THREE INGREDIENTS, ONE BIG WOW.
That’s lemon posset for you. Just cream, sugar and lemon juice (and a bit of science) and you have a chic, slinky little spoon-worthy dessert.
I used to run a “Dear Jill” column in The Times in London, on my weekly recipe page. Back then, this meant real letters would arrive, with stamps and everything. In 2002, somebody asked for a lemon posset recipe, which set off a personal frenzy of research and recipe testing.
Posset? Is that something to do with syllabub, or ratafia? It triggered all my fears that as an Australian with the illustrious position of The Times Cookery Editor, I would be found wanting. Not good enough. Surely I should know about the posset? Should I not have been born knowing the recipe already? Is there a posset club I am not allowed to join?
Then I discovered that very few people actually knew about the posset. Hannah Glasse, maybe, and Eliza Acton, and all the other early English cookery writers, yes.
Another was the late Alan Davidson, a marvellously theatrical food historian and author of the Oxford Companion to Food, who described posset in its earliest medieval form as a drink made from milk, lightly curdled by adding an acid liquid such as wine, ale, citrus juice to it. Drunk warm, it must have been very revifying. By the seventeenth century, sack (like sweet sherry), claret or orange juice, he said, were used to form ‘eating possets’.
The modern posset is just cream and sugar, heated until the sugar melts, then acidulated with citrus juice, chilled and set. And therein lies its glory.
I love it for its simplicity, science and silkiness. In spite of the cream, the mouth feel of a posset is refreshingly tart and almost hygienically clean.
Since then, I’ve run recipes for posset in The Times, Bon Appetit magazine, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, on the basis that more people should know about a dish that people taste and just go ‘wow’.
It’s the perfect dismount after something rich and fatty like Italian porchetta or Chinese BBQ pork, and even better after something spa-healthy like greens and grains.
The posset is back.
450 ml thickened (whipping) cream
125 g castor sugar
60 ml lemon juice
COMBINE cream and sugar in a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring.
REDUCE the heat and boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly, watching in amazement as it turns into a roiling mass of fluffiness. Do not walk away or it will boil over.
REMOVE from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Taste and add more juice if you like it super tangy.
LEAVE to cool for 10 minutes, then stir once more, and strain into a jug.
POUR into four Nick and Nora glasses or little cups ( or six smaller ones).
COOL and refrigerate for 3 or 4 hours, or overnight.
SERVE with biscotti, fresh fruit or a drizzle of cream. Makes 4 to 6.
How to cosset your posset
# Before juicing the lemon, you could zest the rind into the cream and sugar and allow it to infuse the cream as it boils, then put through a fine strainer into a jug before pouring into glasses.
# Do a combo of lime and lemon juice. Consider grapefruit juice (ooh, pink grapefruit juice) but do it half/half with lemon juice to make sure you have the acidity needed.
# Top with silver and gold dragees, or fresh strawberries or blueberries, or – my favourite – tart marmalade thinned out with a bit of booze, and spooned on top as a glaze. When your spoon goes in, the marmalade flows in and intermingles.
# Or top with lemon crunch: mix 2 tsp granulated sugar and 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest together, scatter on top and serve.
# Would pomegranate seeds be very beautiful on top? I think so.
# Upcycle your lemon posset into a topping for cupcakes, or to sandwich two butter cakes together, or slather on a sponge finger biscuit, as you would lemon curd. Divine.
Thanks for reading – feel free to add a comment, or share with a friend, or subscribe for more Jill Dupleix Eats in your inbox every Thursday. And special thanks to my right-hand man, Terry Durack, for completely, like, doing the dishes and cleaning up a very possetty kitchen.
I would also like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands and waters upon which I work, live, cook and play; the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. I fully support the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice to be enshrined in Australia’s Constitution. It’s about time, folks.