Friday, 6 December 2013

Yuzu sweet to me, honey-pie

Yuzu and honey meringue pie

So, this week was my first (hopefully of many) supper club hosted in the little lounge located adjacent to the little kitchen. Although I’ll start supper clubs up more regularly come 2014, this was a bit of a run through with some hungry guinea pigs friends. And thank goodness there was a run through. My oven, for some incomprehensible reason, always manages to cunningly detect pressure of a dinner party ahead, and this time it blew its fuse three times on me during the evening. 

Other than that hiccup, the evening seemed to pass by well. However, the morning of the supper club, I did have the most absurd ‘first world problem’ that sent me into a bit of a fluster in Waitrose. I was picking up some groceries – one of which was a tin of lychees to make the cocktails (the mere mention of Waitrose, fluster, lychees and cocktails is already screaming of a first world problem, I admit). I went back and forth in different sections trying to locate the damn thing. Was it in world cuisine section, Oriental or canned fruit and vegetables aisle – who knew? Doing a trolley slalom between the grannies aimlessly loitering over what tea and biscuit selection to choose from, I soon gave up, looking miserably at a can of mandarin slices I thought could substitute. I couldn’t get too upset over the lychees, but it had left me in a somewhat deflated state. Until I saw the ‘cooks essential ingredients’ section, where a little bottle of yuzu juice sat waiting for me. What sort of supermarket sells yuzu as an ‘essential ingredient’, but fails to offer lychees? The latter almost seems like a pauper of fruits compared to yuzu, but there was no time to waste, it was time to get people drunk on special cocktails.

The silver lining of this fluster was that I now know where to get yuzu. It’s a beautiful citrus fruit originating from China, however widely used in Japanese cuisine. The taste is a sharp zing like you get in grapefruit, but with an ending warm overtone of mandarin and oranges. It’s one of those tastes which you’ve never had before, yet there's a familiarity about it that leaves you intrigued. If you see this, or ponzu sauce/dressing, in a Japanese dish – try it out. It’s great for salad dressings, however I was left with half a bottle after the evening and felt inspired to put my own spin on things.

Here is my recipe for an Asian inspired lemon meringue pie. Instead of a sweet pastry and lemon filling, I changed this up for a gingernut biscuit base (for a bit more crunch and texture) and a yuzu and honey filling. The honey serves as a mellow finish to the filling, as yuzu is pretty sharp on its own. What I love about this pie is the different textures you get. A crumbly ginger base, a smooth and gooey filling with a zesty hit, then finally a billowy cushion of white meringue should send any sweet-toothed sinner into pure bliss.

Note: it really does make a difference to use good eggs and good honey. The yolks from great eggs should be a deep orange, and not only does it enhance the flavour, but also visually looks beautiful against the white meringue. The honey adds more depth to the filling, and so don’t ruin this with your run of the mill honey – experiment with some different notes. I’m using here a Mexican orange blossom honey that I picked up in the Co-op. It only needs a few teaspoons, so you don’t need to use really expensive honey, but try upgrading from one you normally use.


250g gingernut biscuits, processed to crumbs
110g butter, melted
4 tablespoons of cornflour
200grams of caster sugar
290ml of water
4 egg yolks
30ml of yuzu juice (from Waitrose ‘Cooks ingredients’ section)
3 teaspoons of good quality honey

4 tablespoons of water
2 teaspoons of cornflour
4 egg whites
110 grams of caster sugar
Make the base: blitz and bash the biscuits to a crumb. Melt the butter and mix the two ingredients together in a tart tin, pushing down slightly along the base and sides with your fingers. Set aside in the fridge.
Filling: In a saucepan, heat the sugar, cornflour and water on a medium heat. Once it starts to boil, make sure to keep stirring as the mix will become thick and translucent. Take it off the heat and stir in the yolks until well incorporated. Pass this through a sieve to remove any egg strands, and add in the yuzu and honey. Place the hot filling onto the biscuit base and place in an oven at 180°C for 5 minutes.
Meringue: Heat up in a pan the cornflour and water till translucent. Take it off the heat. Beat egg whites till you get a stiff peak, then gradually whisk in the sugar and then cornflour mix. Take the pie out the oven and spread generously over the top. You can make peaks with a fork for extra height and texture. Sprinkle a little sugar over the top and place in the oven for 10-12 minutes.

Patiently leave to cool and then dive in. Forks straight in.

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