Patience, was not one of lifes virtues that I have been blessed with. And yet, when it comes to cooking at home, I find myself breathing a little slower (until the smoke alarm goes off), humming away to myself and all with an overwhelmingly calm mind set. Last week, I found myself with a fruit bowl full of lemons and limes and piles of cookbooks and magazine clippings spread out on the floor that I was leafing through for inspiration. This is the kind of rainy day I have the patience for. Rarely do I find a recipe that I want to follow fully- usually two or three appeal and I sit down and make a vague attempt to work out the ratios of ingredients and then finally- I get to work. Sometimes, this works, sometimes it doesn’t- but isn’t that the real joy of cooking? I guess if you’re cooking for a dinner party, trial and error methods aren’t ideal- but for me, experimentation is why I love cooking. I’ve digressed.
So, there I was with my bowl full of citrus and my five staples Nigella, Delia, Jamie, Pru* and two enormous binders full of clippings in plastic covers. After rifling through the worn out pages, and marking with torn up post-it notes for over an hour, I committed myself to making a lemon and lime curd.
It’s been years since I’ve made a curd- in fact I seem to recall that the last time was when I was age thirteen and working the odd Saturday in a British tea shop. I had been duped into making the lemon curd with the words: “it’s a fun and easy job”. But after an hour of stirring that had left me with a paralysed right arm, and crossed eyes I resigned myself from the post, stating irreconcilable differences.
It was now time for me to either put this curd-prejudice behind me or we would have to go our separate ways completely. In any case, now that I’m living stateside, where it’s difficult to buy and the price always makes you gasp it would seem to make sense to start making it. I had a recipe for lemon curd from Pru, and a lime curd recipe from Nigella, so I did some background reading, jotted down some numbers on scrap paper and satisfied with my ratios and method, I set to work. I wanted something really tangy, so I added less sugar than what most recipes call for. It’s perfect for pairing with clotted cream and scones or sandwiching with crème fraiche in a lemon sponge cake; which of course I had to make. It did take fifteen minutes to reach the right consistency but I was quite contented humming away to Paolo Nutini’s latest single, scribbling down notes with one hand and stirring with the other. It was worth the wait.
*Nigella Lawson, Delia Smith, Jamie Oliver, Pru Leith
Fills a 450g/1 lb jar.
Making a curd, is very much like making a custard, you just have to stick with the slow and steady pace or you’ll end up with an eggy mess.
2 each lemons and limes (you need 125ml/ ½ cup of juice total)
1 tsp zest from the lemons and limes
85g/3 oz/6 tbsp butter, at room temperature
85g/3 oz/1/2 cup + 1 tbsp sugar
3 large eggs
1/ Zest one lemon and one lime. Juice the fruit, through a sieve into a measuring jug, so that you have 125 ml.
2/ In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together for 2 minutes on a medium speed, or until creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat on a slow-medium speed until fully combined, each time.
3/ Stir through the citrus juice and transfer to a medium heavy-based saucepan (preferably non-stick). The mixture will look curdled but as the butter melts it will come together. With a heatproof rubber spatula stir the mixture over a very low heat. Don’t be tempted turn up the heat or will scramble the eggs- have patience.
4/ Stir until the mixture has thickened- this could take between 10-20 minutes but do not let it boil. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and stir through the zest. Fill sterilized jars, seal and store in the fridge.