...of lemon cream.
I have an enormous soft spot and pathological weakness for sweet, creamy, lemon spiked desserts and puddings, a quivering slice of tart au citron, a bowlful of that most English of desserts lemon Syllabub, a piece of lemon cheesecake, a spoonful or seven of lemon mousse, a little pot of lemon cream. It’s the soft, sweet, creamy nature of these puddings, the ointment of cream, eggs, maybe butter and sugar sharpened and lifted by a lip puckering tartness of the lemon which makes them so magical to me.
My love of all things sweet and lemony started with lemon curd (or lemon cheese as it was called in the north of English) the smooth, translucent, sweet – sharp spread. Or maybe it was the lemon sherbet sweets, the ones that fizzed and popped in your mouth, the ones you bought by the quarter at the local sweet shop that came in a white paper bag twisted at the corners…….
No, the lemon curd came first.
My mum would make it or little jars of it – usually with a jam pot hat, that circle of fabric secured by an elastic band covering the lid – would be brought back from English holidays or purchased from fragrant ladies wearing vast flowery skirts and pearl earings at garden fetes. The lemon curd was then spread extremely thickly on white bread or used to fill tarts which were sometimes topped with meringue, but it was best, as my younger sister Rosie and I quickly discovered, eaten straight from the jar with a spoon, thick and luscious.
French holidays and the discovery of fine tart au citron gave my affection for such sweet, creamy, lemon spiked things a rather more refined and sophisticated edge, or at least I thought it did, I was at that age. Of course I liked the pastry, delicate and buttery but it was the bright yellow filling of lemons, sugar, butter and egg, the intense satiny lemoniness of it all, the way it trembled and wobbled ever so slightly as you cut a slice that I really loved
Unfortunately I haven’t mastered the art of a decent tart au citron yet, it’s the pastry you see, despite modest progress I still practice heavy avoidance techniques where pastry is concerned. The mere sight of the words… pate…brisee…sucrèe…rich or shortcrust will see me hastily turning the page if at all possible.
I do intend to master the art of a half decent tart au citron/ lemon tart at some point but until I do I am more than content with being able to make the filling…because thats what these little pots of lemon cream are you see…… the filling of a lemon tart…..well a kind of filling, purists may quibble at the recipe – although I very much doubt purists have read this far.
….the juice and zest of 3 fine lemons, some sugar, a tub of marsapone or some double cream, 6 eggs with very yellow yolks…whisked together gently…allowed a long leisurely rest in the fridge, decanted into little pots and then baked in a gentle oven for 25 minutes.
It’s there, the soft, sweet and creamy sharpened and lifted by the lip puckering tartness of the lemon. If ambrosial is something which is exceptionally pleasing to taste or smell then thats what these little pots are.
I can’t decide when I like to eat my little pot (s) of lemon cream more..is it about 15 minutes after they have come out of the oven when they are still warm and the center is still runny ? or after about an hour when they are cool and set but still very soft and tender ? or the next day after a night in the fridge when the are deeply set and thick and fudgy ?….. The joy of making 8 little pots and only having 4 guests is that you don’t have to decide, after all you have 2 pots extra pots just for you.
Nigella recommends leaving the cream, sugar, lemon, eggs mixture resting and steeping in the fridge for 1 or 2 even 3 days before you decant it into little pots and then bake it. I do too…… well 1 day at least and if you have the patience 2, as it really does improve the silky texture and intensify the deep lemon flavour. I have never left if for 3 days, if you try let me know.
yield 8 little pots
- 3 juicy, unwaxed lemons
- 275g caster sugar
- 6 fresh eggs
- 250g marscapone or 300ml double cream
Grate the lemon zest from all 3 lemons into a bowl and then squeeze and add their juice to the bowl.
Add the sugar and eggs to the bowl and whisk until everything is nicely incorporated.
Stir in the cream or marsapone and then cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave it in the fridge until you need it but ideally for 2 days.
When you are ready to bake, set the oven to 150°, boil the kettle and put eight little ramekins or pots into a roasting tin and then share the lemon mixture between all eight.
Por hot, but not boiling water into the roasting dish to come half way up the little pots and then bake for 25 minutes or until they are just set but still with a bit of wobble and runniness about them as they will set more as they cool.
Allow to cool for about 15 minutes before serving and they will sit happily for a few hours. If you are making them a day in advance, keep them in the fridge but take them out a good half hour before you serve them so they are cool not cold.