We had many raving, teenage, Christmas parties at our house, always on the day after Boxing Day. A lot of alcohol would be drunk and a lot of my Mum’s pasta bake was eaten. The most memorable image of those parties is of our friend Pete running round to his house in Cloverdale to get more beer. He left us relatively sober and after his 10-minute run, came back to us drunk!
One Christmas, we all arranged to meet up the next day at the Boar’s Head in Charford. Both Matt and I turned up, but we were the only ones there. We had been set up on a blind date, only we didn’t know it was a ‘date’. And the rest is history. I will never forgive them, however. Had I have known, I would have worn my best double denim.
This is Matt’s all-time favourite dessert, but no-one makes it as well as his Aunty Pat.
200g (7oz) plain flour * pinch of salt * 100g (3½oz) fat, half lard and half butter * 35ml (7tsp) cold water * 40g (1½oz) cornflour * 170g (6oz) caster sugar * pinch of salt * 220ml (7 floz) water * grated rind of 1 lemon * 100ml (4floz) lemon juice, from about 3-4 lemons * 4 egg yolks * 15g (½oz) butter * 4 egg whites * 100g (4oz) caster sugar
To make the pastry, sift the flour with the salt into a large bowl. Cut the fat into small pieces and add to flour. With both hands, rub the fat into the flour between the fingertips and thumb, or cut it in with a pastry blender. After 2-3 minutes, the mixture will look like fresh breadcrumbs. Add the water and stir with a round-bladed knife until the dough begins to stick together in lumps. Collect together with one hand and knead quickly and lightly for a few seconds, to give a smooth, firm dough. Wrap the dough loosely in cling-film and leave it to rest in the fridge for 15 minutes. Roll the dough out onto a floured surface with a lightly floured rolling-pin and shape as required for a 24cm/10 inch flan dish. Lay the dough onto the flan dish and fold in the edges of the flan. Blind bake by placing baking paper onto the pastry dough, then add in some ceramic balls or dried beans to weigh the paper down. Bake in an oven at 180°C/350°F/Gas 4 for 10-15 minutes. Leave to cool.
To make the filling, mix the cornflour with the caster sugar and salt in a large, heavy-based saucepan. Stir in the water, lemon rind and juice then heat gently, stirring until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat. Beat the egg yolks in a small bowl and whisk in a small amount of the hot sauce. Slowly pour the egg mixture into the sauce, stirring rapidly, until the mixture has thickened; do not allow to boil. Add the butter and stir until it has melted into the lemon mixture. It should be the consistency of custard. If not, heat gently, whilst stirring, until thick. Or add cold water and whisk, if too thick. Pour the filling into the pastry case.
To make the meringue topping, whisk the egg whites lightly, with an electric mixer, until soft peaks form. Be careful not to over whisk the whites, otherwise they will become dry and the meringue will crumble. Whisk in half the sugar until the mixture is thick and glossy, then fold in the remaining sugar with a large metal spoon. Spoon the meringue on top of the filling, then spread it out evenly to completely cover the pie. Form peaks with the back of the spoon.
Bake the pie at 180°C/350°F/Gas 4 for 10 minutes or until golden. Chill in the fridge for 1 hour and serve cold.
I have collated all my favourite recipes into one book, FOOD FOR ALL OCCASIONS.
This recipe comes from the section TRADITIONAL PUDDINGS, a selection of the best of British cakes and desserts.