Lemon Meringue Pie

talians love this. This is a true Lemon Meringue Pie. Better than any I have ever tasted anywhere else (even if I do say so myself) . Taken from one of my most trusted recipe books – the Hamlyn All Colour Cook Book – my first cookery book, about 30-years-old, very well used, stained with old ingredients, the cover ripped and eaten by one of my dogs, years ago, it remains one of the best books I ever had. Here goes:

For the pastry case
6 oz plain flour   – 170g farina tipo 00
4 oz butter – 113g burro
1 egg yolk   – 1 tuorlo d’uovo
3/4 oz cater sugar   – 21g zefiro
2 teaspoons water – 2 cucchiani di aqua

For the lemon filling
2 large lemons   – 2 limone grande
1 1/2 oz cornflour   – 42g maizena
1/2 pint water – 275ml aqua
2 egg yolks   – 2 tuorli d’uovo
3 oz caster sugar   – 85g zefiro

For the meringue topping
3 egg whites   – 3 albumi d’uovo
5 oz caster sugar   – 142g zefiro

Sieve the flour into bowl. Cut the cold butter into small cubes into the flour. Rub the butter and flour together with your fingertips as quickly as possible until the result is like breadcrumbs. Add the caster sugar and mix well. Add the egg yolk and mix well. Mix in the water (I do all this with a knife until this point) and then bring together to form the pastry.

Use an 8″ (20cm) flan ring placed on baking sheet or one of those cake tins with the removable base (which is what I use). Rub a little butter over it. Roll out the pastry. The pastry is VERY short and will, probably fall to pieces easily. Don’t worry too much. Try to line the ring in one go, patching up the holes and gaps with any left over pastry. It will be fine when it’s all cooked. The important thing is to try and create a sealed pie base.

Prick the base all over with a fork and put it in the fridge for about 20 mins.

Now crumple up some greaseproof paper and open to fill the pie base. The point here is to stop the sides from falling in when you are cooking it as the pastry is very, very soft. Fill the paper with baking beans (I use dried peas or beans) – this is to weigh the paper down and so the base does not lift. Bake in a hot oven (400°F, 200°C or Gas Mark 6) for about 15 minutes. Remove paper and baking beans and allow to cool.

Grate the lemon rind. Try only to grate the yellow skin without the white pith. I use a cheese grater and use the smallest holes. This creates a fine breadcrumb-type of rind. Squeeze the juice from the lemons and add this to the rind in a bowl. Add the cornflour and two tablespoons (cucchiai) of the water. Mix well until it is smooth (no lumps). Boil the remaining water in a largish pan. Pour onto cornflour mix and mix well. Return to the pan, bring to the boil and simmer for 3 minutes, stirring all the time. It won’t look really attractive as the cornflour makes it gloopy. It will be quite thick but when it gets cold it will set, more or less. Remove from the heat and add the egg yolks and sugar and mix in well. Let it cool a little and then pour into the flan case.

Whisk the egg whites (using a mixer, if I were you – to do this by hand is too long and difficult) until they form soft peaks when you take out the whisk. Then, add the caster sugar a teaspoon at a time, whisking well after each addition. I leave the food mixer going whilst adding the sugar. Spoon out the meringue over the lemon filling. Try to make sure that the lemon filling is completely covered. Use the back of the spoon to make the top like waves on the sea.

If you have used a flan ring then, for me, it is better to take the ring off now. The danger is that part of the sides will collapse. Using the cake tin with the extendible ring, as I do, means that you can leave it on and then open it and take it off after baking – much more satisfactory.

Put into a moderate oven (350°F, 180°C or Gas Mark 4) for 15 mins. The peaks of the meringue should be slightly brown. Allow to cool.

Serve in slices. The pastry is sweet and soft and crumbly (and I use this pastry for nearly everything that is a sweet), the lemon filling should be firm and slightly sharp tasting and the meringue will be soft and sweet. It has the sharp and sweet taste that the British always love. The lemon taste is very strong but the sweetness of the base and meringue topping make it a divine finish to a meal. Enjoy!