This perennial grass grows abundantly in southern India, south east Asia and the West Indies. It looks a little bit like spring onions stalks, but is much woodier and more rigid. Its characteristic lemony flavour is not obvious until the stalks are cut and crushed. Lemon rind can be used as an alternative but does not have the same intensity of flavour.
Uses: It is very popular in savoury dishes in the far and near East and is especially good in chicken, seafood and fish recipes. It is included in marinades, stir-fries, soups and salads.
To store: Lemon grass will keep in the fridge for 2-3 weeks. The bulb end can be wrapped in clingfilm and frozen for up to 2 months.
To prepare: Trim the root end off, cut the bulb end to 8cm and chop finely. The top of the stem is quite woody and should not be chopped, however it can be added whole to dishes for extra flavour, but must be removed before serving.
Freeze dried whole
Dried lemon grass can be used to flavour to a variety of south east Asian dishes. Added to Thai and Malay-style dishes it gives a distinctive flavour which makes them quite different from Indian curries. Freeze dried lemon grass is prepared by freezing it straight after harvesting and then freeze-drying to maintain its colour, texture and flavour. It is a convenient alternative to fresh lemon grass. Look for dried lemon grass with the herbs and spices.
Uses: To add flavour to a variety of south east Asian savoury dishes, including curries, casseroles and stews, especially those made with seafood or chicken.
To store: Keep in a cool, dark place.
To use: Add dried lemon grass at the beginning of a recipe to allow the flavour to infuse into the sauce. Use 2-3 stalks per recipe and remove before serving.
Fresh in sunflower oil
A convenient, concentrated form of lemon grass in a ready-prepared paste that can simply be stirred into recipes. It comes in a small jar and can be found with the herbs and spices.
Uses: To add a distinctive flavour to south east Asian sauces and soups.
To store: Keep in a cool, dry place and once opened store in the fridge and use within 6 weeks.
To use: Stir in 2-3 tsp of the paste into recipes at the beginning of the cooking time to allow the flavours to develop.