I brought the lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) indoors last weekend. It’s not supposed to be able to handle freezing temperatures. It does, but it doesn’t like them. The one winter I left it outside, it died back to just a few well-protected shoots in the centre of the plant.
Thankfully, it doesn’t need much protection. My office is unheated at night, but it provides enough protection to keep the lemongrass alive.
We don’t use much lemongrass. Though its lemony flavour is nice, it doesn’t have the sourness of real lemon, so I find lemongrass tea too sweet.
However, we do occasionally use it in stir fries, marinades and salad dressings, where it imparts its lemony flavour alongside other, more sour ingredients. We were first introduced to its use in salad dressings by Yotam Ottolenghi’s wonderful cookbook Plenty (which I’ve mentioned before). His sweet winter slaw recipe calls for the following dressing:
100ml lime juice
1 lemongrass stalk, chopped
3 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp chilli flakes
4 tbsp light olive oil or sunflower oil
Place all ingredients except the oil in a saucepan and boil for 5-10 minutes until thick and syrupy. Allow to cool, then strain. Whisk in the oil and toss with your salad.
It’s an excellent way to use lemongrass, pairing with salty, oily, and sour ingredients that enhance its flavour. It’s worth giving up office space to the plant, just for this dressing.