I have told you before that I do not have a sweet tooth but yet, I am not averse to a fruit pudding of any kind, particularly if it is served with lots of cream. Whipped cream is a great weakness of mine, and I blithely ignore all warnings about the impact it may have on my troublesome cholesterol levels. Indeed, my children have often remarked that it seems to them that I just use a spoon of pudding as an excuse to ladle on the cream ! Anyway, this month I propose to share two fruit pudding recipes with you. The first, lemon meringue pie, has long been a family favourite, while the second, fragrant stewed apricots, although only recently introduced, has found great favour.
Lemon Meringue Pie
I owe a debt of gratitude to Myrtle Allen of Ballymaloe-fame for this recipe. She inspired it in a recipe that she published somewhere more years ago than I care to remember. For decades, lemon meringue pie was served in this house, either as a hangman’s pudding for the children departing to boarding-school or, as a treat on the first day of their return on holidays. It is a bit fiddly to make but trust me when I say, it is worth the time and effort and, for those of you who duck all recipes involving pastry, can I urge you to overcome this irrational fear and take the plunge?
There is nothing complicated or particularly skilful about pastry-making. There is also a feature of this recipe, which should particularly appeal to those of you who, like me, hate waste in the kitchen. Four eggs are separated but all the yolks and whites are used! One is thus spared the bad conscience usually associated with the making of meringue, when egg yolks have to be disposed of down the kitchen sink. (I don’t know about you, but faced with this situation, I never opt for the alternative course of action, which would have one making mayonnaise one didn’t really want!)
For the pastry shell
200g plain white flour
1 large egg yolk beaten lightly
3-4 tbsp iced water
For the filling
100g caster sugar
½ cup lemon juice
1 tbsp grated lemon rind
2 large whole eggs and1 large egg yolk beaten lightly
For the meringue
2 large egg whites
100g caster sugar
Pinch of salt.
You will require a 9-inch flan tin with a removable bottom.
Make the short crust pastry in the usual way and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Roll out the pastry and use it to line the flan tin. Return to fridge for a further 30 minutes. (Keeping the pastry cold in this way avoids subsequent shrinking) Preheat the oven to 170°C and bake the pastry blind for about 15 minutes using baking beans to hold it in shape. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
Now make the filling. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over a low heat. Stir in the sugar, lemon juice and rind and then add the beaten egg mixture. Stir constantly until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon; do not let it boil. Transfer to a bowl, where it will thicken as it cools. When cold, spread it on the pastry shell.
Next make the meringue. Preheat the oven to 150°C. Beat the egg whites with the pinch of salt until they are frothy. Add the sugar a little at a time and beat until the mixture can stand in stiff peaks. Spread over the filling and bake the pie in the upper third of the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned. Serve cold with large dollops of fresh whipped cream.
Fragrant Stewed Apricots
This recipe came from Matilda, who is carving out a reputation for herself as a cookery writer in London. She was for a time the special person in the life of my youngest son. I am sure that we shall hear more about her in coming years, as her stellar qualities as a cook and writer bring her the fame she richly deserves.
450g unsulphured dried apricots*
3 tbsp sugar
10 black peppercorns, 6 cardamoms or cinnamon bark
*I can purchase these in my local supermarket. If you do not have a large supermarket to hand, you may have to resort to a health food shop.
a handful of toasted flaked almonds or pine nuts
crème fraîche or Greek yoghurt
Remove any grit from the apricots. In a mixing bowl, cover them generously with water and soak in the fridge overnight. The following morning, drain the liquid from the apricots into a pan. Spread the fruit out in an ovenproof dish. Preheat the oven to 150°C. Squeeze the lemon and add the juice, the spices and the sugar to the liquid. Bring slowly to the boil, stirring to dissolve. Strain and pour over the apricots. Bake for one hour or until the apricots are plump and cooked in the fragrant syrup. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Refrigerate before serving with the toasted nuts and crème fraîche.