I’ve eaten a lot of lemon curd in my time. A lot.
I think the obsession started with my granny, who used to make jam tarts with her lip-smackingly sweet homemade raspberry jam every time my brother I would stay with her.
Don’t get me wrong, my granny was not a spectacular cook. I’ll never forget those beige, viscous curries devoid of all spice (because who would want “that foreign muck”), the vegetables boiled into greyish, sodden submission, and my whole family may still bear the scars of those unidentifiable stews she would slop out to sustain us after our long drive from Hampshire to Dorset. Oh, how we dreaded those.
She could, however, make a bloody fantastic tart. I remember the smell of burnt sugar in her little 70s kitchen down in Bridport. The smears of flour she would leave around the counter top and on the rumpled edges of her old jumper as she pushed butter through the powdery dough. I remember sitting for hours after the hot, flaky, sticky things had been eaten, still sucking at the last few stubborn seeds that would always find their way behind my milk teeth.
Most of all I remember those sacred days when she would make a lemon curd alternative – jaw-paralysingly sharp-sweet, sunflower yellow and wobbling around seductively in thick golden pastry. They were my favourite, made all the more precious by their scarcity and probably started a lifelong gluttony for all things citrus. As a grown up, I still find it hard to resist lemon curd. I don’t care how it comes: slathered on buttered toast, spread between layers of Victoria sponge, swirled through vanilla-spiked ice cream of ladled straight into my mouth. basically I’m a sucker for lemon curd.
So it was about time I found a good recipe for it, really. Slightly less sweet than most supermarket-bought brands, this zingy one-pan preserve is so easy to make I’m struggling to call it a recipe as such. All you really need are good, fresh lemons (I like checking a few pinkish tiger lemons for a softer flavour) and a strong arm as there’s a lot of whisking and grating involved.
Make sure you’ve got an hour set aside to make this, however, as it’s one of those temperamental things that demands undivided attention. It can be a right bastard and, if you neglect it, it can ruin itself in an instant.
6 small, sterilised jars plus wax paper covers and labels
6 unwaxed lemons, zested and juiced
300g unrefined caster sugar
150g unsalted butter, chopped
3 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks
- Set a metal mixing bowl over a pan of gently simmering water on a low heat on the stove.
- Add the butter, sugar and lemon zest and juice and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
- Whisk the eggs and yolks and add to the mixture, whisking until completely combined
- The curd needs to ‘cook’ now for around 10-15 minutes. Make sure you stir it every few minutes, whisking all of the zest up from where it will settle on the base of the bowl so it gets evenly distributed.
- It’s ready when it’s thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- When it’s cooked, take it off the heat to cool completely before you pour into your jars. Stir the mixture occasionally while it cools as it helps whisk out any lumps that might form and leaves you with silky smooth curd.