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Lemon curd for a January afternoon

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'A man cannot live on cookies alone,' said James a few days ago, not quite approving of the turn away from the savory that my recent recipes had taken, and I would love to have discovered a brilliant new way to do leeks, but on this Sunday afternoon, with the sky a luminous gray and the temperature slanting towards the wintery, I settled again for sweetness and sunshine in the form of lemon curd, put away in jars to be spread onto toast and scones in the weeks to come.

My passion for winter's vegetables, the celeriac and the beet, the pumpkin and the carrot, has dwindled in the last month, and replacing that enthusiasm has been an impatience to be on to early spring and its tender peas, its rhubarb and asparagus. What I find in the shops seems increasingly tough-skinned, and looking at the bulbs I imagine an impossible tower of celeriac in cool storage, being carted out crate by crate, and somehow cannot bear it - though I know it is nonsense and I would be better off with another fragrant bowl of celeriac soup. In this limbo between warm and cold no produce seems right. (You've heard about this odd winter?)

Nevertheless. Sunday afternoon, an after-lunch lull, a bag of Italian lemons in the fridge, some organic eggs on the counter (yes, I've adopted that scandalous German habit), and a hankering for brightness combined to make lemon curd my small project for the day.

Lemon curd

  • 2 organic eggs
  • 2 organic egg yolks
  • 3/4 C (150 g) sugar
  • Juice and zest of 2 large organic lemons
  • 7 T (98 g) unsalted butter, cut into smallish cubes

In a small saucepan, beat the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar until well-incorporated. I felt extraordinarily lazy this afternoon and used a handheld mixer. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest and butter and heat on medium-low, stirring constantly. Use the mixer at its very lowest setting if you too are feeling languorous, but if you do this then pause every now and then, rest the mixer someplace where the yellow gunk won't drip onto the counter, lift the pan from the heat, and stir the bottom and sides firmly with a spoon, to avoid sticking and burning.

I have read enough cookbooks to know there is the threat, when making curd, of curdling (!) and other such catastrophes, but mine obediently thickened at about the five-minute mark, and I poured it into three old jam jars and felt pleased, contemplating my hoard, which seemed to signify Bounty. It is mysterious that curdling is to be avoided when making curd, and I wonder if one of those words once had another meaning; perhaps lexicographers could enlighten me. I did not strain mine this time, because the strainer was a size inconvenient to the jar's mouth, but might the next, and you might too, if you don't like smoothness interrupted by zest.

Eating a bit just now, on crisp toast which I could not bring myself to butter, knowing as I do now how much butter the curd itself contains, it did impart a certain sunniness to the late afternoon, though it did not have that bracing, waking quality of sunshine itself, and its unctuousness had something of a langour about it. They say it might dip below freezing sometime this week.

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