To be, or not to be: lemon posset, dessert or medicine?

Lemon posset
Lemon posset
Nadia Sawalha and Kaye Adams

Food and drink: Even the worst disaster chefs can learn to cook say Nadia Sawalha and Kaye Adams

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With a few lemons, some double cream and a little sugar it’s easy to make a very British dessert that is wonderfully cleansing after a meal.

Serve your lemon posset with some shortbread or biscotti for dunking and you can’t go wrong.

It was originally given to people as a medicine made from curdled milk with the addition of alcohol to get rid of colds and fevers.

Sometimes black pepper was added to get the patient to sweat the fever away. Shakespeare even mentions a posset’s medicinal properties in Hamlet.

As time moved on the curdled milk was replaced by cream and almond biscuits were added along with egg yolks to make what was technically a custard.

The alcohol was still added in the form of a sherry-type drink called ‘sack’ and this egg nog-style drink was used to toast the bride and groom at weddings.

The posset recipe of today goes back to using acidic fruit to set the cream and you could easily add extra flavours such as bay leaf or cardamom.

I have experimented with orange and grapefruit but still prefer the zing of lemon.

However lime and ginger makes a lovely dessert that is great for keeping away colds and fevers.

Lemon posset


2 lemons – zest and juice

450ml double cream

130g caster sugar


1. Put the cream and sugar into a saucepan.

2. Add the zest and bring to the boil.

3. Reduce the heat and simmer for three minutes.

4. Take off the heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes and then whisk in the lemon juice.

5. Pour into small ramekins or glasses.

6. Chill for at least six hours and serve with biscuits.

Lawrence’s restaurant is Fat Olives at Emsworth (