I love it when a food trend happens and I’ve got its number. Like how blancmange is panna cotta and pound cake is just cake, and avocado chocolate mousse is a stain on humanity.
I was looking for an American pie. Oh, pie. Great and round and proud and delicious, and less intimidating to live with than a layer cake if there’s noone around to help eat it.
On my pie quest, I went through the menu at Four & Twenty Blackbirds, and the menu at A La Mode Pies, and the menu at Little Pie Company. I realised that every pie I was interested in had a pastry case and a custard base.
Hold up! I thought. Rewind! These pies are custard tarts! And what would be the point in messing with a fake custard tart when I haven’t had a “real” one in a while? Especially given how deeply I love nutmeg.
Nutmeg for prime minister.
I went straight to Jane Grigson’s English Food and – tbqh – I was shocked.
I had (unfairly) expected a plainer thing. But Grigson’s tart had chutzpah. All this cinnamon and mace! Plus, rosewater or orange blossom “if you want to give the tart an eighteenth-century flavour”. Oh but that’s exactly what I want to give it! Challenge accepted, Jane Grigson! However, I also liked the look of Edd Kimber’s: here. I do love the shameless eggy, creaminess of a proper custard.
So, I went for something ’twixt the two – using Jane’s rosewater but not her mace or cinnamon.
This is an English garden of a pie!
Blimey, henceforth, splendid, tally ho.
23cm tart tin (preferably with a pop-out bottom), buttered up
200g plain flour
100g cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
Zest of half a lemon
40g golden caster sugar
Pinch of salt
1 egg, lightly whisked
A splash of milk (on the subs bench)
1 egg yolk
350ml single cream
50ml full fat milk
1 vanilla pod
8 egg yolks
70g caster sugar
1 teaspoon rosewater
1 whole nutmeg
DON’T PANIC, IT’S ONLY PASTRY:
1. Rub the cubed butter into the flour, lemon zest and salt until it looks like coarse breadcrumbs.
2. Add the sugar and use use a whisk to mix it through.
3. Add the whisked egg gradually, until the mixture comes together into a smooth ball. If it doesn’t, add as much milk as you need to make it happen.
4. Flatten the ball slightly (to make it easier to roll later), then wrap it in cling film and leave it to chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
4. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
BAKE THE BOTTOM:
5. Roll out the pastry and line your tin with it.
6. To blind bake, cover the base with greaseproof paper and fill it with baking beans.
7. Put it in the oven for 20 minutes, removing the beans and paper for the last five minutes.
8. Tip from Edd for preventing soggy pastry: Take your extra egg yolk and paint it over the inside of the tart case using a pastry brush. Put it back in the oven for 5 minutes.
9. Take it out, and turn the oven down to 130°C.
MAKE THE CUSTARD:
10. Pour the cream and milk into a saucepan over a medium heat.
11. Scrape in the seeds from the vanilla pod, and put the pod in, too.
12. Bring the creamy mix to a simmer.
13. Meanwhile, in a big jug or bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together.
14. Take out the vanilla pod and pour the hot cream over the yolks and sugar, whisking all the time.
15. Add the rosewater – half a teaspoon at a time if you’re (understandably) scared, until it’s delicious.
BAKE ‘N’ GRATE
16. Put the tart case in the middle of the oven and then pour in the custard once it’s in place.
17. Grate half the nutmeg over the top.
18. Bake until it’s set around the outside, but still a little loose in the middle – about 30-35 minutes.
19. Grate the last of the nutmeg over the top.