“Oranges and lemons,”
“Say the bells of St Clement’s”
This popular nursery rhyme, first written down in about 1744, may refer to a square dance of the same name recorded in 1665. Certainly, the bells refer to a London church, which may be either St Clement Danes (Christopher Wren, 1682) or St Clement Eastcheap (Christopher Wren, 1683; destroyed in the Great Fire, rebuilt 1687), both of which lie near to the wharf where traders would land cargoes of citrus.
The dessert we have here was invented by Simon Hopkinson and given the name St Clement’s simply because of its use of the oranges and lemons of the nursery rhyme. However, history has a way of making circular references. The base of the St Clement’s cream is actually a simple ‘posset.’ Possets are derived directly from syllabub, which was a cream-based drink popular in the 14th–15th Centuries, and presumably still around when Wren built his churches.
I suppose then that St Clement’s cream is a little bit of Old London Town.
When making this (and we suggest you do because it is very good), you can make the posset the day before, and finish with the jelly the following morning. By evening, you have the one of the greatest citrus desserts of all time. You will be licking the ramekin.
St Clement’s Danes can be found at Central Church of the Royal Air Force, Strand, Temple, London WC2R 1DH.
St Clement’s Eastcheap can be found at 27 Clements Ln, London EC4N 7AE.
St Clement's cream
- For the posset:
- 600ml double cream
- 150g caster sugar
- Juice and zest of 2 lemons and 2 oranges
- For the jelly:
- 1 leaf gelatine (may be doubled; see below)
- 150ml freshly squeezed orange juice (some adaptations double this)
- Juice of half a lemon (again, sometimes doubled)
- 1 tbsp Grand Marnier
To make the posset:
Put the juices in a small pan and reduce until syrupy.
Slowly warm the cream with the sugar to dissolve the caster and bring the cream to a boil. Boil the cream for 3 mins to activate it.
Take it off the heat, add the zests and reduced juices, and leave to infuse for 15 mins.
Pass through a sieve into a jug to remove any solids, and pour into ramekins. Chill for 4 hours.
To make the jelly:
Soften the gelatine in a little cold water until it 'blooms.'
Bring the juices to the boil and the point at which a scum appears. Immediately strain through a muslin into a clean pan. Whisk in the soft gelatine and Grand Marnier. Allow to cool to room temperature.
Carefully pour 1 tbsp of the mixture over the top of the set possets. Chill for 1 hour.
This recipe is lightly adapted from that of Simon Hopkinson only so that we don't end up with more than one basic posset recipe and twenty different ratios for jelly. Many restaurant adaptations double the juice for the jelly as 150ml can get a bit skinny in large ramekins or glasses.