Tuesday, 13 June 2017

cooking with lemon curd

I have nearly finished arranging the outdoor pots for the summer, and even I have to admit that I have enough plants in pots.  No more, not unless something dies.  There is a double row outside the garage in coordinating shades of pink and mauve.  On the patio (or terrace) the orange corner has met up with the alpine pots, then there is a small red themed collection, and the pots of pale yellow and blue flowers which are not currently shaping up too well since the monstrous Eleagnus hedge is shading the spot where they were supposed to stand and the Cosmos 'Xanthos' remain resolutely small and weedy.  There are geraniums around the seating area in the turning circle and cottage pinks along the path across it, which is now so congested with pots and overhanging Mediterranean shrubs that it is no use as a short cut, especially if you are carrying shopping bags. In the back garden outside the conservatory there are the pots of dahlias, plus an array of succulents, and various shade lovers close under the wall of the house.  Outside the study are the auriculas and violas, the latter not doing awfully well for reasons I have not yet managed to pin down.  Enough, no more.

A couple of weeks ago I made some lemon curd, because we had ended up with a lot of lemons after we each independently bought a bag of them, and we had plenty of eggs.  Since then I've been meaning to do something with the curd.  Today besides eating some I made a Lancastrian lemon tart and some lemon curd ice cream.  The tart was from a recipe I cut out of the weekend section of the Financial Times years ago.  It is quite an elaborate recipe by my standards, because you have to make the pastry case and the lemon curd and then an almond sponge layer.  I made the pastry straight after breakfast when my hands had recently come out of the shower and before I started sticking them in potting compost, and left it to cool in a cupboard so that Mr Fidget would not eat it, and when I came to do the rest of the tart the bottom of the pastry case had split.  I don't know why it did that, it hasn't done it before.  It split just as I was feeling pleased with myself that I had got the hang of lining a 24 centimetre tin with shortcrust pastry made with only four ounces of flour.  Maybe that is why, it was very thin.

I did not think I could ladle lemon curd into a pastry case with a great rip across the bottom and expect it to work.  The curd would run out through the hole, stick to the tin, drip on the floor of the Aga and generally make a mess, not to mention a soggy bottom.  I tried to think of some method of mending badly cracked pastry, and remembered that I had a large packet of marzipan left over from Christmas when I failed to make a stollen.  Excellent, instant pastry case liner.  I rolled out a circle to go inside the broken pastry and proceeded as per the recipe, spread lemon curd generously over the base, top with a mixture of ground almonds, melted butter, vanilla sugar and eggs, and bake at 200 degrees C.  The top caught slightly well before the cooking time was up. Deciding where in the Aga you should cook anything made following a recipe not written specifically for the Aga is always a bit hit and miss.  I can never work out whether this is something to do with the nature of the heat in the Aga or merely that some recipes are more easy going than others about being cooked at a range of temperatures.  The edge of the marzipan lining bubbled up as well and went black and I had to trim the burnt pieces off with a sharp knife.  The tart is not supposed to be eaten hot, and we have not tried it yet.

The lemon curd ice cream conveniently used up the remains of a pot of whipping cream and an open pot of natural yogurt as well as most of the rest of the lemon curd.  I have tried that because I licked out the bowl of the ice cream machine and it was very nice.  I tend to associate lemons with sorbet more than ice cream, but sorbets are made with sugar syrup, which is a skill I have yet to master.  I'm not even sure we possess a suitable thermometer.

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