The word curd is a wonderful one; the gentle purring ‘currr’ a lulling lullaby as you curl into a soft buttery bed, only to be slapped awake by the sharp sting of lemon and the thud of the final ‘d’.
Like so many things in life a good curd is about balance. Balance between thickness and dollop-ability, between sharpness and sweetness, between butter and eggs and enough lemon for all that fat not to overwhelm.
The consistency of this particular curd is just-set, quivering and timid as a church mouse, and its flavour the perfect balance of sweet and sharp. Primrose yellow and just translucent.
Lemon ‘Cheese’, as it was originally known, first popped its yellow head up in recipe books of the 1800s, and it gave me great delight to read about it on the Italian Internet food-forum GialloZafferano, mentioned as an essential part of the ‘unmissable English tea’. Reminded me poignantly of the first Christmas I ever spent in Sardinia. Under the tree were various unidentifiable objects wrapped up and labelled with my name. I opened them one by one. Every single one was a tea mug. I approached the last, which was slightly bigger than the rest. It was a tea mug and tea bags packaged together in a neat gift box. The extended family all looked slightly shifty and then burst out laughing.
I’m not sure how many English people still indulge in the ‘unmissable English tea’ which includes such delights as lemon curd and scones, but perhaps more of us should and the world would be a happier place. It’s a tradition I am happy to bring to my Sardinian life. On winter Sundays we sometimes have an English Tea, and there might be cake, and perhaps a fire. There might be a Victoria Sponge stuffed with whipped cream and lemon curd, too.
Makes 2-3 small-ish jars (around 350ml)
2 whole eggs
4-5 lemons, zest and juice to come to 180ml
150g butter, cubed
A good pinch of salt
Whisk the yolks with the whole eggs, sugar, the finely grated zest of the lemons and their juice. Add the salt too.
Place in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over a (very) low heat and start whisking. Add the butter piece by piece, whisking all the time to incorporate. Keep whisking over a low heat until all of the butter has melted and the mixture begins to thicken to a custard consistency, making sure it is smooth and none of the egg begins to scramble.
Strain through a fine sieve into a bowl and then decant into sterilised jars.
Store in the fridge. Eat with a spoon when sad, on pancakes when happy, on toast for breakfast, in sandwiches with soft white bread. Or put inside a Victorious Sponge and feel victorious.