Category Archives: Dessert

Peach and Blueberry Pie

I feel like I should make and eat more pie. Particularly when it is filled with peaches and blueberries.What is it about pie?

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I always think food nostalgia harks back to childhood memories of foods your mother fed you. Or that you ate in the sunshine, without a care in the world. Or foods that make you feel comforted, that generate a feeling that everything will be okay. But for me, my pie nostalgia only goes back 2 years – to the summer of 2014, when I was interning at CooknScribble. It was there that I learnt to make pie; to participate in conversations about food as someone with expertise; and to investigate how people go about learning and teaching food in informal settings. And so I suppose it is a nostalgia of sorts – one associated with the USA, new friends, sunny days, outdoor swimming, cooking, baking and talking to people about food.

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But my pie enthusiasm is also not about nostalgia. It is about my love of baked fruit. There is little I love more than fruit baked with a little sugar until it is soft, perhaps slightly crunchy at the edges, and ideally, combined with oats and custard. It is why I love crumbles sooooo much. I know people write about their ideal peach being one that they bite into (or slice and eat), savouring the juices as they run down their chins. But I admit, I am not one of them really. Yes, I will eat peaches raw (or nectarines or plums or apricots) and particularly when we are in Spain, the fruit is perfectly ripe, and it is actually too hot to contemplate eating anything heated. But my favourite way to eat summer fruit is to slice it in half, sprinkle it with a little sugar and butter, and bake it in the oven. Then I can eat it warm, possibly (almost certainly) with custard. Or cold for breakfast the next day, with yoghurt.

This is why I love pie.

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This is a photo essay (with notes) of making this pie. The recipe is from Food52.

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First steps: make the pie dough. This needs to rest in the fridge. Yossy has you roll and fold the dough like you would rough puff but this did not achieve the flaky pastry I’d envisioned so I’m unsure of the purpose of this. I’m not sure why my pastry wasn’t very flaky – I may try this again to be sure but my pastry was like regular pie pastry, not like rough puff. Once you’ve rolled, folded and chilled the dough, roll half of it out and line the tin. I use an incredibly handy tart tatin tin. This has been one of my best equipment buys because it is so versatile.

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Blanch the peaches in boiling water and then shock in cold water so you can remove their skins. If your peaches are not particularly ripe you will need to do this for more than the minute advised in the recipe.

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You then toss the sliced peaches, blueberries, sugar, flour and lemon zest together. It will almost immediately get syrupy.

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Place the fruit in your pie tin and preheat the oven to 180C. Roll out the rest of the pastry into a long rectangular sheet and cut it into strips, and any shapes you like. Arrange these into a lattice a top the pie case.

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Brush the whole thing with egg wash and sprinkle with demerara sugar. Bake for about 45 minutes, until golden and bubbling.

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Allow to cool slightly before serving. Enjoy!

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Eating with the Princess: Ottolenghi

I was in London for research on a Saturday a few weeks back. Afterwards, I met up with the Princess at the Estorik Collection in Islington. From there we wandered to Ottolenghi, for cake. We found seats at the bar and ordered a chocolate tart with praline (her), and a lemon tart (me). The lemon tart was a truly fabulous dessert: sour lemon curd – the kind that makes your mouth pucker – with just enough sugar to take the edge off, encased in a crisp pastry shell. It was a precisely perfect 4pm-cake-uplift.

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Ottolenghi Islington

287 Upper Street, London

N1 2TZ

 

 

Cookbook Club: Ottolenghi’s Plenty More

 

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I made this ‘set’ (I think ‘deconstructed’ is a more accurate term but who am I to argue with Ottolenghi and Honey & Co?)  cheesecake for our inaugural Cookbook Club last month, which is an exciting new activity I’m participating in! I’ve been wanting to set one up for ages and finally organised a first meeting. Our first evening turned out to be a few friends with whom I regularly share dinner, but it was so much fun all cooking from the same book and sharing a meal. We all cooked from Ottolenghi’s Plenty More, which I chose because I love the book but hardly ever cook from it. We ate the cannelini bean puree with pickled mushrooms (and fried pitta pieces – dear god, what a moreish concept that is), potato cakes with mint that paired excellently with the aubergine pahi. I made the tomato tart and the ‘set’ cheesecake with plum compote which was a perfect balance of sweet, tart and crunch.

The cheesecake was so moreish that I made it again last week. Andrés accused me of not fully explaining that the cheesecake would not materialise as a cheesecake as such – he was apparently waiting for me to put it together while I was sneakily portioning it up and eating it when he was at work, totally oblivious to the fact that he hadn’t actually had any. (Which was obviously my secret plan).

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The key thing here is the cheesecake mixture – cream cheese, mascarpone, double cream, caster sugar and some citrus. The rest is infinitely adaptable, depending on your mood. You just have to be organised enough to make the cheesecake mixture the night before so it has time to ‘set’.

My mood was raspberry/almond/lime this time but really, I suspect any citrus and fruit compote combo will work here. Cherry compote perhaps? (Also with lime?) Blueberry compote with lemon? I changed up the crumble/base a little as I am an oat girl when it comes to crumbly-things-randomly-scattered-amidst-decadent-sweet-cheesy-things and so I added oats (and used almonds rather than hazelnuts because store cupboard!). I procured black sesame from the Asian supermarket near my ballet class. (I also found birthday cake Oreo’s! Which, come on! Birthday cake Oreo’s!)

You can find one version of the recipe here. The recipe in the book uses regular plums in the compote  instead of greengages. I used the zest of one lime instead of a lemon and also made half the cheesecake amount – which was enough for four or five after a large meal. When I made the cheesecake the first time I followed most of the recipe to the letter (apart from scaling down the cheesecake side of things) and the leftover crumble kept fine (I found it went really well with yoghurt and the leftover compote as breakfast food). When I made the crumble this past week, I used the same flour/butter/sugar/black sesame measurements but then added in a handful of oats and a handful of almonds (toasted and slightly bashed up). For the compote I heated a handful of frozen raspberries with a tablespoon of caster sugar and a squeeze of lime juice.  I made half the cheesecake mixture again too.

The best thing about Cookbook Club was the way it forced me to actually use a cookbook I’d had on the shelf for ages. (Resolution anyone?) We’re meeting up again this month and are going to do Nigel Slater’s Eat: The Little Book of Fast Food. I am already excited at the prospect. (There’s a recipe for Marmalade Chicken which sounds a) fascinating and b) like an excellent way to use up some of the marmalade stores!)

 

 

 

 

Trifle

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I don’t know if I’ve ever told you this but I’m obsessed with trifle. I had forgotten about this obsession until quite recently. It had manifested in other ways – my take on Nigella’s Italian Christmas Pudding Cake which I’ve made for several years for dessert on December 24th; my love of all things custard. But pure trifle, unfussed with, traditional sponge cake, custard, berries and cream trifle, I hadn’t made in a long time until we went to Spain (of all places) last May.

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There I met Andrés’s friends for the first time. We had a braai one day and they requested that I bring trifle as dessert. (They all pronounce it so it sounds like ‘truffle’ to my ear, elongating the ‘i’ so it sounds more like ‘e’, which makes it sound much more magical and alluring.) So I made a strawberry trifle. It was such a hit – gone in about 30 seconds – it made me remember the magical power of trifle. The power trifle has to make things better, seduce people, make you feel like the world is going to be a better place. That comforting memory of early childhood, where adults knew how to fix things, and the world was a place full of wonder and magic… (Of course, there are other takes on trifle, possibly not fueled by the same experiences I had, which you can hear about on this BBC Food programme or read about in this book, which is on my wish list.)

In need of such reassurances recently, I made what I like to term ‘freezer trifle’. This is trifle thrown together from things you already have skulking about in the back of your freezer. In my case there are always cake pieces and frozen raspberries (as well as emergency gin – like I suspect other people have homemade ready-meals, muffins and vegetables). Add in some super fast and easy vanilla custard, a slightly whipped double cream (and hazelnut praline for the funsies) and you have an easy dessert, any day of the week.

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So this is not a recipe for trifle as such, it is a collection of ingredients that can be used to make trifle. With the exception of the custard – I’ve given you the recipe for that.

Some leftover vanilla cake pieces

Sherry (if you have it. I didn’t so mine were non-alcoholic trifles. We can debate whether this renders the dessert something else entirely if you’d like.)

Frozen raspberries, about a handful if there are two of you, heated with a tablespoon of sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice. You just want them slightly mashed and a bit juicy. (If you have a syrupy raspberry preserve, that’d work too.)

One quantity vanilla custard (see below)

Double thick cream, whipped to soft soft peaks.

Hazelnut praline. Toss a few hazelnuts (about half a cup) in a nonstick pan until they start to brown. Remove from the pan and set aside. In the same pan, heat some sugar – add just enough to cover the base of the pan. Cook until the sugar is a deep golden. Add in a knob of butter and swirl to incorporate. Roughly bash the hazelnuts and then place them  on a sheet of baking paper, on a tray. Pour the caramel over the nuts and leave to cool. When cold, bash up so you have different sized pieces.

For the custard (This recipe comes from my cooking school days and so I think belongs originally to Sam Marshall.)

180ml full fat milk

1 tbsp vanilla extract (or one quarter of a vanilla pod, split with seeds extracted)

2 egg yolks

60g caster sugar

25g plain flour

double cream (1-2 tbsp)

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Heat the milk and vanilla to scalding point. Whisk the yolks, sugar and flour together until thick and no lumps remain. Temper the hot milk into the eggs. Whisk to incorporate. Pour the mixture back into the pan and cook out over a low heat until the custard is thick. (A wooden spoon is best here.) Pour into a container and cover with clingfilm to prevent a skin from forming. Leave to cool.

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Once the custard is cold, you can assemble your trifles. Layer cake pieces at the bottom of the serving dish. Splash with sherry, if using. Pour over the raspberries. Then distribute the custard. This makes enough for three (or two plus the cook eating what is left in the dish). Cover with cream and sprinkle generously with the praline. Let it sit in the fridge for an hour so things can settle. Eat.

 

 

Friends for dinner (and a reading list)

I seem to be immersed in reading about Thanksgiving this week. Obviously this is because I read and listen to far too many American things but I am rather enjoying all the reporting: confessions on what to do/what not to do with a turkey, how many pies to bake (or bring), whether it is acceptable to not wear a jacket and tie to dinner, how the table should be set. It is basically like a very complicated dinner party with far too many people and family feuds.

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Speaking of dinner parties, we had friends over for dinner last night (win!). We had a wine-off between a South African pinotage (which was superb) and a Spanish rioja (which, I confess, is one of my favourites). (Wine is not something Andrés and I are likely to ever agree on – we are both staunch wine nationalists.)

I cooked, because Andrés had been at work all day. It was a middle eastern-inspired feast. I made lamb baked with aubergine, and butternut with red onions and tahini, both from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem. (Suffice to say I am slightly obsessed with that book.) I also made Anna Jones’ flatbreads (you can find the recipe here) and a green salad. The flatbreads have become my go-to recipe. They are super easy to make and ridiculously versatile. Anna makes hers with spelt flour but I was out of spelt so I just used regular flour.

To finish, because next week is Thanksgiving and (as I said) I’ve been reading all-things-Thanksgiving this week, I made pecan pie. But not just any pecan pie. I made David Lebovitz’s bourbon-ginger-pecan pie. And IT IS AMAZING. As a not-really-into-eating-desserts person, this is a spectacular marry of fiery ginger and sweet, smoky pecans. The ginger (particularly the addition of freshly grated ginger) lifts the pie and cuts the sticky sweetness. The original recipe (according to DL) comes from First Prize Pies which is written by one half of the Butter & Scotch team. If you make anything for Thanksgiving, you should make this. (And you should serve it with clotted cream. Just saying.)  I also think his words on what happened in Paris last week were fairly accurate to what I was feeling. The whole trying to make sense of something that happened to a place and people you love when making sense just seems unachievable.

I followed his recipe almost entirely (I left out the ground ginger simply because I found I had run out) and so I am not going to repeat it here. You can have this moody picture of my pie instead.

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Other things I made this week included Violet Bakery’s butterscotch blondies. I am working on a post to share them with you but suffice to say I took a full tin (basically the whole tray minus the two I left at home for Andrés) in to work with me and by the end of the day there were three blondies left inside.  David Lebovitz has a post on them which you can find here.

The Thanksgiving Reading List, plus a few extra

Read about what they might’ve eaten at the first Thanksgiving. Some fairly logical dishes. Some unusual ones too. Eel anyone?

Bon Appetit’s Thanksgiving podcast. It includes stories about Thanksgiving and advice on what to do (defrost that turkey WAY in advance. It is bigger than you think.)

Thanksgiving desserts. (Also from Bon Appetit.)

Julia Child and Thanksgiving. Because, Julia.

American chefs in London on their favourite Thanksgiving dishes.

‘Eat real food and don’t worry too much – it’s the fear-free diet’. My kind of eating logic. An interesting read on nutrition, science and food fads.

I loved reading this. Food and art come together in fantastic ways.

I started listening to Limetown while I was cooking yesterday afternoon. It is just brilliant and I am hanging on the edge of my seat for Tuesday’s episode.

An incredibly interesting project that attempts to account for a past that was hidden. It makes me ask questions about how we forget/remember the past, and how we educate young people about our difficult and contested histories.

Nectarine and Blueberry Buckle

I woke up on yesterday’s bank holiday Monday to the sound of steady rain drip dripping outside my window. I had work to do – reading mostly, and some decision-making around presentations – but I also wanted to spend time in the kitchen. It is warm and cosy in there, particularly on a grey day. (It is best in the early evenings when the sunlight flickers in and, in truth, it is my favourite room in the house. I wrote the Foucault chapter of my thesis sitting at the kitchen table.)

I have been experimenting with buckles this past weekend. I cannot rightly remember how I stumbled across them now – possibly looking to use up summer fruit in a way that is warm and comforting. I think I was reading The New York Times and I stumbled across this video for making a buckle and it felt like the perfect thing to celebrate the late summer (yes I know, what late summer? Although, this morning – the first day of autumn – it is gloriously sunny). And then, if the NYT wasn’t enough, David Lebovitz’s post came through on my email last week and what do you know? He’d made a buckle too. So I decided a buckle was fate. Destiny. Meant to be and all that.

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The New York Times buckle.

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The David Lebovitz buckle

I also decided that, for possibly the first time ever, to do a bit of a review post and bake both the NYT version and David’s version and then tell you all about them. I have struggled to understand exactly what a buckle is – well, to find a more elaborate definition than ‘late summer fruit topped with pastry of some kind and baked’ (which could also describe a cobbler, perhaps a crumble or a crisp, and then it turns out the Americans have names like pandowdy, grunt, betty, boy bait, fools and the like to describe a plethora of fruit/batter desserts that makes the mind just boggle). And the two different versions are slight variations on each other too – David’s has a topping. So what is a buckle?

Apparently, according to Serious Eats, a buckle is named such because it buckles as it cooks. It is a coffee cake* with a streusel topping and as the cake cooks the fruit sinks, causing the streusel to buckle over the cake batter. Rustic Fruit Desserts describes a buckle as a berry-filled cake batter poured into a tin in a single layer, the top of which buckles as it cooks. Martha Stewart describes a buckle as a “cake-like cobbler with a crumble topping”. So sometimes a buckle has a streusel topping and other times not. Perhaps it is simply up to you and your own traditions which recipe you follow? They seem to be most often made with blueberries although I have seen a few recipes for strawberries and others with blackberries too. Martha has a recipe for a plum and nectarine one.

*Coffee cake is not, as I assumed, a cake that contains coffee – like the classic coffee and walnut cake of my childhood. Rather, for Americans, coffee cake refers to a cake that is good eaten with coffee, preferably also easy to hold in the hand. It is what you have on your coffee break…They do also often seem to have streusel toppings.

So with all this confusion and debate, I decided the easiest way to solve the problem was to follow two different sets of instructions (both American) and see what happened. I’ll be honest, I don’t think either of my recipes really ‘buckled’. But the tops did break apart slightly and the second one fell in on itself but I think that was because I took it out too early and had to return it to the oven. I loaded the batters with blueberries and nectarines, two summer fruits which I love but the truth is both buckles taste, and have the texture of, dense cake. David’s one is more crispy at the edges and soft and crumbly in the middle. The NYT one is cake-like with lots of fruit at the base. I can imagine how the NYT version fits into a coffee cake idea, it is easy to slice and hold with your hands. David’s version is more like a dessert, and with cinnamon rather than nutmeg to flavour the batter, I think I prefer it, although if I made it again I would probably reduce the cinnamon slightly.

You can find the recipes from the respective sites linked in above. I made half of David’s recipe and baked it in a small 16cm cake tin. I didn’t make the lemon syrup because I wanted the buckle to mirror the NYT one as much as possible. I made the full recipe for the NYT version, baking it in a 20cm so it was slightly deeper than the other. The NYT recipe calls for 4.5 cups of berries. I used 2 cups of blueberries and 2 large nectarines. David’s recipe only uses 3 cups of blueberries and it did seem to have less of a fruit to cake ratio in the final individual slices.

The ultimate truth is I am not convinced by buckles. I prefer a higher fruit to pastry ratio if I am honest and so I suspect my love for crumbles will not be outdone by these buckles, although they’re kind of fun to talk about. And they’re good to eat – alone with some coffee in the mid-afternoon or with creme fraiche in the evening – if you’re in the mood for a light, fruity cake. Below is a photo series of the making of the buckles.

The New York Times Buckle

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David Lebovitz’s buckle

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Blood Orange Black Pepper Meringue Pie

I started listening to podcasts recently. I’ll be honest, up until now, I’ve never really understood talk radio. When I listen to the radio, it’s because I want to hear music, not people chatting about some topic. I’ve always been a listening-to-music-commuter. But then my friend Jess introduced me to the Harry Potter audio books and I became hooked – both to hearing Stephen Fry read Harry and to audio books in general. I find it works best to listen to favourite books – like His Dark Materials or The Lord of the Rings – mostly because I’m easily distracted and sometimes switch off concentrating and then discover I’ve missed several minutes. This is not a problem when you know the story but it is easy to get lost in a new one when this happens. I even managed The Luminaries on audio although I had to restart it several times because I wasn’t concentrating enough at certain points to actually follow the story. But audio books are reasonably expensive and so now I am limited to one new book a month (which makes for about a week’s worth of commuting). So I’ve had to root around and think of other things I could possibly listen to and that’s how I discovered podcasts.

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I started off with the BBC Food Programme and Monocle’s The Menu. But I exhausted those pretty quickly (listening to loads of older programmes at first and now waiting each week for new episodes) and I started to hear about this podcast called Serial. Finally, last week, I downloaded it and, in the space of 48 hours, listened to the entire season. I couldn’t stop listening. It was so good. Clever storytelling, gripping story, terrifying in places. And I couldn’t get it out of my head. I keep asking everyone I know if they’ve listened to it yet so I can have a conversation about it with someone.

Anyway, post-Serial, I started to expand my podcast repertoire.  I remembered one of the girls I met last year at the LongHouse Food Scholars programme, Fiona, had started one – it’s called Shut Yr Pie Hole. And it is fabulous – random eating/interviews/facts about food, based in Detroit. And then, in one of those kismet-y universe type-things, Lottie and Doof’s latest blog post was for this Grapefruit Black Pepper Meringue Pie from Sister Pie in Detroit. Sister Pie (aka Lisa) is the other half of the Shut Yr Pie Hole podcast. It was like the universe telling me to make pie. PIE PIE PIE.

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I’m not sure about you, dear reader, but I did not grow up eating pie. In fact, I can think of only two pie-esque desserts in the South African repertoire that are related to the thing that is pie – melktert and lemon meringue pie. Now, whilst I am a big fan of melktert (I really should make some for this blog), I am not a fan of lemon meringue pie. At least, not the one I grew up being offered. (See here for a revelatory lemon meringue courtesy of Bouchon Bakery in New York). The problem, at least for me, is that, in my head, lemon meringue should be a very tart curd and a sweet meringue, the combination of which then works and is not overwhelmingly sugary. But South African lemon meringue is made with condensed milk which means that it is unnaturally sweet and sickly. Not my vibe at all. So I’ve never really understood citrus-meringue pies. (A plain, tart lemon tart, on the other hand (see what I did there?), is totally my vibe.)

Last year, at LongHouse, I learnt to make American pies – blueberry ones and cherry ones. I learnt about making pie dough (and lard), lining pie dishes (and how to crimp the edges just so), how to make the fillings (the importance of tasting them before you bake), and the various crust options for the top (lattice, crumble, whole). I haven’t made pie since then and so today felt like a good day to practice these skills. (And make dessert for later.) Plus there was the whole universe going ‘you should make pie’ and really, who I am to mess with the universe?

I made my own pie crust for this pie and, instead of grapefruit, used blood oranges, which, yes, I have been hoarding carefully, not wanting the season to end. I also halved the original recipe, not wanting to make an excessive amount of pie and, decreased the sugar and increased the lemon juice, slightly, to compensate for the sweeter oranges. I made an Italian meringue, so that you don’t have to worry about uncooked eggs, and browned it under the grill in my oven.

Blood Orange Black Pepper Meringue Pie
From Sister Pie, via Lottie and Doof

For the crust:
250g plain flour
60g lard
65g butter, unsalted
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp caster sugar
cold water

To make the pie crust, place the flour, salt and sugar into a mixing bowl. Cut the butter and lard into smallish cubes and rub into the dry ingredients until the mixture starts to resemble breadcrumbs. Add in the cold water, a little at a time – just enough to get the dough to come together.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough until smooth – around five minutes. Shape into a ball, flatten and wrap in clingfilm. Refrigerate for an hour. While you wait, make the filling.

For the filling:

1tbsp caster sugar
zest of one blood orange
2tbsp cornflour
2tbsp honey
pinch of salt
1 egg
1 yolk
2/3 cup double cream
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp black pepper

In a bowl, grate the orange zest into the sugar. Rub the zest into the sugar until, as Sister Pie says, it resembles wet beach sand. Whisk in the cornflour, honey and salt. Then whisk in the egg and yolk, followed by the rest of the ingredients. Taste the mixture – if it is too sweet, add in more lemon juice. If it is too sour, add in an extra tablespoon of caster sugar. Set the mixture aside.

Cut the pastry in half and roll out half into a thin disc. (Wrap the rest of the pastry in clingfilm and freeze for another day.) Make sure the surface you’re doing the rolling on is lightly floured. Turn the pastry between each roll so you maintain the semblance of a circle. Place the pastry over an 18cm tart tin or pie dish (the pie dish is preferable but I don’t have a small one). (I use a loose-bottomed one.) Gently press the pastry into the tart tin, pressing it into the inner edge of the tin. Trim the overhang so there is about 1/2cm above the edge of the tin. Crimp this using the thumb of your one hand and the thumb and forefinger of the other. Refrigerate the tart case for half an hour. Preheat the oven to 180C.

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Place the tart tin onto a flat baking tray. Line the pastry with baking paper and fill with rice or beans. Bake the pastry case for 20 minutes, until the edges start to brown. Remove the rice/beans and baking paper and return to the oven for a further five minutes. Remove the tart tin from the oven and reduce the oven heat to 160C.

Pour the filling into the pastry case and bake for 30 minutes until the filling is set at the edges but still wobbles slightly in the centre (“wobble set”). Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Make the meringue.

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For the meringue:
2 egg whites
60g sugar
60g water
pinch of salt
1 tsp black pepper

Place the sugar into a saucepan and add in the water. Cook over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and cook until the sugar reaches soft ball stage – 116C. (You can use a sugar thermometer or you can check by filling a glass with cold water and taking a teaspoon of the sugar syrup and placing it in the cold water. When it forms a soft ball, it is ready. This takes about 10-15 minutes.) Whilst the sugar is cooking, whisk the egg whites and salt to stiff, using a hand beater or in a standing mixer. Once the sugar is at temperature, carefully pour the sugar into the egg whites, whisking whilst you do so. The sugar will cook the egg whites and create a soft meringue. Fold in the black pepper. Spoon this onto the tart. Heat your grill. Place the tart under the grill until the meringue starts to brown – this takes only around 3-5 minutes so watch it carefully.

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Slice and eat.

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