Monday, 16 May 2016

Lemon posset

Lemon posset and ginger biscuits


The trouble with having attended to the infancy of both my boys is that I can't help but think of posset as that pre-sick stuff you find down the back of your jacket, usually just before you're meant to leave for JUST ONE EVENING without the kids. Of course, invariably this would be my best dark Boss suit jacket.

So to be clear, that's not what I'm making here. That kind of posset is easy to make anyway: take one baby; feed; agitate; hoist onto shoulder for kitchen-dancing.


In retrospect, starting a recipe for my new delicious, creamy dessert with pre-sick stories wasn't the best idea. It's a good thing I don't do this for some corporate shilling.


You go though many lemons making lemon posset. This weekend it was 26. Although that included two goes and some lemon bars. I once juiced 140 limes for a cocktail party that brought on some kind of anaphylactic comedy face swelling the next day. I have to demand ask my family to do limes now.


None of this is making you feel like making lemon posset is it? That would be a shame. It's a wonderful dessert, creamy but citrus with great mouth-feel. If you like panna-cotta but you've never made posset, you should. It's easier and more flavoursome.


That's better: a positive vibe.


As you might know, I do like a British dish. Posset is such and goes way back. In fact Lady Macbeth poisoned the guards with dodgy posset just before the regicide and that disobedient dog. Mind, Bill was a bit rubbish at historical research so I wouldn't take it too seriously. Nevertheless, there are many recipes dating back to the middle ages. This kind of thing:

"When it is prettily cooled, pour it into your pot, wherein is about two spoonfuls of Sack and four of Ale, with sufficient Sugar dissolved in them. So let it stand a while near the fire, till you eat it."
The Closet of the Eminently Learned Sir Kenelm Digby, Knight, Opened - 1669.

Posset was until quite recently, more of a custard thing. You can find pictures of 'posset pots' with spouts. The modern take (and the one I prefer) is a firmer set. 


Talking of recipes, as is my wont, I read many and tried a few before deciding on my own. Posset is a simple enough dish, taking only four ingredients: cream, sugar, lemon zest and juice. The only issue reported was one of graininess. Posset is all about the texture. Most recipes will mention 'silky' at some point. But if you heat the cream and sugar slowly at first and then be sure to simmer for a few minutes, I can't see why you won't get a smooth set. For reasons of texture too I strain the mixture. There's no place here for boiled zest.


Which one?
Beware recipes that specify a number of lemons rather than an amount of juice. This is plain daft. Ignoring the fact that lemons come in different sizes, the amount of juice extracted will vary with your the time of year, their ripeness, your method and forearm strength. Do remember to roll the lemons under your palm before squeezing. This does make it easier. I use an add on juicer device for my KitchenAid. It's the only one I've ever encountered that works with limes as well as doing a brilliant job with lemons and oranges. Like all KitchenAid accessories though it is fairly pricey.

Setting. Yes. There's no eggs or gelatine of course. It's the action of the citric acid on the milk proteins that converts this from a drink to a pudding. Just like if you put acid into milk it will curdle, if the milk is warm it will curdle more so. Cream is different due to its much higher fat content; the sugar too will mollify the reaction.

Some recipes were ferociously citric. Too much for me. Posset should be lemony of course but also a creamy balm. However you do need to use the zest too for that lemon flavour. Remember that's where the taste is, in the skin. I decided on roughly one lemon between two people.

Zesting is made much easier with a fine, Microplane grater. These aren't expensive and can be found everywhere now. They cut through the skin, rather than mash it. they're great for parmesan too.


Before you serve a posset give consideration to the portion size. This is a very rich dish - essentially double cream and sugar. My first attempt in 175ml ramekins, defeated even the heartiest family appetite. You need something larger than a shot glass but much smaller than a ramekin or a dessert bowl. I found these 120 ml amuse bouche glasses and am very pleased with them. You could use liqueur glasses or small tumblers. Wine glasses are also OK, but you'll need long handled spoons then of course, or very fine fingertip control.


Lemon Posset
Serves 8

Gently heat 800ml of double cream with 260g caster sugar and the finely grated zest of four medium lemons. Heat gently, stirring frequently to ensure the sugar dissolves fully and the cream doesn't catch. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for a couple of minutes. Lots of recipes insist on a three minute boil but I see no reason why.


Strain the mix through a sieve into a jug and then pour back into the pan. Whisk in 140ml of lemon juice (about four medium lemons but you may need more). Heat gently again and you should see the mixture thicken.


Pour into your chosen serving receptacles and allow to cool to room temperature. Then refrigerate for at least six hours until gently set.


Traditionally served with some kind of biscuit, often shortbread. I made a light, gingery thing (based on the ginger nut) and topped the posset with some blueberries that I'd barely heated with an allspice sugar syrup. In the supper club I served this with a lemon bar (an American standard), topped with Italian meringue, so yes, lemon meringue pie in all but name. Recipes coming soon.



Light was too low so this is a bit blurry. Nice combination of creamy and tart, smooth and crunchy.






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