Every so often I find myself craving a particular food after reading a (non-cook) book. Joanne Harris’ Five Quarters of the Orange made me yearn for fruit tarts and cherry liqueur and Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson brought on a porridge fest. From a very early age I found recipe inspiration from literature; I remember asking my mum to let me make stone soup and trying my hardest to imagine what the Hot-Cold Goodies in Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree tasted like. I wonder how many foodies start off this way, obsessing about food before they even start school? I even used to get excited by pictures of food; I adored the idea of the Very Hungry Caterpillar munching his way through fruit, ice cream and cake.
Continuing on from my recent bout of Nigel Slater adoration I’ve just re-read his excellent autobiography Toast; if you’ve read it or seen the BBC adaptation you’ll know why I fancy lemon meringue pie! Handily for me lemon meringue pie is one of my mum’s favourite puddings and she happily agreed to let me bring one to a recent family dinner. It also so happened that citrus fruit was on special offer at my local greengrocer so I stocked up on lemons, limes and oranges. After ruminating for a while I decided to play with a basic recipe by using limes and an orange in addition to lemon in the curd filling and making a sweet pastry speckled with orange zest.
Three citrus meringue pie
For the pastry:
- 175g plain flour
- 1 tbsp icing sugar
- 100g very cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- zest of one orange
- 1 egg yolk (save the white)
For the citrus filling:
- 2 level tbsp cornflour
- 100g caster sugar
- zest and juice of one lemon (buy a spare in case you need more juice)
- zest and juice of two limes
- juice of one orange
- 85g unsalted butter
- 3 yolks and one whole egg
For the meringue:
- 4 egg whites
- 200g caster sugar
- 2 level tsp cornflour
First make the pastry case.
In a food processor (if possible) mix the flour, sugar, butter, zest and yolk until crumbly then add a teaspoon of cold water at a time until the dough starts to come together. Test a little bit, if the crumbs stick together it is ready, if not, add a little more water and test again.
Handle the pastry as little as possible so not to melt any of the butter. Turn the crumbly dough on to a sheet of cling film and press together into a ball. Wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
Sprinkle a little extra flour on to a work surface and roll out the dough so it is just bigger than a 23cm x 2.5cm loose-based flan tin. Gently lift the pastry into the tin, press into the corner and flutes and trim the edges. Save any trimmings to patch up any holes. Chill for 30 minutes.
heat the oven to 200°C. Line the pastry with baking parchment, weigh down with baking beans and blind-bake for 15 mins. Remove the beans and parchment and bake for a further 5-8 minutes until the pastry is golden and crisp. Patch any holes with the trimmings. Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C.
While the dough is baking, prepare the filling.
In a medium pan mix the cornflour, sugar and zest. Juice the lemon and limes and measure out 125ml (mine was spot on).
Gradually stir the lemon and lime juice into the sugar and cornflour.
Juice the orange, make up to 200ml with water and add to the pan.
Place the sugar, cornflour and juice mix over a medium heat until it thickens. Take off the heat and stir in the butter bit by bit until it has all melted.
Beat the yolks and whole egg. Whisking constantly, pour a little of the warm filling into the eggs then pour the whole lot back into the pan. Stir well.
Cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly until the filling thickens into to a curd that falls from the spoon in a blob rather than running off in a stream.
Set aside and make the meringue.
In a spotlessly clean bowl and with a clean whisk, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add half of the sugar a spoonful at a time. Whisk in the cornflour then add the remaining sugar by the spoonful.
The meringue should look glossy but not dry and stay in the bowl when turned upside down.
Pour the citrus curd filling into the pastry case and smooth out. Top with the meringue starting at the edges and working inwards. Make sure the meringue touches the edge of the pastry case to create a seal. Pile the rest of the meringue into the middle and swirl.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until the surface of the meringue is golden and crisp.
Leave to cool in the tin for 30 minutes then turn out and cool for a further 2 hours before serving.
Eat the day you make the pie as the meringue will dissolve and collapse over time.