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June 27, 2014 5:27 pm
One of the sillier questions one is occasionally asked is to state one’s “guiltiest pleasure”. Disregarding the fact that if one felt truly guilty about eating something (a few ortolans, perhaps, or a nice whale steak or half a dozen plover’s eggs) one would keep shtum about it, I absolutely refuse to feel guilty about my penchant for wine gums, a Fray Bentos steak and kidney pie or cheap milk chocolate. Some may think them guilty pleasures, they may even be regressive, but I see no reason to feel guilty.
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Serves at least six
One of my favourite childhood foods was the Lyons individual fruit pie and I hanker after it still. I especially remember these pies in apple, blackberry and apple, and strawberry flavours, although I’m not sure I was that choosy about which one I would spend my precious pennies on as I returned from school. Yet my internet researches make no acknowledgment of the existence of a Lyons strawberry pie – I have clearly invented my own childhood. We know we do this in theory but it is always worrying to have it so clearly demonstrated.
One can understand if the Lyons technicians in Cadby Hall – a huge factory site roughly where Olympia London is today – were flummoxed by the strawberry pie. How do you get rid of the fruit’s very high water content? I daresay these days, with the gels and thickeners much loved by the chemically inclined cook, this is not so much of a problem. My method is more primitive and does not represent a complete solution. As you can see from the photograph, there is still quite a lot of delicious syrup bubbling upwards into the top crust and the ingenuity required to avoid a “soggy bottom” is also considerable.
I do have a few tricks. I roll the strawberries in cornflour, which thickens the juice as it is released; a little scattering of ground almonds on the base helps to soak up some of the excess; and subjecting the base to a lot of bottom heat will also aid the whole process. The pie is unlikely to be perfect but it is as good a taste of an English summer’s day as you could hope for.
Small, sweet strawberries are best. Great care must be taken when handling the hot pie.
|100g||light brown caster sugar|
Rowley’s drinking choice
Strawberries with their residual acidity do not need an intensely sweet wine. A Monbazillac fits the bill – but so does a good Auslëse.
Rowley Leigh is the chef at Le Café Anglais
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