At this grim, energy sapping time of year, citrus fruits really help perk you up, with those fresh tangy flavours and all that Vitamin C. With my annual batch of marmalade out of the way, I was flicking through a magazine and a recipe for orange curd made my mouth water. I was also making a birthday cake for a friend and it seemed the ideal filling.
The recipe (from the January issue of Waitrose Kitchen) suggested Seville oranges, but I'd used up all mine in the marmalade, so used Navel oranges instead. The directions were quite straightforward. Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan: the zest and juice of 3 oranges and 2 lemons, 4 large eggs, 350g caster sugar and 225g unsalted butter, cubed. Heat the pan gently to melt the butter and beat with a whisk to combine the ingredients, then allow the mixture to gradually thicken, still whisking, until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. In my case, this took a lot longer than the suggested 10 minutes and I had to keep changing hands. It was quite a workout. A bit more whisking was required as it cooled down. Finally, pour the curd into a couple of warm, sterilised jars, seal and store in the fridge. This recipe suggests using the curd within a week, but, as I'd cooked mine for so long (more than half an hour), I'm hanging on to it for a bit longer – I'm enjoying it as a breakfast treat on toast and might throw together an orange meringue pie inspired by my adaptation of the River Café's lemon tart my husband occasionally makes.
Since making the orange curd, I've consulted other recipes and several suggest stirring, rather than whisking which I'm prepared to try next time to save energy. Nigel Slater feels that using a whisk makes the curd lighter and more wobbly. Leith's in their Cookery Bible use a wooden spoon and Pam Corbin in the River Cottage Handbook on Preserves whisks the mixture together and then stirs it until it thickens, as does Marguerite Patten in Jams, Preserves and Chutneys who also points out that you shouldn't cook the curd for "too long" as it continues to thicken once it has cooled down.
Whichever way works best for you, homemade orange or lemon curd is a fabulous winter treat (particularly if followed by a back and shoulder massage if you choose to whisk it).