A smooth, translucent semi solid preserve. Colour: bright yellow. Flavour: aromatic, sharp-sweet. Composition: lemons, sugar, eggs, butter. My sister Rosie’s favourite.
This is where my love of all things sweet and lemony started.
When we were growing up either my mum would make lemon curd, or jars of it with jam pot hats – that circle of fabric secured by an elastic band covering the lid – would be brought back from visits to National Trust houses in Oxfordshire, English holidays or purchased from fragrant ladies wearing flowery skirts, white cardigans and pearl earings at garden fetes. The quivering canary- yellow curd, the unctuous elixir of lemon, butter, sugar and eggs, was one of our favourites, especially at teatime. We’d spread it greedily and extremely thickly on white bread, a combination designed to please, placate and muffle boistrous and noisy (occasionally horrid) kids. Spoon it on toast, dollop it on hot crumpets or eat it straight from the jar with a spoon, sweet and sharp, thick and luscious.
Somewhere along the way I must have heard that making lemon curd was rather tricky, that it’s a temperamental preserve. There were whispers about mishaps, pesky double boilers, stories of curdling and splitting, words like coagulation, emulsification, scrambling and I wasn’t about to have one of my favourites muddled up in any of that nonsense. My Mum wasn’t much help either because she’s always had a beautiful Aga cooker – which I vainly covet – and that’s a whole-different-lemon-curd-story. The long and short of it is, I avoided making lemon curd for many years. Not eating it I hasten to add, I never avoid that.
I should know better than to listen to whispers and stories. It turns out that even Nigel Slater was hoodwinked into believing the scare stories and that making two and a bit pots of lemon curd isn’t tricky at all, even for me, and I’m a master of making things complicated.
You take 4 lemons, unwaxed ones otherwise your lemon curd will be, well, waxy. Leave the lemons at room temperature so they are soft and juicy, then roll them around on the work surface a bit so they are even juicier. You zest them and then juice them. I suppose one of those fancy micro-thing-plane-hi-tec-graters would be perfect for the zesting, far superior to my faithful dinosaur grater which produces a rather chunky, coarse little pile (fortunately I like chunky zest, but I’m not sure Nigel would approve, ‘tut tut, this is not marmalade’ he might say). Whatever your grater and the consistency of your zest, cue glorious, vital, citrus smells around kitchen.
You also need 225g of sugar, 100g of butter, 3 eggs and an extra yolk, oh and a double boiler, which if you are anything like me is rather less intimidating when described as a heatproof bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water. You do need to make sure that the water never boils and the bowl doesn’t touch the water.
But once you’ve made sure all that is in order, it’s all very straightforward. You warm and occasionally whisk the lemon zest, juice, sugar and butter in the bowl suspended over the simmering water until the butter has melted. Then you stir the beaten eggs into the lemon mixture. Now you let the curd cook, tasting, whisking regularly, for about 15 minutes, until it is thick and custard-like, feels heavy on the whisk and coats the back of a spoon. Taste.
Now you remove the pan from the heat and stir occasionally as the curd cools, then you pour it into very clean, warm, sterilized jars (I put mine in a hot oven for a few minutes) and seal. Once the jars are even cooler, refrigerate them for a few hours so the lemon curd is beautifully set, thick and luscious. Spread thickly on white or brown bread, hot toast with more butter, heap a spoonful on a hot crumpet. You can use the lemon curd to fill little tart cases or (thinking of my sister Rosie ) eat it straight from the pot.
Or very best of all, my favourite pudding of late, you can stir several large spoonfuls of lemon curd into a mixture of 200g of thick greek yogurt and 200g of double cream. You then divide this thick, very pale yellow cream between little glasses and serve it chilled with shortbread biscuits or, even better, amaretti………. just delicious. I am going to make this tomorrow so maybe I will add another photo. Meanwhile lemon curd on bread for breakfast.
- zest and juice of 4 medium-sized, unwaxed lemons
- 225g fine sugar
- 100g butter, diced
- 3 medium-sized eggs plus one yolk
Put the lemon zest and juice, sugar and butter, into a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water – make sure that the bottom of the basin doesn’t touch the water. Stir with a whisk from time to time until the butter has melted.
In another bowl beat the eggs and egg yolk lightly with a fork.
Stir the eggs into the lemon mixture. Let the curd cook stirring regularly, for about 15 -18 minutes, until it is thick and custard-like, it should feel heavy on the whisk and coat the back of a spoon. Make sure the water never boils.
Remove from the heat and stir occasionally as the curd cools. Pour into very clean, warm, sterilized jars (I put mine in a hot oven for a few minutes) and seal.
It will keep for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator.
Wishing you all a happy weekend, Easter, Pasqua, holiday, break……
It should of course be Mellow yellow (quite rightly)