Custard and biscuits, with a twist…
When I was about 15, my family moved from a small town in the middle of nowhere to the big bustling city of Johannesburg. It was a culture shock to say the least, people were just so, so sophisticated. Have you ever felt that you’re Coco Chanel in one town and then realise in another you’re a complete hillbilly? Yeah, that’s how moving from nowhere feels like. After a slow start, things finally became better, and I fully credit the Argentinean fruiterers down the road this mind shift. (I have always equaled food with emotions.) Apart from nourishing us with the freshest produce we ever encountered (“Oh my word they sell freshly squeezed orange juice!”) they also had a bakery that sold the most divine, most heart-warming treats I never imagined possible, lemon bars…
And so it is that lemon bars have always held a particularly special place in my heart. The slightly sour, bitter treat that melted in your mouth of creaminess with the caramel-like crust almost soaked from the lemon custard. I don’t know maybe it is a metaphorical scenario of finding the sweet in a sour life, but to me, it’s the epitome of comfort food.
This recipe is absolutely delicious though, and I daresay it rivals that of my friends the Argentinean fruiterers. The custard is thick and delicious with the lemon and thyme working in a beautiful harmony together fusing sweetness, freshness and lightness. The buttery biscuit crust adds the caramel flavour that in turn lifts the lemon, ensuring the flavour of a delectable treat. The add-on of gooseberries burst fresh against the sweet of the lemon and thyme, again emphasising freshness, as I find lemon curd can become incredibly heavy and nauseatingly sweet if not done right.
200g Tennis biscuits, crushed (Alternatives: Coconut biscuits, Granita biscuits)
100g Butter, melted
395g can Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
½ cup (125mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
A couple sprigs fresh thyme
Handful of fresh gooseberries
First things first, preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Then. Melt the butter and mix with the crushed biscuits. The biscuits should be thoroughly crushed, but not powder, otherwise the crust will have no texture. When mixed, spoon into a greased pan/tray and press together tightly with a spoon. Sprinkle with seasalt (it will enhance the flavours) and refrigerate. Using a double boiler (bowl on top of pot that has a an inch or two of water) on a high heat, whisk eggs, condensed milk, zest, juice and about two tablespoons chopped thyme. When light and fluffy, swap whisk for a wooden spoon and stir. Taste the mixture constantly, everyone has their own tastes when it comes to lemon curd. In time the mixture will start to thicken, keep stirring to prevent the custard clumping. When custard is firm, pour over cold crust. Plop in the berries and bake for about 5 minutes. Refrigerate for about an hour and enjoy! Be sure to store in an airtight container and keep in fridge.
Happy eating! 😉
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour