My Mother died in February last year. She was a lioness, and my best friend. She drove me up the wall, and I adored her.
Once I’d delivered the eulogy, and dealt with the myriad of legal and financial admin that goes hand-in-hand with life and death, I was twiddling my thumbs. I became fractious and didn’t like having time alone with my thoughts: it is hardly surprising in retrospect that it is easier to dispose of a loved one’s personal affects than it is the shock that they are no longer on the end of the phone. It can be very, very difficult to stop yourself dwelling on the future that now demonstrably willneverbe. Which is unhealthy and stupid and categorically Not What Mummy Would Have Wanted. But the thoughts persisted.
She wasn’t going to cry at my ethereal beauty on my wedding day, she would never meet her grandchildren, or see me and my sister progress in our careers and attempt to make her proud. She wouldn’t be there if I had children to inform me authoritatively that just because my baby’s crying does not mean I should go to it because BABIES CRY, OLIVIA, THAT’S WHAT THEY DO, or even to tell me that I was wearing too much eyeliner and that I may be 25, but if I came home from the local pub after eleven pm she would LIE AWAKE WORRYING AND SO WILL YOUR FATHER. And she wouldn’t be there to teach me to cook.
It turns out, the last one is easier to solve with a bit of googling, and a spree on amazon than the others are.
Twenty-five years of talking to this woman every single day, and the only culinary knowledge I’d permitted myself to inherit from her was a bolognese, a leek and potato soup, a fruit cake that uses crushed pineapple which is surprisingly hard to source in North London, and her firmly held belief that everyone should know how to make a white sauce. I didn’t really know how to make a white sauce. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can etc etc
So I started haphazardly baking. And then obsessively baking. And cooking.
Whilst all this was going on, I had begun dating someone. Someone offensively domesticated. The first time he cooked me dinner, he had a stinking cold, so just knocked up welsh rarebit on HOMEMADE BREAD. Flavoured with HOMEGROWN HERBS. A few weeks later, he was late to meet me because his batch of marmalade took longer than he anticipated. Instead of flowers, he brought me artisan sourdough. I was out of my depth.
The combination of a yearning for domesticity that my mother could no longer give me, a need to use any spare time to do something and make something, and the sharp relief into which my culinary skills were thrown by this man who I so desperately wanted to impress, made me take my life and my lemons into my own slightly shaky hands.
So this is the story of how I attempt to heal the mummy-shaped hole in my heart, and patch it up with pastry, bread dough and icing. Luckily for you, I’m not very good at writing about grief, and I’m very, very good at puns and finding myself funny, so that’s probably the end of any sentimentality. Mummy would have approved.
This is Nigel Slater’s recipe from the Guardian. It is so easy and hugely therapeutic to make and produces pots of sunshine. Or Potts’ Pots of Sunshine if you’re me. Or like puns and are called Potts.
NB. Homemade lemon curd obviously doesn’t have the preservatives in it that shop-bought does, so doesn’t have the same shelf life and should be kept refrigerated. But, this is so delicious, using it up in time is really not going to be a problem.
It goes like this:
Makes: 2 small jam jars (Robert Dyas do super cheapy ones, but Lakeland do different, pretty styles)
Takes: 2 hours including cooling
Bakes: 10 minutes on the hob
zest and juice of 4 lemons
3 eggs and 1 egg yolk (although, frankly, I don’t think using the fourth egg white would destroy this)
1. Set up a bain marie. Put zest, juice, sugar and butter in top pan and stir until butter has melted.
2. Fork eggs. Stir into mixture, ideally with a whisk. Allow to cook for ten minutes, stirring/whisking frequently. When it’s ready, it will feel heavy on the whisk, or coat the back of the spoon.
3. Remove from heat, allow to cool very slightly. Pour into jars. Seal. Refrigerate.
4. TA DAH!
The Icing on the Cake:
This is really great spread onto the bread and butter before your cover in creme anglaise for a bread and butter pudding.
Addendum: I made lime curd shortly afterwards because I have an Amy-from-Little-Women-esque love of limes, and an irrational yet firmly held belief that they improve ANY dish GODDAMNIT. It doesn’t really work. It tastes a bit sherbert-y, and isn’t that great. If you want to have a go DESPITE the fact that I have clearly outlined its shortcomings and detailed my own sad defeats and failures, then I would suggest reducing the sugar content in the recipe above to give it a bit more zing.