04/01/2006

Lemon Meringue Pie

serves 4-6

pastry:
160g flour
pinch of salt (optional)
80g margarine
1-2 tsp cold water

filling and topping:
4 tblsp cornflour
300ml water
25g butter
grated rind and juice of two lemons
2 eggs, separated
150g sugar

Method:
Make the pastry in a food processor, or by hand (rub fat into flour then bind with water). Roll out on a floured surface, and use it to line a 20cm flan dish or shallow cake tin. Bake on its own at 190C for about 15-20 minutes.

Blend the cornflour with a little water in a small pan. Add the remaining water and butter, and bring to the boil slowly, stirring all the time. Cook, stirring, for three minutes. Remove from the heat, then add the lemon juice and rind, egg yolks, and 50g of the sugar. Pour into pastry.

Whisk the egg whites stiffly, then whisk in 50g of sugar and fold in the rest. Spread over the filling. Bake at 160C for 20-25 minutes. Serve hot or cold.

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Not, perhaps, the simplest of desserts but one of the most delicious, particularly with fresh lemons picked from the garden! If you buy lemons, make sure they're unwaxed (preferably organic) and wash well prior to grating the rind. Just grate the yellow bit, not any of the white pith.

The easiest way to make pastry is to throw the ingredients in a food processor, then process (with metal or plastic blade) until a ball is formed. If it doesn't go together, add a tad more cold water until it does. Too much water makes it difficult to roll, so just add tiny amounts. By hand it's much messier: use fingertips to rub the margarine in the flour gently between the fingers and thumbs, shaking every so often until the whole looks a bit like breadcrumbs. Then use a knife to mix in the water - again, add just a little at a time, and try to gather it into a ball. If it goes together, knead it slightly and it should be slightly pliable.

Of course you could always buy a 250g pack of ready-made pastry and use that instead. It won't taste so good, and may have some additives, but it's less messy than making your own.

Roll the pastry on a well-floured surface using a floured rolling-pin. Turn it so it rolls evenly and makes an approximate circle.

When whisking the egg whites to make the meringue topping, it's much easiest to use an electric whisk. If you don't have one, a hand-whisk with a handle to turn will work but takes longer. A balloon whisk without a turning-handle might possibly work but would take ages!

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