Three recipes with lemons

Unsprayed lemons and tangerines

Unsprayed lemons and tangerines - Credit: Frances Bissell

This past year, life has given all of us lemons and it has sometimes been difficult to make lemonade or find anything positive in all we are experiencing.

But moving away from the metaphorical, it has been a delight to see that there is no shortage of lemons. I have already made lemon marmalade, have preserved lemons in salt, frozen a few fruit 'for a rainy day', used them in a fennel, pea and potato tagine, liberally splashed them around on Pancake Day, and am looking for some particularly fragrant specimens, Amalfi lemons or citrons if possible, with which to make limoncello.

Excellent in cooking, or splashed on ice cream, this is also a good cocktail ingredient and I keep a bottle in the freezer to serve as a ‘digestif’. And then there's lemon curd; rich and irresistible. The home-made variety has only a short fridge life, three to four weeks unopened, but it never lasts that long in our house.

As well as being delicious on toasted muffins, the curd can also be used to fill tarts, spoon into baked pastry cases and put in the oven, at 180 C/350 F, gas mark 4 for 5 minutes. Serve warm dusted with powdered sugar. You can also use the curd to make lemon meringue ice cream. Mix a pot of curd with the same amount of double cream or premium custard and freeze it. Before it is completely frozen, stir the mixture thoroughly, then carefully fold in some broken meringues and finish the freezing in a container in the freezer, not in the ice cream machine or it will churn the meringue to crumbs, when you want to retain enough texture for the ice cream to crunch when you eat it. This weekend is Mothering Sunday, the mid-point of Lent, when one is allowed a relaxation of the Lenten fast; the day is also known as Refreshment Sunday. So here are some treats for yourself and for gifts.

Lemon curd (Makes 1kg)


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NOTE: The preparation of the curd does not completely cook the eggs, so treat the curd as if it contains raw eggs.

Ingredients:

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4 large lemons with good skins

2 egg yolks plus 4 whole eggs

250 g unsalted butter, cut into cubes

300 g caster sugar

Grate the zest, and squeeze the juice from the lemons, and put in a double boiler or a stainless steel saucepan, set inside a larger saucepan half filled with simmering water. Add the lightly beaten eggs, butter and sugar. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Continue cooking gently, and stir until the mixture thickens. Remove the pan from the heat. Making the curd the traditional way, in a china bowl set over a saucepan of water and stirring with a wooden spoon, can take 45 minutes or so. In a stainless steel saucepan and beating with an electric stick blender, the whole process takes about 10 minutes. Spoon the curd into warm, sterilized jars, cover and seal immediately. Label, refrigerate and use within 4 to 6 weeks.

Limoncello (Makes 2 litres)

Ingredients:

6 to 8 un-waxed lemons

1 litre bottle vodka

1 kg sugar

Carefully peel off the zest without removing any white pith, which would make the liqueur bitter. Put the zest in a glass jug or decanter, of at least 1 litre capacity, and pour in the vodka. Cover the top with food wrap and let the zest macerate for 3 or 4 weeks. Once you have sealed the container of vodka, halve and squeeze the lemons and make up the juice to 1 litre with water. Put it in a non-reactive saucepan with the sugar, and simmer until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil, remove from the heat and store the lemon syrup until the lemon zest has infused the vodka sufficiently. Strain the syrup into a large jug, then strain in the flavoured vodka. Mix well then pour the liquid which will be cloudy, not clear, through a funnel into sterilized bottles. Seal with cork, or screw top, and label.

Cook’s note: Don't waste the vodka-soaked lemon zest. Let it dry out then grind with granulated sugar, and use as some or all of the sugar in baking recipes.

Lemon madeleines (Makes 24)

Freshly baked madeleines

Freshly baked madeleines - Credit: Frances Bissell

Ingredients:

100 g caster sugar

100 g self-raising flour

Pinch of salt

2 eggs, lightly beaten

130 g unsalted butter, melted

Finely grated zest of an un-waxed lemon

Preheat the oven to 220 C, gas mark 8. Butter and flour madeleine moulds. The quantity given fills 24. However, if you use bun tins, which are generally deeper the mixture will fill 12. Sift together the dry ingredients. Beat in the eggs, and then mix in the melted butter and zest. Pour the batter, the mixture is quite liquid, into the prepared moulds, and bake in the top half of the oven for 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the oven once the madeleines are golden and well-risen, with a bump in the middle.

©Frances Bissell 2021. All rights reserved

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