The Legend that is…. the Lemon…


The Legend that is.... the Lemon...

Bonnie Lalley has sent me this wonderful painting inspired by my lemon pudding recipe which follows. I haven’t made it for a while so now that the lemons in the market are looking so attractive, this will be on the menu again this week! It is perhaps my favourite pudding recipe and shows off this fabulous fruit to perfection. Thank you, Bonnie, for reminding me!

The lemon is to my mind one of the sexiest fruits there is – it just looks so perfect – and it is, almost unquestionably,  the most important fruit in European cookery. As in Bonnie’s painting they cheer up any room even when doing nothing more than simply lounging in a bowl; their fragrance entices and they inspire so many ideas for dishes. The lemon partners so perfectly such foods as chicken and fish as well as making its mark in tempting drinks (citron pressé..oh my!) vinegars, desserts, jams and a host of sauces (in particular the fabulous avgolémeno sauce from Greece…and of course..mayonnaise.)

It is thought that the lemon originated in deepest Northern India and brought to the mediterranean lands by the roving Romans of the 1st century A.D. Oddly, the Romans had no word in Latin for this humble fruit. They apparently used it more as a decoration than an ingredient. The mighty Moors seem to have been largely responsible for the Med spread of the lemon. By the 4th century A.D. the lemon was well settled in such places as Sicily and Spain thanks to the Arabs. Arabic traders also took it to China. These guys worshipped this fruit – a writer called Ibn Jamiya wrote a tome called ‘The Treatise of the Lemon‘, and includes recipes for lemon syrup and preserves. By the late 1500s the Italians were in on the act big time and the use of lemon slices to garnish fish dishes was widespread. The lemon made its way to the New World – sounds so quaint that term nowadays! – via Mr. Columbus in 1493 who planted lots of lemon trees in Haiti. By the mid 1500s the Portuguese had taken the lemon to Brazil and in 1788 the first colonists to arrive in Australia were armed with stacks of lemon tree saplings!

One of the historical ironies of the transpiration of lemons by ship around the world is that the sailors often contracted scurvy on their travels – not realising that the very cargo they carried was to eventually prove an effective cure for the disease. By the early 1800s the British Royal Navy got round finally to issuing its sailors with lemon juice which cut cases of scurvy to almost zero.

The lemon is so beguiling as befits such a well travelled fruit. When I moved to New Zealand in the late 90s our first house had a stunning view from the garden – but what was even more captivating for me were the several lemon trees growing just yards from my back door. Oh for those trees now in damp Hampshire!

Look, anyway, back to the recipe – this first appeared on this blog in March last year and I make no apologies for repeating it here now – especially as it is accompanied today by Bonnie’s mouth-watering painting.

Double Lemon Pud

INGREDIENTS – 150 gm unsalted butter / 265 gm caster sugar /grated zest of 2 lemons / tsp vanilla essence / 6 eggs separated / 75 gm plain flour / 190 ml milk/ juice of 3 big lemons – / cream to serve.

And for my U.S. friends – 190 ml milk = 0.8 cup of milk or 6.5 fluid ounces      150 gm = 5 oz       265 gm = just over 9oz

75 gm = just under 3 oz.

Turn the oven up to 180c. Grease a 3 litre ovenproof dish. Cream together butter, sugar lemon zest and vanilla. Then, beat in the egg yolks….. slowly.

Fold in the flour…. then the milk…..then the lemon juice. Whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl until they form soft peaks. Gently fold this in too.

Pour the mix into the greased dish. Place in a roasting tray. Add boiling water a third of a way up the roasting tray – in effect creating a bain marie…transfer..easy does the oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown on top. Leave it to cool.

I love it cold but it is also wonderful warm. Serve with cream. I cannot tell you how good this is…………. just make it….!

14 thoughts on “The Legend that is…. the Lemon…

  1. This lemon pud sounds so good! I can’t wait to make it for my dear ones this summer. I will need to find a recipe translator for my American measures first – but that can’t be difficult, I’m sure they abound. Your history lesson is very interesting, thank you for sharing your info in such a delightful read. Ms. Lalley’s painting is truly inspiring and sends me straight to the market for lemons!


  2. Bonnie’s art is indeed inspiring, and the food history is fascinating. I wish I knew how to convert measurements to the silly American system I use. I can weigh food but the liquid measurements are hard to translate.


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