Secret life of lemon curd

Lemon butter is a cheeky thing.

It tastes so innocent- mildly tart but pillow soft- to me it’s the Doris Day of dairy.

But it’s insidious. Once you pop, you just can’t stop. And now I’m having trouble doing up my work pants.

This pot of pastel gold was made to layer in a trifle for my stepfather’s birthday.

So on a quiet Sunday morning not too long ago we shimmied out from under the haze of a hangover and began to manhandle lemons. The smell of citrus cleared my head long enough for me to think to consult the bible on the best method.

The bible (aka Stephanie Alexander’s candy striped Cook’s Companion) decrees that the need to double boil lemon curd is nothing more than hullaballoo. This pleases me.

I don’t have the cupboard space for a double boiler and have had some unfortunate incidences that involve balancing my glass bowl over a saucepan. I have to erect two bamboo sticks as totems on either side to prevent the steam soldering them together.

So instead we take a double mixture straight to the pan. This would be four teaspoons of lemon zest, 200 mls of strained lemon juice (extracted after some vicious battles between me, some lemons, a juicer and the microwave), 8 egg yolks, 1 1/3 cups of castor sugar and 120 g of unsalted butter.

We whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until my forearms burn and the granular suds are well acquainted. We then then tip that into my Scanpan wok which is squatting over a moderate heat. I add the butter, zest and juice and keep stirring and stirring watching it while it murmurs and bubbles. I keep one eye on that and another on my cup of tea and keep stirring until it thickens like mayonnaise but tastes like sunshine.

The lemon curd is going to be layered with soaked savoradi biscuits (those fabulous flat cats tongue things which do the heavy lifting in tiramisu). We’ve given them a quick bath in frozen raspberry puree, spiked with two shots of cointreau and one shot of lemon juice. The third layer of our trifle is a passionfruit concoction that mixes three egg whites that we’ve beaten to confident peaks, a tub of marscapone and the pulp of three passionfruit.

There’s no obvious home for the trifle, so I present the problem to The Hungry One; he’s a solutions designer all the way through from his day job to his DNA.

He cocks his head and muses before answering; the fish bowl.

A fish bowl that’s only ever been used as a vase; but still. Luckily he’s a much better cleaner than I am, so together our powers combine. It’s soon sparkly and dry and my hands are very little. Together the sphere gets layered and stowed in the fridge. All day we keep looking in on it like expectant parents. Nothing changes much.

Later when it’s dished up there are jokes about the casing, but not many about the contents. The lemon curd has found some very happy friends here.

But the story of us and the curd isn’t over. Despite its heroic contribution to a trifle that’s fed 12, there’s still a stout little jam-jar of goodness in my fridge.

It doesn’t last long.

Over the next couple of days I find myself putting it on lavosh biscuits for a cheeky sneaky snack. It gets spooned into little pastry cases and smeared on fruit toast with ricotta.

Then I realise that there are also four egg whites still languishing in the fridge. A bad day of taking capital letters up and down gets righted with an impromptu experimental souffle.

Egg whites are whisked with three good shakes of caster sugar until they stand like little icebergs. Three tablespoon dollops of lemon curd get folded through, before spooning it into ramekins that have been buttered and dusted with more sugar. The mixture is such a cheerful deckled yellow that I actually think to myself; my that would make such a lovely colour for a nursery wall…

The souffles to be then find their way into the fridge for the time it takes us to watch an episode of Mad Men and eat a roast chicken salad.

From there they get shuffled into an 180 degree oven for about 12 minutes, then they get hit with a scoop of vanilla icecream and a squirt of raspberry sauce.

They’re a little more marshmallow than your traditional souffle, but they’re so much fun we’ve had them twice more.

And now the jar is almost empty.

And while there’s no need to be thinking about colour schemes nursery walls (there are a few more trips on the spreadsheet to be done first), my pants are tighter than they used to be.

So, in defiance I’ve put the pastry cases in the freezer and pulled my sneakers out of the cupboard.

Our lemon curd days have come to an end.

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