Celebrate the end of National Pie week in style with Sicilian lemons

Lemon Meringue pie
Lemon Meringue pie

As well as being Mother’s Day tomorrow, it’s also the last day of National Pie week.

Everyone loves a pie and you could do a lot worse than gifting your mum with a sweet one tomorrow. Traditionally these wonderful delicacies consisted of seasonal fruit encased in buttery, crisp pastry. Recently we seem to have lost the art of making a good pie. Restaurants tend to serve ready made ones – perfectly consistent in shape and size and tasting of nothing very much at all. Sometimes I’ve had apple pies that have been made from canned apple – I know this because they grate on my fillings. We should take time to embrace this treasure, toss it lightly in sugar and give it the respect it deserves.

When my own mum visited Australia in the mid 90’s she told us how my great aunt Gertie had picked lemons from her garden, in Geelong outside Melbourne and made them into a lemon meringue pie. The thought of freshly picked lemons immediately being transformed into this delicious dessert made me want to reach for the credit card and book a one way trip. Lemon meringue pie in my youth was made from a packet, with a capsule of lemon oil bursting into the rehydrated custard.

St George’s market in Belfast have Sicilian lemons in stock at the minute or you could ask your green grocer to source them for you. They’re uneven, knobbly, and like nothing you’ll see in the supermarket but they’re a burst of much needed Italian sunshine. If you can’t get them use unwaxed lemons. Making lemon meringue pie is a labour of love – preparing and blind baking pastry, whipping up a lemon custard and topping the whole thing off with meringue. But it’s worth it and a great way of showing your mum how much you care.

Keeping to the meringue theme, my other recipe is for a pear, raspberry and almond cake. It’s a fluffy, fruit studded sponge with a crispy meringue topping. With summer imminent (I’m being optimistic) now’s the time to investigate the bags of summer fruit that have been hiding at the bottom of the freezer. I’ve made this cake successfully with frozen blackcurrants and raspberries but use any that are available or a mixture.

This cake is lovely as a dessert served warm with ice-cream or with a cup of tea when cold. It will keep in an airtight tin for up to a week.