Monday, 16 August 2010

Nameday Lemon meringue pie

No, this is not a special pie called "nameday". Name days are even more important in Greece than birthdays. A name day is the day of the saint whom you're named after, and as it happens, mine falls on one of the most popular days of the year. (Ironically, it's the saint that corresponds to my name that I don't even use anymore, but there's always reason for celebration!) The 15th of August for Greeks equals the end of the summer holidays, and as a matter of fact all of Athens empties in the beginning of August and slowly fills up again after the 15th. Ever since my childhood it signified that "last bit of fun" before the "having to go back to school" and the start of the boring winter routine (everything that is not summer, and especially not summer holidays, we call winter in Greece, despite the fact that winter there is half the winter that winter is in the UK. And everything that is winter is also boring).

So, to go back to this name day, due to an unforeseen friend's wedding I was stuck in London this year, but of course I had to have a little get-together to celebrate. In Greece simply everyone you know comes to your house on your name day, mainly uninvited, as everyone knows the day of the year that your name is celebrated. My name days were always massive feasts of purely desserts, late in the evening, sitting in the courtyard under the vine trees, heavy grapes hanging precariously over our heads. Feeding more than 30 people (who all wanted to try all the cakes) meant at least two days shut in the kitchen, and a whole evening spent cutting, serving and spoon washing (for the next batch of guests). Ah, wonderful days...

Since the weather has been pretty miserable lately, no grapes and no sitting in the garden could be applicable in the London gloominess, but there was dessert to cheer us up, and I decided to make this lemon pie which I had made a week before for my other half's birthday, and was a great success. So great that it all disappeared and he was crying for more (aiming his best "puppy look" at me), so this time I made a big one for the guests, and a tiny individual one just for him. The ingredients are quite enough to do that, so if you've got a small tart case, you can make your individual version for a special someone too!

Lemon meringue pie
Source: Adapted from ASDA magazine

  • 300g ready made shortcrust pastry
  • 4 tbsp cornflour
  • 425g golden caster sugar
  • Grated zest of 2 lemons
  • 4 large eggs
  • 150ml lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Roll out the pastry and use it to line a 20cm tart tin. Prick the base, lay a sheet of foil on the pastry and weigh down with baking beans. Bake for 10 minutes, remove the foil and return to the oven for 5 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C. Put the cornflour, 225g sugar and the zest in a pan. Gradually stir in 250ml water until smooth and blended. Heat until boiling, stirring all the time until it's clear and thick. Remove from the heat and set aside for 15 minutes.

Lightly beat the egg yolks and slowly pour into the cornflour mixture, whisking all the time. Whisk in the lemon juice and then pour into the tart case. Cook in the oven for 15 minutes.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff. Pour in the remaining sugar, 1 tbsp at a time, whisking until stiff again after each addition.

Pipe on to the lemon mixture with a piping bag, starting at the outside edge and working towards the middle. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Leave it in the tin until it cools down, and then put it in the fridge for a couple of hours.
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