Hi Nigella, I am a young aspiring chef and I need a bit of advice with grating lemon zest. Every time I grate the zest it turns into a sort of mush on my grater and none ever comes through the holes. Is it my grater or my technique. Thanks
If you are using the zest section on a classic metal box grater then unfortunately it is the grater rather than your technique as the zest tends to be scraped away from the lemon but clings to the outside of the grater and has to be scraped away with the tip of a knife. A useful way to improve the use of the box grater is to press a piece of clingfilm (plastic wrap) or baking parchment (parchment paper) onto the grater, so that the sharp grating elements of the grater pop through. Grate the lemon in the usual way then lift off the clingfilm or paper and the zest will be clinging to that and can be easily scraped into a mixing bowl or a pan using a spatula or table knife (the zest will still be slightly pulpy but you will get most of t into the recipe).
It is also worth investing in a fine "microplane" type grater if you can. These grate lemon zest very finely and the zest will either drop directly into your bowl or can be easily scraped from the back of the grater. Use a light touch when grating zest with these as it is easy to start removing the more pitter pith if you are over-zealous.
Try to buy lemons that are labelled "unwaxed" if you are grating the zest. Most citrus fruits are sprayed with a fine wax to protect then during shipping and storage. It is not considered poisonous but it is better to buy unwaxed if using the zest. If you can't find unwaxed then give the lemons (or other citrus fruits) a good scrub in hot water before using them.