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Lemon mousse and the mother tongue

April 22, 2012

Lemon mousseWhy is Paris such a romantic city, where London is not?  I’m not suggesting that one has the edge over the other; they are both fascinating in their own ways.  It’s the seedier side of life that really demonstrates the difference in perception.  Montmartre conjures up thoughts of starving artists, street cafés and the nearby Moulin Rouge with its colour and sparkle captured by Toulouse Lautrec; think of Soho and you picture strippers, peep shows and men in brown macs.

Visiting a major showing of Toulouse Lautrec’s works at the Hayward Gallery on the Southbank in the early 90’s, I was struck by how dull the colours were in reality, often daubed onto cardboard and paper.  The caricatures and paintings were no less compelling but it conveyed a brutality of life where any glamour was a veneer.  The passage of time and invisibility cloak of French sophistication has transformed our view to something infinitely more appealing.

Lemon mousse

The French language plays a role in this I think.  Take a simple lemon mousse – it is transformed in the mind when called mousse au citron into a cloud of cream and citrus eaten at an elegant table with a delicate spoon while being wooed by the husky tones of an admirer and ravishing music.

This is another recipe in my repertoire of mousses, and my personal favourite (although my family fight over the peppermint white chocolate and milk chocolate versions).  I want something refreshing but sweet at the end of a meal but I don’t like ice cream.  This fits the bill perfectly and I like to serve them in shot glasses so you can have more than one each but not feel like you’ve overeaten.  And you’ve still got room for some runny French cheese afterwards.

I’m taking the teens to Paris for the first time this summer.  They simply can’t wait.

Lemon mousse

Mousse au citron – or lemon mousse (adapted from a recipe by Raymond Blanc) – Printable version


200ml (7 fl oz) milk
grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
1 teaspoon real vanilla essence
4 large egg yolks
70g (2 3/4 oz) vanilla caster sugar
3 1/2 leaves of gelatine*
200 ml creme frâiche
3 egg whites
3 slices of lemon cut into quarters (optional)

mousse au citron


  1. Soak the gelatine leaves in a shallow, wide bowl with just enough cold water to cover.
  2. Bring the milk to boil in a non-stick saucepan together with the grated zest of the lemon, lower the heat and simmer for a couple of minutes.
  3. Whisk the egg yolks with 40g of the vanilla caster sugar.  Cut the  lemons in half and add the juice of 3 of the lemon halves and the vanilla essence to this mixture.
  4. Pour the warm milk onto the egg yolk mixture while whisking briskly.  Quickly wash and dry the saucepan and return the mixture to it over a medium heat.  Stir with a wooden spoon until it thickens (this can take about 10 minutes).
  5. Remove the gelatine leaves from the water with your hands, shaking off any excess water, and add to the milk mixture off the heat, stirring quickly until the gelatine is dissolved. Strain through a sieve into a bowl and leave to cool completely.
  6. In a large bowl, whisk the creme frâiche lightly to loosen.
  7. Whisk the egg whites in another bowl until they reach the soft peak stage, then add the remaining caster sugar and whip until they form stiff peaks that are slightly softer than meringue (I use my KitchenAid).
  8. Add about a quarter of the custard to the creme frâiche and stir in with a spatula, then fold in the remainder, followed by the egg whites (amalgamate gently without losing the air).
  9. Put 12 shot glasses (or 6 ramekins) on a tray that will fit into your fridge (and clear a space). Spoon in the mixture and leave to set in the fridge for about 4 hours.  Garnish just before serving with the lemon wedge if you like.

*Gelatine leaves are sometimes found in the pork section in Dubai. I bring mine from the UK. If using powdered gelatine, use as directed on the packet but slightly less than recommended otherwise they will set too firmly and you’ll lose the light, fluffiness of the texture.

Lemon mousse

I’m making this mousse au citron with Life’s a Feast as part of the Monthly Mingle (an event created by Meeta). Her theme is April in Paris and, proving my point about language,she cooked a delicious Boeuf à la Mode aux Carottes otherwise known as beef stew with carrots. Which would you rather have?!

  1. April 22, 2012 2:21 pm

    It looks divine! I love lemon mousses and this one must taste wonderful.



    • April 25, 2012 8:02 am

      Thanks Rosa – I must admit it is one of my favourite.

  2. April 22, 2012 3:24 pm

    I can’t believe you don’t like ice cream, Sally. Mousse au citron is of course a pretty good substitute. I have never tried any other flavor other than chocolate in a mousse. I have to give this a go. Raymond Blanc is one of my food heroes.

    • April 22, 2012 9:30 pm

      Ha ha – I knew that would get a comment. I’m just a very chilly person. I will eat it but usually once a year on a beach in Cornwall…and it has to be really good vanilla.

  3. jamielifesafeast permalink
    April 22, 2012 4:16 pm

    Gorgeous mousse! And I agree that nothing is better at the end of a meal than a light, lemony treat, something we often order when at a restaurant or bistro. Yours looks so perfect, light, creamy, airy and the photos are stunning! I am more than happy to have this at my French table!

    • April 22, 2012 9:30 pm

      Hooray! Too long since I mingled …thanks for such an inspiring theme.

  4. April 22, 2012 4:19 pm

    I could almost taste the smooth tartness of the mouse! Yummy!

    BTW, there seems to be something wrong link to life’s a feast…

    • April 22, 2012 9:29 pm

      Thanks Didi – rectified 🙂

  5. ginger and scotch permalink
    April 22, 2012 4:36 pm

    I love the color of the yellow lemons – so vibrant! I haven’t been to Paris in a long time – I’m sure the kids will love it.

    • April 22, 2012 8:56 pm

      I haven’t been for years – time to put that right. I always have lemons in my kitchen.

  6. April 22, 2012 4:46 pm

    Perfect for summer…nice and lemony and refreshing..enjoy your summer in Paris.

    • April 22, 2012 8:53 pm

      Sadly not a whole summer (now that would be fun) but we’ll make the most of every moment. Thanks for dropping by.

  7. flavorsofthesun permalink
    April 22, 2012 4:55 pm

    What a lovely recipe and photos, Sally. You make me want to look for lemons right now! Having lived in both London and Paris, I couldn’t agree with you more–yet I appreciate both for different reasons. I took my son to Parish from Mexico while he was in his teens and went on to spend his last year of high school there. I know it will be magical for each of you.

    • April 22, 2012 8:52 pm

      It may be only a short trip but I know the girls will love it. As they are growing up I’m making the most of every shared experience – as they will be doing solo ones all too soon. Thanks for the nice words. And I’m never without a lemon in my kitchen.

  8. April 22, 2012 6:32 pm

    Today I like you even more than I already do!

    This Lemon mousse has given me the courage to try a “secret mission” mousse i’ve been thinking of making for the past few weeks!

    Paris oh Paris how much I love thee!!

    Thanks for sharing this recipe!

    • April 22, 2012 8:50 pm

      Can’t wait to see your ‘secret mission’ mousse – and very touched by your lovely comment. This post was made for La Mere Culinaire.

  9. anjadxb permalink
    April 22, 2012 9:05 pm

    I can’t stop thinking about your lemon mousse since I read your blog post this afternoon. My grandma used to make something that looked very similar, especially the texture. Gotta give this a try very soon!

    • April 22, 2012 9:28 pm

      It’s very light and fluffy – not too sweet either…more creamy.

  10. April 22, 2012 11:37 pm

    This looks delicious and refreshing on a hot day! Your photos are really great! I love the composition with the whole lemons!

    • April 25, 2012 8:03 am

      Thanks – I’m a bit obsessed with lemons…eating, painting and shooting them.

  11. glamorous glutton permalink
    April 23, 2012 1:06 am

    Great looking fluffy dessert. Lovely photos. GG

  12. April 23, 2012 10:15 am

    Oh what a tangy and refreshing mousse! I am a desserts gal and love tangy citrus flavors to round off the meal. This is perfect for the Monthly Mingle!

    • April 23, 2012 3:54 pm

      It’s far too long since I mingled Meeta. Loved this theme.

  13. April 23, 2012 12:08 pm

    You’re right, so many foods sound infinitely more exotic and delicious in other languages. I always think Italian menus look so poetic compared to English ones. This mousse looks lovely, and I like the idea of teeny tiny portions so that you can indulge in more than one!

    • April 23, 2012 3:55 pm

      Yes you could do more than one flavour so you could try them all! Bella.

  14. April 23, 2012 1:46 pm

    I so have to try this! I love anything citrussy – and Raymond Blanc as well 🙂

    • April 23, 2012 3:56 pm

      Richard Binns of the Sunday Times describes him as ‘A Leonardo da Vinci of chefs’. I think he means a Renaissance man!

  15. April 23, 2012 2:00 pm

    Beautiful looking post Sally-the composition of your photos is superb!!

    Enjoy yourselves in Paris-I lived there for three wonderful years when I was studying for my first degree at university. How I miss those delicious coffee flavoured choux pastries called ‘Religieuse’-do have one on me if you see them!

    • April 23, 2012 3:19 pm

      I’ve put these on the ‘must eat in Paris’ list. Thanks

  16. April 23, 2012 2:32 pm

    Fabulous looking mousse, I would love to make this. You’re dead right about the Montmartre/Soho comparison! I think I must have been in Paris on my art foundation course trip around 1992 when the Toulouse Lautrec paintings were showing at a gallery on the Champs Elysees – I really regret not going inside!

    • April 23, 2012 3:18 pm

      The one I regret not seeing is the last major Lucien Freud exhibition before he died. The girls were smaller then and it was one stretch too far on the day we were in London. My daughter went on to have a major tantrum in the Tate Modern! Thanks for stopping by Sarah.

  17. April 23, 2012 3:28 pm

    So i was thinking i would make something for April in Paris too, but this is def. making me wanna give up ! they look AMAZING! the mousse looks incredible, and so do the pictures ! love lemons:)

    • April 23, 2012 3:51 pm

      Nooooo – I want to inspire you Shafeena …not the other way round! Thanks for the nice comment though. I could live without chocolate but not without lemons!

  18. April 24, 2012 12:32 am

    Oh, can you please take me to Paris too? The mousse looks delicious! From my side of the globe, both London and Paris are romantic in my mind, but Paris definitely has the edge – maybe it’s the attitude of the people there?

    • April 25, 2012 8:04 am

      Although Parisian’s have the reputation of being notoriously rude!

  19. April 24, 2012 11:33 am

    Agreed with you Sally, though it took me years to admit. In high school, I thought French was just fluff, later on, I have truly seen the romanticism embedded in the language. English is really stiff and staid in many ways in comparison, but whatever you call it, it is a very tasty dessert!

    • April 24, 2012 11:19 pm

      It’s a gateway to literature for me…as well as la belle cuisine. Cheers my dear.

  20. April 24, 2012 7:57 pm

    You should start a second blog with LEMONS in the name. You’re so good at lemony desserts (and I’m biased towards sour tangy desserts, so I’d be a big supporter). I’d prefer this lemon concoction over ice cream or any cloyingly sweet dessert any day [dirty secret – your lemon mousse would win my tum space after a meal, even in the face of a chocolate cake. lemon should really be the new chocolate.] Bravo!

    • April 25, 2012 8:07 am

      You have discovered my obsession. I looked at my folders of food pics and there are rather a lot with the word lemon at the start! I totally agree that lemon should be the new chocolate. However, I served these to a friend and KP and knew something was awry when I saw the look on their faces. They thought they were about to eat the white chocolate mint mousses I often make so got a shock when they put the spoons in their mouths!

  21. April 25, 2012 1:37 am

    Oh Sally – I don’t know how I missed this lemony post of yours. The lemons look so refreshing and so does the mousse. I love the tanginess of lemon – specially in Gelatos and Sorbets. In Sicily we tasted a lemon mousse with Limoncello in it – looked exactly like yours – slightly bitter but very very tangy. And naturally left us in ‘high’ spirits!

    BTW, do you think that the French also think that their language makes a dish more delicious? Just curious to know since I have the same problem with my own mothertongue – dishes named in Bengali doesn’t sound as delicious to me as it sounds in another Indian language – Hindi!!!

    Does belonging to FiA also mean that we get to taste this in person? Just kidding… will try and let you know for sure:)

    • April 25, 2012 8:09 am

      I can’t comment on the French perception of their language but a limoncello sorbet sounds good (better than the liqueur solo – not a fan!)

  22. April 25, 2012 1:39 am

    BTW, did you draw the Eiffel tower?

  23. April 25, 2012 8:09 am

    Yes I did draw the Eiffel tower (not some deranged toddler!)

  24. wanderingladle permalink
    April 25, 2012 8:35 pm

    How divine!

  25. April 28, 2012 8:49 am

    Beautiful photos. I haven’t been to Paris ever but would want to experience this soon. The lemon mousse looks gorgeous

    • April 29, 2012 8:03 am

      Thank you Anita. I recommend a visit to Paris if you ever have the chance.

  26. April 29, 2012 11:38 pm

    your photos are absolutely stunning! I had my ‘second date’ with my wonderful boyfriend in Paris, so that might over romanticise it for me – don’t get me wrong I love London – but Paris just has that je ne sais quoi!

  27. giftsofserendipity permalink
    April 30, 2012 11:10 am

    I’m not kidding, my mouth is watering!
    This recipe is definitely going into my ‘must do’ file and as we’re heading into citrus season I can see it having quite a number of ‘outings’.

    Your insights into Paris and the glamorous veneer that the French language has managed to imbue this city with had me nodding enthusiastically, although I must say it definitely is on my bucket list of places to visit, whereas London…not so much.

    Happy day and thank you once again for this delish dessert!

  28. April 30, 2012 12:17 pm

    oh my! my weakness is lemons…i have all the ingredients except the gelatine…so i’ll have to bookmark this till i get me some. thanks so much for sharing and have a great time in Paris xxx

  29. happyhomemakeruk permalink
    April 30, 2012 1:33 pm

    This looks refreshingly delicious, and your photographs are nothing short of fantastic. You are right about the difference between London & Paris – I’d never thought about it before.

  30. April 30, 2012 1:59 pm

    Oh, that looks so good! I agree, there is so much more glamor in Paris than London, and the language has an incredible way of transforming everything. But I love both cities! We took an impulsive trip across the channel this weekend, and just lost ourselves in food for about one day. Not every meal was incredible, but the love for food was so apparent, eating there was like balm for our foodie souls.

  31. April 30, 2012 10:38 pm

    Just visiting from the POTM club…. My mouth is watering–that looks so good. The post is really pretty too with all the yellows.

  32. Topaz Magpie permalink
    May 1, 2012 1:12 am

    Gorgeous post and gorgeous photos – I love anything lemony (the sourer the better!). My daughters are both asking to go to Paris now too… how dreadful…

  33. bronwyn permalink
    May 2, 2012 4:25 am

    Lemon desserts are my favorite, especially when they are fluffy. My five year old’s #1 destination wish is Paris. She specifically asked to go while she is still small. How can you say no to that? We are saving our pennies. 🙂

    • May 3, 2012 11:31 am

      I love city breaks with my girls. Rome was one of their favourites.

  34. May 7, 2012 11:27 pm

    Can I come with you???? I LOVE Paris – your teens are so lucky! I’ve been every year since 2008…..sniff, probably not going to add this year as one of the years!And yes everything French sounds incredibly romantic – I’m going to have to email you an article I wrote about Maple syrup and Produit du Terroir….This mousse au citron sounds wonderful

  35. June 23, 2013 11:15 pm

    So pretty and love your Eiffel Tower doodle. I always thought London as a romantic place- I love fog and rain- probably because of the endless Israeli summers. Your mousse looks wonderful- lemons are one of my favorite foods.

    • June 23, 2013 11:20 pm

      Looking back on this post reminds me to draw more often – love doodling! Lemons or chocolate? Lemons every time for me.


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