The beauty of the posset lies in its simplicity. There are only three ingredients – cream, sugar and lemons – so provenance is all. Get organic, unwaxed lemons; better yet get Meyer lemons (if you can), which are less tart, less acidic. Possets have been traced back to 15th century England where they were used as a remedy for colds and ‘minor illnesses’. Lady Macbeth used a posset to knock out the guards in the Scottish play, though in fairness it was probably the ramekin that did it.
I have served this to our B&B guests for breakfast, who partake of it as you would a rich yoghurt. Poached, seasonal fruit is also a welcome addition. It takes a certain bravery to serve it as pudding; it is very modest-looking, but lovely as a bright, clean finish to a heavy meal. There’s something in the method of boiling the cream with the sugar and then, with the addition of the lemon juice, feeling your spoon gently drag that is quite different to the heavier set of a mousse, say, and more akin to a delicately wobbling custard or blancmange. I am also remembering the quivering junkets of yesteryear.
Here, I’ve used Meyer lemons, and on a separate outing, bergamots. Blood orange also works well, with some added lemon juice to give it bite. It’s the middle of the season for these citruses, so seek them out.
Adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Dairy Queen, The Guardian
150g of caster sugar
600 ml of double cream
3 good sized lemons to yield 80ml of juice
Zest of 1 lemon
Finely grate a whole lemon, being careful to avoid the bitter white pith (a Microplane zester is brilliant for this), and set aside the zest. Squeeze enough lemon juice to make 80 ml. Put the cream and sugar in a non-stick pan and warm gently to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil, and boil for exactly 3 minutes without stirring. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Strain into a jug, add the zest and leave to cool, stirring occasionally to stop a skin forming – I put the jug into a bowl filled with ice cubes. When the mixture is at room temperature, pour into 4 ramekins or small glasses, cover with foil and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight. Serve with the Cocoa and Earl Grey Shortbread poached fruit, or simply as it is.