British Bites: Lemon Cardamom Syllabub

British Bites

Classic British dishes updated for the modern American cook.


[Photograph: Sydney Oland]

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On the list of great culinary innovations that Britain has given the world, desserts would be at the top. Although trifle and pudding are the most well-known, the humble syllabub is my personal favorite. What comes down to a flavored whipped cream is made more complex by the slight curdle the cream gets from citrus, and the sweet alcohol burn given to the cream by sugar and brandy.

While writing this recipe, there were a few well-known sources that were essential to check out, Mrs. Beeton being a personal favorite. There are two recipes in her book of household management, one of which involves milking the cow directly into the bowl. And as much as fresh ingredients are always essential to a recipe's success, this step seemed a tad unrealistic in many of today's households.

Instead of milking a cow yourself, use store-bought cream but leave your mixer in the cabinet. Hand beating the cream might be tiring but it gives you total control of your final product. Classically, syllabub is beaten hard, or even a bit curdled. I might be going against hundreds of years of tradition but I like my syllabub a bit softer, with a final delicate squeeze of fresh lemon.

If you can't find whole cardamom pods you can either eliminate it entirely, or add ground cardamom to taste. This recipe calls for any sort of brandy, but using the end of a bottle of cognac can certainly add a little something special.