Have you found yourself with more lemons than you know what to do with? Hens laying overtime? Never fear, this perfect citrus slice is here.
Once upon a time I had a little gold hen, who lived in a flowering tree and laid me a sweet fresh egg every day. And that’s where the fairy story ends, because the reality is that chicken was one scary bitch.
Long-time chicken eater, first-time chicken owner, I ended up with poultry purely because a friend was moving and caught me at a weak moment. I took our new chook home, let her out in the garden and doubtfully stood back. I didn’t have a clue what you were supposed to do next. Ruffled with anger at the fact I was clearly an amateur, the hen glared at me for a long minute then darted her neck out sideways and crushed a praying mantis with her beak. She ate it slowly. She did not break eye contact with me the whole time she did this.
I backed away carefully and, from that moment on, we knew who was the boss of the back lawn.
My friend called her Sheridan and the kids would rename her Princess Bubblegum or Sparkly Goldiflocks every couple of months, but mostly we just called her The Chicken. She ruled our suburban property with a scaly four fingered (or seven, depending which) claw, cowing our dog into a trembling submission. Every morning he would let her eat what she wanted from his bowl, enormous head downcast, while she chortled in glee.
Fluffybum Unicorn Feathers scorned the safety of a chicken coop. She perched in a tree at night and chased visitors away by day, cackling in the faces of neighbourhood cats then going straight for their eyes. We thought she needed company so we bought some chicks for her to raise, but Princess Mutant Feet was outraged at the idea of maternity. I did my best with a warm lamp and an old dog crate until we worked out that all three of the poor chicks were roosters and they had to go – our neighbours have been forgiving people over the years, but there are limits.
The TradeMe buyer kindly told my children that Jumbo, Spot and Sam would have lots of room to run around and make other chicken friends on her farm. “At least, they will until they’re fatter,” she whispered to me on her way back to her car with her squawking, shuffling box.
In her prickly way, though, The Chicken seemed fond of us, her surrogate flock. One neighbour said he could set his watch at exactly 10 minutes past three every weekday when he heard her hop onto the driveway gate and call to the kids as they came home from school. She purred sweetly when you held out a hand full of rolled oats and then pecked your now empty fingers like the ragey mofo she really was. She died a more peaceful death than she probably deserved, in her sleep, of old age. I miss her, the stroppy little shit.
She also fulfilled her part of the chicken/owner bargain by laying a daily egg – creamy and delicious, even though powered by dog biscuits and every damn seedling I ever planted. My family are not always enthusiastic egg eaters and one a day sounds manageable until it’s been a fortnight since your last frittata, and here you are again with a full egg compartment.
So I used this recipe for lemon lime slice for when I was egg-rich and dessert-poor. I may have to buy my eggs now but my lemon tree is bustling, and I can scrounge the odd lime (it’s also fine with just lemon). Basically, it’s a citrus curd on a handy edible base but even better than a curd because making that would mean using a double boiler, which I will never have the patience for. Time the bake just right and there will be a golden base, a soft centre and a hint of crunch on top – dessert heaven.
LEMON LIME SLICE
Base (make this first):
- 150g soft butter
- 1½ cups flour
- 1 cup sugar
Mix all of this together until it resembles a crumb and press into a lined baking tin. Cook at 180°C for 15-20 minutes until golden, while you do the next step.
- 5 small eggs
- ¼ cup flour
- ¾ cup sugar
- ½ cup lemon and/or lime juice
- finely grated zest of everything you squeezed to get the juice
Whisk up the eggs, flour and sugar until pale and foamy. Add the juice and zest. Get the base out of the oven, pour the egg mix on top and put it straight back in the oven for about half an hour, but check regularly because there’s nothing sadder than a rubbery overcooked topping.
Enjoy, in memory of The Chicken.