Lemongrass (Cymbopogon Citratus) is really a variety of hard tropical grass, but is used as a herb for its refreshing lemon-minty flavour. It is a native of S.E. Asia and is grown in temperate zones.
Yellow-green in colour and resembling large fat spring onions, this intensely fragrant herb is used to impart a lemony citrus flavour to soups and a range of dishes, spice pastes (including curry pastes), stir-fries, teas, and desserts. The harder base of the leaves can be used as a skewer for vegetable satays, imparting subtle flavour.
For cooking, the white section of the stalk, including the fibrous base is used – it is bruised with a mortar and pestle or side of a knife to release its flavour. Placed int a dish in large pieces, it will be removed before serving, or served but not meant to be eaten.
Cut off the roots and peel off the hard outer leaves. Use only the tender bottom most portions, about 15 – 20 cms of stalk, chop finely and crush in your mortar and pestle to break up the fibres and assist the lemongrass in cooking sufficiently.
The rest of the stalk can be used for a fragrant, refreshing tea. and in making Asian stocks or added to simmering soups and curries, where it is removed before serving. A lovely tea is made from slices of ginger and lemongrass stalks.
For pastes and salads, again use only the tenderest, white portion just above the root. Finely slice, chop or pound the white interior.
Lemongrass can be stored in moist kitchen paper in the fridge, and it will keep for a couple of weeks. It can also be dried, or frozen and used without defrosting. Dried lemongrass needs to soak in water for half an hour before use, but it really does not have the flavour of fresh lemongrass.
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