Claudia Mair’s Modestly Famous, Never-fail Lemon Meringue Pie
Claudia Mair has made valued appearances in, and contributions to, Saucy Dressings since the beginning. She was one of the Classics consultants for the Patum Pepperium post, ‘the housemate of the arched eyebrow’ in the Sole With a Gold Dress post, and, more recently, the sous-chef for the Blushed and Nutted Cheesy Olive Biscuits post, throughout all offering much-needed encouragement and support. It was relatively early on in our relationship that I became aware of her near-celebrity status, among her close in-the-know circle of friends, as a baker, and in particular as a baker of lemon meringue pies. She very kindly produced one for me to try after she and I had returned from a slightly unnerving interactive performance of Punchdrunk’s The Drowned Man, sublime and timely comfort food, I could see how she’d earned her reputation. Today, of all days, she has very generously offered the recipe and method for publication.
Want to dress this up a little? Recently at Au Quai in Hamburg, chef Timo Müller, offered a fabulous lemon meringue pie with candied yuzu, a cucumber-Thai-basil sauce…. and to-die-for caramelised muscovado popcorn – this latter was a fantastic addition! (Try Tyrrell’s sweet and salty poshcorn!)
A very happy Christmas to all Saucy Dressings readers!
Lemon Meringue Pie
This pie has been a family favourite for my whole lifetime. It is a delicious treat to finish a Sunday lunch and, though decadently smooth and creamy, more refreshing than some other classic options, like a chocolate desert or crumble. It is not too rich, and the lemon flavour is exactly on the right side of sharp. I took the pie pictured above in to my office and my colleagues loved it, aptly declaring it ‘wonderfully light’ and ‘zingy’. I sometimes like to swap the digestive biscuits for ginger nuts to add a twist.
The meringue topping gives a rather celebratory flourish and the pie has graced many birthday meals in our house. To be honest, we especially enjoy the leftovers the day after a dinner party, with a cup of coffee and without distraction (perhaps just a favourite TV drama). Almost everybody enjoys lemon meringue pie and this one is scrumptious and easy to make (no custard making involved at all!).
I once made this pie, in some trepidation and in a great hurry, for the Saucy Dressings pen herself, the desert for a post-theatre meal. Despite no appropriate baking tin (I had to use a removable bottom cake tin – not ideal), and nearly knocking the meringue off the top when attempting to extract the pie from the cake tin, it went down beautifully. It’s as close as you can get to a genuinely delicious and special ‘fool proof’ desert.
The pie keeps well for several days, though the meringue topping looks smartest on the day of baking. Do try it for yourself. We think the recipe comes from my Canadian grandmother’s family, though we are not quite sure. What I am sure of is that it will remain in our family for several more generations!
Recipe for Lemon Meringue Pie
The pie will serve 10-12 people
- 1 tin condensed milk
- 3 lemons
- 4 eggs (separated)
- 150g digestive biscuits or ginger nuts
- 75g butter or margarine
- 100g/½ cup/4 oz caster sugar
- Preheat the oven to 180°C
- Crush biscuits (processor or in a bag with a rolling pin works fine).
- Melt the butter and mix in with the biscuits. Press them down into an 8″ tin round pie tin (slightly bigger or smaller is absolutely fine). Use a removable bottomed tin if you can, and ideally non-stick.
- Put the tin in the fridge for a few minutes while you make the filling (it helps the base bind together).
- Separate eggs.
- Zest two lemons, juice all three of them.
- Put the condensed milk, lemon zest, lemon juice and the egg yolks in a bowl and whisk together until smooth.
- Pour the filling onto the base in the tin.
- Whisk the egg whites in a clean, completely dry bowl until firm and then fold in the sugar to make the meringue.
- Spread the meringue over the lemon mixture.
- Cook in a medium over until browned (I do around ten minutes in a 180°C oven).
Done!! I recommend serving from the tin, or ideally lifting the pie out on the removable tin bottom, which you can then set direct onto your serving plate.
The alcoholic alternative
Want an instant hooch version of this pie? Try a lemon meringue pie cocktail from Letterbox Cocktails – not at all a bad option!
Watch The Drowned Man
Below you can get a feel for why the interactive theatrical experience of The Drowned Man was so unnerving – post-performance comfort food in the shape of lemon meringue pie essential.