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Thursday, 16 March 2017

For the Love of Lemon Curd

As a maker of jam and marmalade, it seems only logical that I should also make fruit curds. And I do, occasionally. But only occasionally. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, curds usually involve citrus fruit and these are not something I grow. Secondly, because they contain butter and eggs, they ideally need to be kept refrigerated and consumed within a few weeks so they are not something I make on a whim but instead only when I have an order for them or an event coming up. And finally, they are a bit of a pain to make, requiring slow but frequent stirring and then a kind of magically guesswork to figure out if they have set. Usually I start to lose patience with the whole thing and will it to be set before it properly is, resulting in an unsatisfactorily thin curd.

When made well, home made lemon curd is a beautiful thing. Custard yellow and as thick as trifle, it has a zingy citrus bite that makes my mouth water just thinking about it. It goes beautifully into a lemon layer cake and can be stirred into yoghurt, rice pudding or porridge to transform them into tasty desserts (or breakfasts, or elevenses even).

Recently I discovered that it is possible to make lemon curd in a pressure cooker. It is such a simple thing, requiring the measuring and mixing of ingredients, set up of the pressure cooker and then just the release from the cooker and a good stir at the end. How wonderful it is to able to let it get on with it and not be tied to the endless stirring and wondering if it is done yet. Since discovering this I have had a constant supply of lemon curd in the fridge and it hasn't once failed to turn out beautifully.

So, having turned curd making into an easy and successful process, I now feel confident to offer it as one of my preserves for sale. But with locally sourced ingredients being essential to my products, it didn't seem right to offer a basic lemon curd. I have in the past dabbled with curds that use locally grown ingredients and there is no doubt that Roasted Rhubarb Curd, or Strawberry & Orange Curd, or even Rhubarb & Lemon Curd are tasty but there are, nonetheless, not Lemon Curd - plain and simple. As such, I turned to the other ingredients and decided that if I could source local eggs then we were back in business.

It was my friend Emma who suggested I pop along to Two Mile Ash Farm for my eggs. They don't have a farm shop as such, instead they have a vending machine in their driveway stocked with apple juice, honey and eggs. An odd, yet workable solution. Having put my coins into the slot I was able to open a sliding door to a compartment to take out a box of eggs. With local eggs sourced, it was time to put Lemon Curd onto my list if preserves for sale.

Having announced this, Buskers were keen to order a large jar with their usual jam order and the delivery of the curd was met with an excited shout of, "Get some toast on, the lemon curd has arrived!" I presume there was enough in the jar that there was some left for the customers once the staff had had their fill. Keep an eye out for it there and also at my events in the future. Now that it is back on the menu, you'll not want to miss out and if you don't want to just spoon it out of the jar and into your mouth, here's my lemon layer cake recipe.

Lemon Layer Cake

For the cake:
225g (8 oz) margarine
225g (8 oz) caster sugar
4 medium eggs
1 lemon
225g (8 oz) self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Lemon curd

For the icing:
1 lemon
125g (5 oz) icing sugar

Preheat oven to 180°C, gas mark 4 and grease and line 2 circular sandwich cake tins. In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and sugar then stir in the eggs one at a time. Add the juice and zest from the lemon then stir in the flour and baking powder. Spoon the batter fairly between the two cake tins and level out. Bake for 20 minutes then turn out the cakes onto a rack to cool. Once cool you can decide whether to just have lemon curd between the two cakes or if you feel brave enough to attempt to cut the cakes in half to make 4 cake layers. Assemble the cake by putting a layer of lemon curd between each cake layer. To finish, make up the icing by mixing the icing sugar with the zest and juice of another lemon then pour the icing over the cake.

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