I've got a lot of lemons in the kitchen at the moment: it's hard to imagine cooking without using lemon, so I sometimes buy them forgetting that I've already got some, or that I've ordered some from my veg supplier. But it's okay, I can use up the glut easily - a squeeze of juice over steamed vegetables or grilled fish, perhaps a little zest as well. And, now, some puddings too.
In this house pud is almost always fruit-based. In truth there's not very much fruit in these little lemon pots, but zest is not only delicious but also very good for you: it contains limonene, which has cancer-fighting properties. If I'm using the juice of a lemon, I always use some zest. You need a MicroPlane zester to make this easy - they're expensive, but once you've got one, you'll use it every day.
I made these little creamy pots in two ways, and the photograph shows the difference. The first, quickest and easiest, is just good fromage frais mixed with lemon zest and a little sugar. I was going to sprinkle a little muscovado sugar over the top, like Barbados cream, but found I've run out. So they'll have to stay plain. The other pots are a little more special, because I've added beaten egg white to lighten the mixture, and a little gelatine for a soft set. You can see from the photograph the difference in volume, created entirely by the egg white.
Drain a 500g pot of fromage frais (you can keep the whey to make scones or muffins). Mix in the zest of two lemons, and a dessertspoon of caster sugar. That's it for the quick creams - just put them into four pretty pots or glasses, and sprinkle with muscovado sugar. Leave in the fridge for an hour or so for the sugar to "melt".
If you want to carry on and make lemon mousse, then soak two sheets of gelatine in water. When it's soft (which takes three or four minutes), squeeze out the water, and put the gelatin into a large bowl and melt it in the microwave. It says on the packet that this takes 10 seconds, but my experience is that it takes considerably less: one quick blast is enough. Add the cream mixture to the gelatine and mix thoroughly. Beat two egg whites until stiff, and fold into the lemon mixture. Pot. This is enough for four to six pots. Leave to set in the fridge.
The lemon cream is best made no more than a couple of hours before you want to eat, because it tends to separate a little, with a whey-y liquid which tastes fine but doesn't look very pretty; the lemon mousse can safely be made the day before.
It would be improved, I think, by mixing the zest and the sugar in advance, and leaving it to soak - you could do it the night before, and then mix the creams up quickly as you prepared a main course for a dinner party. And in June, both versions would be delicious with the addition of a little stewed redcurrant in the bottom.
I have a book of recipes from the Duchess of Devonshire, who lives at Chatsworth, one of the grandest houses in England (I don't suppose she did much of the cooking herself, but it's an interesting book). She gives a similar lemon cream, potted over a macaroon, which I should think would be good too. Macaroons, like meringues, are useful in a low-fat diet, because they use only the white of egg.
And please don't forget to send me your Heart of the Matter entries by this Sunday, 22nd April - joannacary AT ukonline DOT co DOT uk, with the permalink for the round-up next week.
Art from the garden - Here's Jim Kay, the man behind the illustrated Harry Potter, talking about his work, and most interestingly, the way the natural world inspires it.
2 hours ago