This is a recipe from May Byron’s Rations Book (1918). Rationing during the WW2 is well known, but it was also introduced during the last year of the first world war. Confession time: I’ve changed the title of this recipe from the original. The original recipe is for Lemon Curd Without Eggs, which would have been a concern back then through food rationing. In this day and age, it is mainly be a dietary choice, so I have opted for the (nowadays) clearer and more succinct term, ‘vegan.’
It also has a lot of other things going for it, like being fat free, dairy-free, gluten-free and coconut-free. There are lots of vegan lemon curd recipes out there, but the vast majority seem to employ some kind of fat and many of them also include coconut cream to give body to the finished result and turmeric for colour.
This recipe has none of that, because the main ingredient in this recipe is swede. Yes, swede the vegetable. Also known as rutabaga, or ‘neeps’ if you’re in Scotland (shortened from Swedish Turnips, in case you were wondering). A mild-flavoured root vegetable, it adds body and also colour to the lemon curd. A little sugar, lemon-zest and juice and a gentle thickening with arrowroot, and you have a gloriously golden preserve to spread on your toast, fill your cakes and tarts and drizzle over ice-cream.
It doesn’t have to be arrowroot – although I do like the quick and ‘gentle’ set it has, and it’s ability to go clear when it’s setting qualities have ‘activated’. When cold, its not as firm/rubbery as other thickening agents. You could alternatively use cornflour, tapioca flour, sago, ground rice, etc. These last two were also in the original, but the sago needs to be soaked overnight and then cooked until translucent, and the ground rice made for a slight graininess, all of which takes away the spontenaiety. More cooking might have addressed the texture issue, but any prolonged cooking you run the risk of losing the fresh lemon flavour of the juice and zest.
And the flavour is the best thing about this recipe. It’s bright and fresh without any cloying richness from butter or eggs. It’s practically health-food!
This method could also be used for other citrus/fruit curds.
Vegan Lemon Curd
Makes about 250ml.
225g swede – peeled and diced small
85g caster sugar
zest and juice of 2 lemons
pinch of salt
- Simmer the swede in boiling water until tender (15-20 minutes).
- Drain and return to the warm pan. Turn off the heat and allow the excess moisture from the swede to evaporate.
- Puree the swede. Because it is a small amount, it can be done in a spice grinder or small liquidiser. It is important for the texture to use something with offset blades – that is, blades pointing in different directions – to ensure a smooth puree. A food processor, with it’s flat blades spinning in just one plane, won’t chop things finely enough. Spare a thought for May Byron’s original readers, who had to press the cooked swede through a sieve.
- Add some lemon juice to make the pureeing easier.
- Return the puree to the cleaned pan and add any remaining lemon juice, the zest, the sugar and the salt.
- Mix the arrowroot with a tablespoon of cold water and pour into the pan.
- Heat gently, stirring, until thickened (4-5 minutes) and you can no-longer see the whiteness of the arrowroot mixture.
- Pour into a clean jar and store in the fridge.