Citral is the component that gives lemons, lemongrass and lemon myrtle their scent. Lemon oil, cold-pressed from lemon rind, is usually 3 to 10 per cent citral; lemon myrtle is 95 per cent citral. It is also seven times stronger than the popular lemongrass. However, it adds a subtle, rather than overpowering flavour - as a guide, two leaves in a full pot with two teaspoons of green tea provide a satisfying tea with definite lemon myrtle overtones.
In cooking, lemon myrtle may be used fresh or dried. Use it as you would a bay leaf in recipes requiring a lemony flavour and substitute it in any recipe calling for lernongrass. It is available as a syrup or as dried or powdered leaf from Cherilsoff Pty Ltd - The Rare Spice Company, (02-9818 2800; www.bushtucker.corn.au) and from Herbie's Spices (02-9555 6035; www.herbies.com.au).
1 use lemon myrtle straight from the bush. The best-quality leaves are pliable and smell sweet when rubbed between your hands. To dry fresh [caves, place them somewhere with good air circulation for three to four days, or dry them in your car's glovebox. Fresh or dried leaf can be stored in an airtight jar, and it also freezes well.
Lemon myrtle has a natural affinity with seafood, but complements any meat or vegetable dish requiring lemon flavour or aroma. It can be used in pasta, rice, vinaigrette, chutney, cheesecake, confectionery, lemonade and, ice-cream. 1 use it in a pie with apple, polenta and golden syrup. It can be added to stocks, or to ginger, garlic, chilli, basil and coriander in Asian dishes, or to wine, basil and cream if there's Mediterranean on the menu. The fresh leaves also enhance presentation of any dish.
It can be only a matter of time before lemon myrtle is elevated from a fetish to a staple.
LEMON MYRTLE KING PRAWN CURRY
200 ml fish or chicken stock
Heat stock and steep with lemon myrtle for 20 minutes.
Fry the oils, onion, garlic and ginger in a wok over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the sugar and curry paste and fry 2 minutes or until aromatic. Add the prawns and coat with the mixture, then add fish and soy sauces and the stock with lemon myrtle. Bring to a simmer, then add the coconut milk and remaining ingredients.
Serve immediately with steamed or boiled rice. (A lemon myrtle leaf cooked with the rice is a good idea.)
RED CURRY PASTE
Puree all ingredients except the oil in a food processor, then heat in a wok with the oil and cook 30 minutes over medium heat. This paste may be stored for up to a month in the fridge, with a film of oil on top and then covered.