Lemon cheese – the perfect winter treat

Lemons

Whether you call it lemon cheese or lemon curd, a pot of this zesty home-made spread is one of the nicest things from the winter kitchen. I call it lemon cheese, because that’s what my mother and her grandmother before her always called it. In our book, lemon cheese was the proper home-made delicacy, whereas lemon curd was the horrible, often bitter, and sticky, bought stuff! I don’t know whether there is a formal difference, but my recipe, handed down from my grandmother, is definitely lemon cheese!

Winter is the season for all things citrus: I’m loving the blood oranges in their all-too short season just now and the grapefruit, my standard morning breakfast, are always at their best at this time of year. When local seasonal fresh fruit is thin on the ground, it only seems right to turn to citrus-inspired puddings and treats, and they are usually cheaper in the winter months too, as they are in season in their natural habitat. I’ve tried growing lemon bushes in the conservatory, but given up as the dreaded scale insect always took over, causing the poor shrubs to lose most of their leaves and take on a very sickly hue… My conservatory is too small to struggle on with ailing plants, so I’ve resigned myself to shop-bought – and very good they are too. Lidl, in particular, is a fabulous source of those elusive blood oranges; the big supermarkets and local greengrocers rarely stock them, or if they do, at such an exorbitant price that I’m sure no-one buys them! Yet I managed to buy a huge 1.5 kg net from Lidl yesterday for under £2 – a real treat and delicious for freshly juiced ruby orange juice this morning…

Anyway, back to my lemon cheese: it has become a family tradition for me to make this at Christmas (lovely with fresh stollen!), but I make it whenever I have a glut of lemons too. It keeps for ages in the fridge and, as well as being scrumptious on toast, crumpets or with fresh baked rolls, it also transforms many a pudding.

 Nanny Lowe’s Lemon Cheese

3 large lemons, grated rind (of 2) and juice of all 3

4oz butter (or margarine)

8oz granulated sugar (or 1 cup according to Nanny’s (non-American) recipe!)

3 eggs, beaten

Melt butter and sugar gently in a large pan, taking care that the sugar doesn’t catch and burn. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl, then gradually add the juice and grated zest of the lemons, whisking as you go. Add the eggs and lemon mix to the pan, stirring constantly, and keep stirring until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon – 10-15 mins. I sieve at this stage for a perfectly smooth result and then pour into 2 small jars or 1 large. There is often a little bit left over from 1 large jar, but I just keep it in a small bowl in the fridge and use that up first.

Recipes for lemon curd often use a bain marie to cook the mixture over a saucepan of simmering water, but my mum never did that, and it seems to work perfectly, so try it and see.

Having made your delicious lemon cheese, here is one of my favourite recipes for using it up. Be warned, though, you may want to make twice the quantity of lemon cheese as this recipe uses almost the whole jar in one go!

Lemon Roulade

Lemon roulade

3 large eggs, separated

4oz caster sugar

Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon

2 1/2oz ground almonds

1/2oz semolina (or use more ground almonds)

Filling:

Homemade lemon cheese (as above)

¼ pt double cream

¼ pt natural yogurt

Grease and line a 10×15” Swiss roll tin with baking parchment.

Heat the oven to 150°C/Gas 3.

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture is thick enough to leave a trail on the surface when you raise the whisk. Stir in the lemon rind and juice, then fold in the ground almonds and semolina.

Whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl until stiff enough to stand in peaks. Fold the whites gently into the lemon mixture until blended, then transfer into the prepared tin, smoothing the surface evenly.

Cook in the pre-heated oven for 15-20 mins until golden and springy to the touch. Leave to cool, covered with a sheet of baking parchment and a damp tea-towel to keep it moist.

When cool, sprinkle a sheet of greaseproof paper with caster sugar and turn the roulade out onto the sugared paper. Carefully peel away the lining paper.

Meanwhile whip the cream until it forms soft swirls and fold in the natural yogurt. Spread the lemon cheese generously over the roulade and top with the cream and yogurt mix. Then, using the paper as a support, roll up from one short side and transfer carefully to a serving platter.

Dust with icing sugar to serve, decorated with fresh fruit of your choice, or just as it is.

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