Sinful summer temptations

As one who firmly believes that a melting sin on the tongue is worth two furtive sins behind the bush, I take great pleasure in concocting sins in the kitchen. Especially now that summer’s here and one’s activity meter has thawed into life once again.

Recently I decided to tackle two delicacies that most of us resort to buying because we think they are just too complicated to successfully make oneself: passionfruit ice-cream and lemon meringue pie. As with all my recipes I like to get down to the core of what makes a dish work without the frilly bits. Professionalism is the ability to understand what you are doing and to practice doing it so that you can get it right every time (barring earthquakes, electricity failure and your son arriving with a pregnant stranger at the kitchen backdoor).

Start by switching on the oven to 180C so that it will be ready when you need it.

Lemon meringue pie with lemon curd filling

The best lemon meringue is made with your own lemon curd, so the first step is making a honey jar of lemon curd as follows:

 Lemon curd filling

  • 50g (level tablespoon) butter
  • 200g (1 cup) white sugar
  • 2 eggs (beaten)
  • 2 lemons (juice strained through a sieve)

Melt the sugar and butter in a small saucepan on the stove at low heat, stirring as you go. Once fully melted add the lemon juice mixed with the beaten eggs. Keep the heat low and keep stirring until the mixture begins thickening a little. Turn up the heat a little and let it boil for a minute or two while continuing to stir. Bottle and let cool. The recipe works really well if you don’t rush it. And no, for this one you don’t have to use a double boiler. It was given to me by a friend, Sue Rushton, who got it from another friend, Jenny Henrico, who lives just up the road from her.

Rich shortcrust pastry pie shell

  • 1½ cups  cake flour
  • 100-150g butter (or cooking margarine) cut into chunks
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 generous pinch salt
  • grated zest from the lemons
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 80ml cold water

 Rub the butter into the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and lemon zest. Rub until the flour has become a yellowish granular meal and there are no butter chunks left. Beat the egg yolk in the water and pour slowly into the flour mix, stirring with the tines of a fork. Work quickly, then lightly compress the mixture into a light ball and place in the mixing bowl in the fridge. Never overwork flour when adding liquid, otherwise a gluten reaction kicks in which will turn the baked result into the Dwarf Bread lovingly described by Terry Pratchett. While the pastry is chilling you can make the meringue topping.

After half an hour grease a pie dish with a torn off corner of the butter paper (I like those pyrex dishes with the crinkly edges used for soustert, flans and shallow quiches). Put the ball of pastry in the centre and work it outwards. If your fingers get sticky then lightly flour them. Work it to the edge of the flat and then up the rim. Pat the jutting edges level with the rim and then work your way around the rim gently pushing a finger into each crinkle valley to give a nice ripple effect. Cut some slits in the base to stop it developing bubble bottom. Bake the shell in the pre-heated oven for 10 to 15 minutes until it starts browning. Remove and let cool for 20 minutes or so.

Meringue topping

  • 3 egg whites
  • ½ cup sugar (chopped to castor sugar in the blender)
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • remainder of grated zest from lemon
  • 1 dessert spoon of lemon juice

 Beat the egg whites stiffly with a hand mixer (not a machine, they mix too quickly – we’re not mixing cement here y’know). Beat in the cream of tartar, castor sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice.

 Assembling the lemon meringue pie

Spoon the lemon curd over the base of the pie crust (you will use about three-quarters of the curd you made earlier). Spoon the meringue over the lemon curd. Place in the pre-heated 180C oven for 20 minutes, turning the heat down to 120C ten minutes after putting the pie in the oven. Best eaten chilled.

Passion fruit (granadilla) ice-cream

We grow the large yellow passion fruit (Passiflora edulis f. flavicarpa) but have to beat off the monkeys to get at the fruit which is harvested when it ripens and falls to the ground. We preserve the pulp with sugar (1 cup of sugar to 1 cup of pulp), dissolving the sugar in the pulp in a mixing bowl over several days at room temperature before bottling (cover with a plate when not stirring). Kept in the top of the fridge or on a cool dark shelf it remains usable for months. Just give the bottle a shake every few weeks to mix up the pulp and natural syrup.

The ingredient proportions for ice-cream are: for every cup of cream you use 2 egg yolks, three table spoons of sugar, 40ml (1 tablespoon) passion fruit pulp. The basic ice-cream recipe (without the passion fruit) was given to us by a Japanese friend, Takeo Horigutsi, in the late 1980’s.

  •  750 ml (three cups) cream
  • 9 table spoons sugar
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 125 ml (half a cup) of passion fruit pulp syrup

 Vigorously stir the egg yolks and sugar until they form a nice light yellow creamy consistency. Whip the fresh cream until it forms stiff peaks then add slowly to the creamed egg yolk and sugar mixture, stirring all the while, until you have a nice even consistency.

 Pour into a 2-litre ice-cream container, stir in three tablespoons of the passion fruit pulp, close the container and place in the freezer for one hour. Remove from the freezer and stir thoroughly once again, ensuring even distribution of the passion fruit pulp. Cover and return to the freezer for a further five hours.

 Warning: this is a rich, smooth, real ice-cream that rarely lasts more than a day!