this when I live somewhere that lemons are local to. I fear once they arrive in Canada, they have been sprayed with god knows what which would leech out, for sure, in this process. Although I do have a clean jar and a stone!

  19. Karen says:

    Next time I make preserved lemons, I’ll make them your way. I’ve always added extra lemon juice but I like the idea of just using water to cover…much less lemons involved that way.

  20. Blimey, so many remarks already! Well, it’s a great recipe – they both are. So simple, mbut that’s a hallmark of a good recipe. Simple, and for me there has to be a picture! I’m going to try the first way, with a stone. Thanks for posting.

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