Recipes: How to make limoncello, lemon madeleines and sorbet

Freshly picked lemons

Freshly picked lemons - Credit: Archant

Much as I love shopping at the local farmers’ markets, one of the cook’s most indispensable ingredients is not to be found there. Lemons.

Lemon and lime madeleines. Picture: Karen Booth

Lemon and lime madeleines. Picture: Karen Booth - Credit: Archant

And at this time of year there are such gorgeous lemons available, citrons from the Amalfi coast, huge leaf-bedecked organic lemons from Sicily and plenty of ‘everyday’ lemons for everyday kitchen use, to season fish, to use in dressings, to perk up a mayonnaise, to flavour a polenta cake, whilst the more expensive produce is perfect for lemon curd, home-made limoncello and water ices.

And dessert trios created around a single seasonal fruit suit the lemon perfectly.

Lemon madeleines to serve with lemon meringue ice cream and lemon sorbet? A slice of warm lemon tea loaf with a citrus salad? A sliver of lemon tart with candied lemon peel?

With citrus-based desserts, I recommend sweet Loire wines or late harvest Rieslings or other German/Alsace varietals, from Australia, Austria, California, England and Canada, as well as, from Germany, Mosel Auslese or the even sweeter Trockenbeeren Auslese.

Frances Bissell's homemade limoncello

Frances Bissell's homemade limoncello - Credit: Archant

These have enough acidity to balance that in the fruit.

To make your own limoncello, you need very fresh, un-waxed lemons.

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Take a large preserving jar or jug, fill it with as much thinly peeled lemon zest as it will hold, and fill to the top with vodka; you should be able to pour in at least half a litre.

Seal it and put on a sunny window sill for 3 or 4 weeks.

Lemon sorbet. Picture: Breville USA

Lemon sorbet. Picture: Breville USA - Credit: Archant

Strain the liquor into a large measuring jug and make up to one litre with sugar syrup.

Make this by boiling equal proportions of granulated sugar and water, until the sugar has dissolved, then cool the syrup before adding to the flavoured vodka.

Then pour the mixture through a funnel into a one litre bottle. Label.

Lemon sorbet recipe (Serves 4)


100 mls water

200 g granulated sugar

250 mls lemon juice

Finely grated zest of 2 lemons


Make a syrup of the sugar and water and allow to cool. Mix the syrup, juice, and a further 200 mls water, together with the citrus zest. Freeze in a sorbetière or ice cream maker.

Lemon and lime madeleines (Makes 24)


100 g caster sugar

100 g self-raising flour

pinch of salt, about half a coffeespoon

2 eggs, lightly beaten

130 g unsalted butter, melted

Finely grated zest of a lime and a lemon


Preheat the oven to 220 C, gas mark 8. Butter and flour madeleine moulds.

These are very shallow, fluted and an elongated shell shape. The quantity given fills 24. However, if you use bun tins,which are generally deeper the mixture will fill 12.

Sift together the dry ingredients.

Beat in the eggs, and then mix in the melted butter and zest. Pour the batter, and the mixture really is quite liquid, into the prepared moulds, and bake in the top half of the oven for 5 to 7 minutes.

Remove from the oven once the madeleines are golden and well-risen, with a bump in the middle.

Citrus soup

Use as many citrus varieties as you can, including pomelos, blood oranges, lime, lemon, pink grapefruit and Valencias or navel oranges. Divide into segments and remove all skin, pith, membrane and seeds.

Squeeze some of the juice into a jug, about 75 mls per person, and for each 100 to 150 grams of prepared fruit, and whisk in enough icing sugar to sweeten to taste.

Put the fruit in individual bowls, or a large glass dish, and pour on the sweetened juice.

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