Lemon meringue pie. A glorious dessert. Or breakfast treat if you’re on my wavelength. My mum and I tried to make one last summer and had real difficulty get the filling to set. You see, pork gelatine isn’t readily available in the UAE. I had heard whispers from various sources that Spinneys was once THE place to go, but I have never been able to find it anywhere. We tried vegetable gelatine, but it was unsuccessful. The filling failed to set. With no intention of giving up at this point, we eventually settled for agar agar, a japanese gelatin alternative made from seaweed. Perfect, right? Wrong. The only variety we could find was red. So our lemon filling ended up being pink! The pie tasted amazing, and the filling set beautifully. It just didn’t look quite right! Needless to say, Mum picked a up a box of pork gelatin in preparation when she was in the UK a few weeks later.
So this time round, with the correct gelatine at the ready, we set out to make a delicious lemon meringue pie. It was at this point that we hit our next hurdle. We couldn’t remember where we had acquired the recipe the previous year. We checked all the regulars- Delia, Mary Berry, Jamie, and so on, but all their recipes used corn flour as the thickening agent! So the little box of gelatine, bless its cotton socks, had to return to its perch in the kitchen cupboard. It had travelled thousands of miles only to sit all alone in a cupboard, poor chap. One day, gelatine, one day, my friend.
We quickly moved on from the recipe kerfuffle, and decided on a plan of action. Something I have always struggled with is pastry. I can never get it quite right – it has a habit of just falling apart in my hands. Mum had tried an Elizabeth David pastry recipe not long back and said that it had worked perfectly for her. Really workable, and crumble free! So we chose to use a combo – Elizabeth’s pastry recipe with Mary Berry’s filling and meringue.
The outcome – a glorious pie with a zesty filling, firm base, and cloud-like meringue hat. I was really proud of myself! I have even made plans to make little mini bite-size versions. They would be perfect for a party. Recipe below!
For the pastry
250 g plain flour, sieved
60g unsalted butter
1/ Place flour in a bowl, and make a well in the centre.
2/ Add butter (cut into small pieces), egg, and a good pinch of salt, then blend quickly but lightly with fingertips.
3/ Add a small amount of water – just enough to bring the dough together into a ball.
4/ Place the ball on a floured board, and kneed gently for a few minutes to make a smooth dough. Roll into a ball, wrap in clingfilm, and place in the fridge to rest for at least 2 hours.
5/ Remove dough from fridge, roll dough out to about 3mm in thickness on a lightly-floured surface.
6/ Transfer the dough to a greased and lined a 23cm/9in loose-bottomed flan tin, prick all over with a fork, and place in fridge for a further 30 minutes.
7/ Line the pastry case with parchment and fill with baking beans. Bake for about 15 minutes at 180°C then remove the beans and parchment and return to the oven for a further five minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 170°C.
For the lemon filling
6 lemons, zest and juice
250g caster sugar
6 egg yolks
1/ Mix the lemon zest and juice with the cornflour and stir to form a smooth paste.
2/ Measure 450ml of water into a pan and bring to the boil. Add the lemon cornflour mixture to the hot water and stir over the heat until the mixture has thickened, then remove from the heat.
3/ In a bowl mix together the sugar and egg yolks and carefully whisk into the lemon mixture in the pan. Stir over a medium heat until thickened. Set aside for a few minutes and then pour into the baked pastry case.
For the meringue topping
4 egg whites
225g caster sugar
2 tsp cornflour
1/ Whisk the egg whites in a free-standing mixer until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed.
2/ Add the caster sugar a little at a time, still whisking until the meringue is stiff and glossy. Add the cornflour and whisk again.
3/ Spoon on top of the filled pastry case and spread the meringue to completely cover the lemon filling. Then create a swirl on the top of the meringue.
4/ Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes until the filling is completely set and the meringue is lightly golden and crisp. Serve warm or cold.