Saturday, 17 August 2013

Rosie's Blackcurrant and Lemon Posset

Rosie's Blackcurrant and Lemon Posset

Blackcurrants don't have the jewel-like appearance of red and white currants but they pack a powerful punch.  A little goes a long way.  This is just as well if you grow your own, as keeping them to yourself in the kitchen garden is a battle.  Despite their tartness, birds love to feast on them.  I can happily strip redcurrants and eat them straight from the bush, but a little sugary help is necessary to make blackcurrants palatable.

Rosie's Blackcurrant and Lemon Posset
refrigerated overnight

Having picked blackcurrants at my allotment I was looking for some different recipes.

Almonds go wonderfully well with blackcurrants, so anything involving frangipane is an excellent idea. Chocolate and mint, I know, also pair well, but what else, I wondered.

According to Niki Segnit, author of The Flavour Thesaurus, blackcurrants have an affinity with juniper and coffee too. Even more surprising perhaps is the suggestion for pairing the fruit with peanuts.   Her thesis is based on the American taste for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  Segnit does point out, in the USA,  the jelly involved is likely to be made from Concord grapes rather than blackcurrants.  She does, however, detect a "catty" quality common to the currant and the grape to support this idea.  I confess to never having eaten a peanut butter and jelly sandwich so I can't vouch for the combination.

For the recipe below, I think the blackcurrants work fine on their own.

Recipes for 'possets' are recorded as far back as the 15thC.  The term usually refers to a mixture of hot milk curdled by the addition of ale, wine or sack and sometimes with spices such as ginger added.  It gave a looser result than what we expect of a posset today.  By the 16th century sometimes egg was added to thicken the mixture.  The poor used old bread to achieve a similar result.  Later, cream began to be used and lemon juice became the preferred curdling agent.

Blackcurrant compote

This recipe comes from the talented and scholarly *Rosie Sykes, currently Head-Chef at Fitzbillies in Cambridge.  It was recently printed in her column for the Guardian (co-written with food journalist Joanna Blythman).  It's so perfect that, apart from adding a little extra sugar to my very tart home-grown blackcurrants, I make it as instructed.  Blackcurrants are coming to to the end of their season but blackberries are taking over and they would, I think, make a great alternative.

Blackcurrant and Lemon Posset
(Serves 4)

300g blackcurrants, washed and stripped from their stalks
25-40g icing sugar, depending on tartness of fruit
400ml cream (I used double cream)
Rind of 1 lemon
125g caster sugar
Juice of 2 lemons

Put the blackcurrants in a pan with 1 tablespoon of water.  Heat gently to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes until soft and bursting.
Remove from the heat and, while still warm, stir in 25g of sifted icing sugar.  Taste and add more sugar if the fruit is very tart (as Rosie says, you want to carefully balance the tart and sweet).  Leave to cool.
Put the cream in a small pan with the lemon rind.  Bring to a "scald" (just to the point where it's about to boil) and, over the heat, add the caster sugar stirring to dissolve.
Turn up the heat and add the lemon juice.  Simmer for 3 minutes.
Remove from the heat and leave to settle for a few minutes.  
Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a jug, discarding the lemon rind.
Divide the sweetened blackcurrants between 4 ramekins or glasses and gently pour the posset on top (too fast and you'll get too much 'bleeding' of fruit into posset).
Cool to room temperature then cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

* Rosie Sykes' book The Kitchen Revolution is published by Ebury Press