I used to hate Lemon Meringue Pie. It always reminded me of Lemsip, an over-the-counter lemon-flavoured cold medicine that always makes me instantly vomit.
I didn’t realise at the time that not all Lemon Meringue Pies came out a packet and that the curd wasn’t just a reconstituted custard flavoured with a peculiar lemon flavoured capsule of oil. When faced with such atrocities as a child, it’s easy to understand now why so many British people are still squeamish about trying new and different foods. If it isn’t flavoured by an innocuous capsule or powder, it must be feared.
Fear of food is something that must be overcome as soon as you are in the position to take charge of your own kitchen (or someone elses) lest you should end up refusing to try anything that doesn’t look good. Regular readers of this blog will have seen us chart the many new things that I have previously been squeamish about but tried anyway and then added to our regular menus. The best way to do this is to become almost intimately acquainted with your ingredients. By intimate, I mean being able to discuss personal medical problems without blushing, not just leaving the desperately odd message on MySpace accounts saying “Yeah, uh, how’s things? Remember me? You bought me reduced in the supermarket? So, yeah, I’m now residing at the bottom of your freezer. It’s pretty lonely here so if you get the time, drop by and say hi!”
Of course, I don’t actually sit and discuss my latest toenail fungal infection with a packet of chicken breasts (although, there was that one time with William when we discussed the merits of Andy Warhol as a filmmaker and whether he really was better than Dawson Leary – it could have ended up in fisticuffs had I not submerged him in brine), what I really mean is to know your animals heritage, the farm it comes from, whether it was intensively reared or lived the life of Riley on a farm. If you buy apples, do they come from a local farm shop just up the road or are they shipped from hundreds of miles away?
Whilst these questions seem like just one more thing to have to worry about in a life already fraught with discord and stress, shopping locally can actually prove to be a worthwhile and rewarding pastime. I have no doubt that most people that write food blogs find it no hardship to visit local food emporiums anyway but if it stops us from getting one step closer to the terrifying reality of eating food flavoured by capsules or that have concerning directions on the packaging that simply say “Just Add Water” then it’s got to be worth it.
With that in mind, here is my own Lemon Meringue Pie, culled from The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather. Her version, individual tarts with 3 inch high spiky meringue, are called Lemon/Lime Texas Big Hairs, the Big Hair obviously referring to the spikes. I wanted to make a large tart instead so used a slightly different sweet shortcrust. I also made a small one for photographic purposes, cute isn't it? Note that my own Big Hairs were much like my own hair, sort of flat and lacking body. I think I didn't whisk the meringue for long enough but it still tasted great!
I had run out of limes so had to make an all lemon curd. I used to think that Lemon Curd was incredibly difficult to make, something about the word 'curd' conjures up hours of stirring. Actually, it couldn't be further from the truth. Simply whisk together sugar, egg yolks (reserving the whites for the meringue), the zest and juice of several lemons over a double boiler, then leave to cook in the most gentle manner, for about 40 minutes, stirring only occasionally. Leave to cool completely, after which it will thicken up to a wobbly spoon dropping consistency. Not only can this luscious yellow curd be used in a tart, you can also use it to make a wonderful ice cream, serve it on scones, stir it through muesli or just eat it straight from jar.
I'm not going to list out the recipe here, suffice it to say, you should already own Rebecca Rather's Cookbook anyway. It is one of my personal favourites and every recipe is a winner.
There is also a serious side to this slightly irreverent post. This is my entry for Barbara, over at Winos and Foodies great awareness raising event, LiveSTRONG:
This particular event goes much deeper than just making an attractive piece of food, photographing and blogging about it. We all know someone who is currently suffering from cancer, has died from it or (hopefully) has made a full recovery. Whilst great leaps are taken every day to cure every type of cancer, it seems that there is always obstacles that cancer sufferers have to work through. Every case of cancer is entirely individual and it is essential that we are do whatever we can to help our loved ones through their pain and suffering. One in three of us will contract a form of cancer so we also need to be vigilant in keeping ourselves healthy: doing regular self-examinations, giving up smoking, using high SPF lotions when out in the sun and nagging at doctors if you feel that something just isn't right. Prevention is the best form of cure but many cancers can be treated if caught very early on.So, if you haven't yet made your yellow dish and blogged about it, do it today and don't forget to scoot over to Barb's site on the 16th May to coincide with LiveStrong Day and read everyone's amazing posts!