My son, who is nine years old, absolutely adores lemon curd, and we often have half a jar of it knocking around the house. I had had a particularly awful few days with my badly-wired head and poor mental health; an adrenaline crash from coming back off my Veganish book tour, plus a piece of horrible news that sent me into a spiral. I won’t go into it, but it’s been a grim few days round here.
So I spent a couple of piteous days eating my way through all of the leftover Christmas junk in the house; four mince pies in one sitting, all of the selection box chocolate I had hidden on top of the fridge, five bags of crisps, a whole packet of grissini – and still craved a swift sugar hit at the end of the day. I know it isn’t sensible, but sometimes you just have to give in to the gremlin and start again tomorrow.
Failing to turn up any more crunchy junk no matter how hard I looked, I decided to make my own. Lemon curd already contains sugar and eggs, so I figured it would be a pretty good base to make a light and zesty cookie from. I dug out my battered copy of A Girl Called Jack and roughly worked to the peanut cookie recipe, replacing the butter, sugar and peanut butter with lemon curd, and adjusting the quantities as I went along.
This was the – rather surprisingly delicious and entirely adlibbed – result. I’ve eaten nine by the time I type this up, and the jar is sitting on my bedside table. I have spring greens in the fridge tomorrow. It’s all about balance. And anyway, lemons are fruit, so there.
Makes 16, from 2p each. Yes, really. From 3p each with accoutrements.
150g self raising flour, 5p (45p/1.5kg, Asda)
150g lemon curd, 21p (57p/411g, Asda)
1 medium egg, 12p (£1.48/12 medium free range, Asda)
To finish, optional:
2 tbsp or 15g icing sugar, 2p (83p/500g, Asda)
16 mini meringues (0.5g each), 20p (£1/80 shells, Lees Mini Meringues at Nisa)
First set your oven to 170C, and ensure there is a shelf at the centre or just below it. I bake these cookies in two batches, as my oven is an extremely small electric one, but if you are going to do them all in one go, two shelves quite close to each other will do fine. Bear in mind that because heat rises, the cookies on the higher shelf are likely to cook faster than the lower ones, so you may wish to swap them round halfway through.
Weigh your lemon curd into a mixing bowl, and crack in the egg. Beat together well with a fork until well combined; this takes some doing, as lemon curd can be unyielding, so mash the two together with the tines (prongs) of the fork and stir vigorously until they start to meld together in a viscous paste.
Add your flour two tablespoons at a time and continue to beat in to form a smooth dough. Swap the fork out for a plastic or silicone spatula halfway through; this helps combine the ingredients more easily as the dough starts to stiffen.
Lightly flour your worktop, and your hands, and lightly grease a baking tray or two. I spray mine with fry light or spray oil, as it is swift and efficient and less messy than rubbing a knob of butter around, and I can convince myself that it’s somewhat healthier. Don’t disabuse me of this notion; it’s worth at least two cookies, in my head.
Turn your dough out onto the lightly floured worktop and knead it swiftly to bring it together into a soft and pliable dough. Depending on the brand of lemon curd used – some are runnier or stickier than others – you may need to work in a little more flour. The dough should be soft but not stick to your hands.
Weigh the dough – and divide it by 16. Mine came to 380g, which worked out at 24g of dough per cookie. This may seem a little over the top, but it makes for evenly sized and therefore evenly cooked cookies, and the results are also very pleasing to look at. Break your dough into 16 evenly sized pieces, weighing them as you go if you please or doing it by sight if you think I’m a maniac for weighing each individual knob of dough – although I must admit that I delegate this task to my nine year old, and he loves it, which suits us both fine.
Roll each knob of dough into a smooth ball, and press it onto the baking tray with your thumb to flatten it out lightly. Leave a clear half inch around each cookie to allow for expansion.
Bake in the centre of the oven for 14 minutes precisely, then remove swiftly to cool. Dredge with icing sugar, if using, while hot, and it will stick to the warm surface of each cookie. Finish with a mini meringue held in place with a tiny dollop of lemon curd, and allow to cool. They will keep in an airtight jar or container for five days, but are best eaten immediately after cooling.
The unbaked cookies may be frozen, flat, on a baking tray, then transferred to a freezer bag or container until ready to bake. Defrost on a baking tray for four hours at room temperature, then bake as instructed above.