When Life Gives You Lemons, Use This Recipe for Lemon Curd


“When life gives you lemons…” people say, meaning, here’s a bleak thing life’s done to you, ugh, but you have to make the best of it. How that phrase became attached to lemons, I don’t really know, because lemons are so useful and generally great. The bitterness, perhaps? But radicchio is bitter, and you can’t do nearly as much with a basket of radicchio as you can with a basket of lemons. It’s a poser.

The last time I heard the phrase, it was uttered by my hairdresser — a Hairdresser to the Stars, no less, who used to sweep up cuttings back in the day at my mother-in-law’s local salon in Edinburgh. That’s my in, and my access to Mates Rates. (“Bring gin, and I will cut your hair.”)

So I was at his Gramercy duplex apartment the other night with my head glamorously in his kitchen sink when he said, “We didn’t really intend to buy a basement, but it does have the patio, which is nice, so when life gives you lemons…”

And suddenly, the phrase made perfect sense. A basement duplex with a patio in Gramercy IS lemons. Stringing up twinkling lights is Making Lemonade. Or, in my case, lemon curd.

Zest and juice a lemon (you want 2.5 to 3 tbsp juice)
2.5 to 3 tbsp sugar (75g)
2 large eggs at room temp
3.5 tbsp (50g) butter, cut into cubes

  • Whisk eggs and lemon juice in a small pan. Add the sugar and zest and stir to combine.
  • Add the butter. Put the pan on the lowest heat you possibly can, and stir the lemon mixture with a spatula until it thickens (about 5 minutes). It should never get close to simmering. If you see bubbles, take it off the heat immediately and plunge the bottom of the pan into a kitchen sink of cold water to cool it down.
  • Scrape the curd into a bowl and cover with cling-wrap (put the wrap directly on the lemon curd, to pick up the skin that forms), and chill. It will thicken slightly as it cools.

What to do with lemon curd now you’ve made it?

1. Simple: spread on hot buttered toast.
2. Cupcakes: scoop out a tsp from the top of a cupcake and spoon lemon curd into the crater
3. Lemon Eton Mess: whip cream, fold in lemon curd and crushed-up meringues. Spoon into glasses and top with lemon zest.
4. Fancied-up pound cake: warm in the microwave to a pourable consistency. Drizzle over slices of pound cake. Serve with slices of orange.
5. Sandwich together 2 shortbread cookies with lemon curd. Drizzle with melted white chocolate and chill to set.
6. Ice cream: whisk 175g condensed milk and 300g cream together until soft peaks form. Swirl in lemon curd and fresh blueberries. Freeze.
7. Pies: prebake little pie cups in a muffin tin (use store-bought pastry for ease). Fill with lemon curd and top with raspberries and flaked almonds.