A show stopper dessert to land on the table at Christmas. Have it made in advanced and store in the fridge until ready to serve.
for the shortcrust pastry
225 g plain flour , plus extra for dusting
100 g butter
Pinch of sugar
1 lemon , zest of (optional)
1-2 tbsp of milk
For the lemon curd
3 lemons zest and juice
Half the seeds of a vanilla pod
50g of butter
100g of caster sugar
For the meringue
120g of egg white (3 large egg whites)
150g caster sugar
Blow torch or alternatively a grill set to colour the meringue
Try to be confident and bring the pastry together as quickly as you can. Don’t knead it too much or the heat from your hands will melt the butter. A good tip is to hold your hands under cold running water beforehand to make them as cold as possible. That way you’ll end up with a delicate, flaky pastry every time.
Sieve the flour from a height on to a clean work surface. Using your hands, work the cubes of butter into the flour and sugar by rubbing your thumbs against your fingers until you end up with a fine, crumbly mixture. This is the point where you can spike the mixture with interesting flavours, so mix in your lemon zest.
Add the milk to the mixture and gently work it together till you have a ball of dough. Flour it lightly. Don’t work the pastry too much at this stage or it will become elastic and chewy, not crumbly and short. Flour your work surface and place the dough on top. Pat it into a flat round, flour it lightly, wrap it in clingfilm and put it into the fridge to rest for at least half an hour.
While the pastry is chilling place you can make the lemon curd. Place all the ingredients into a bowl and place over a pot of simmering water. This is called a ban Marie. Whisk it all together and you’ll notice the mixture will thicken after 15-20 mins. Once thickened you can now pass it through a sieve to make it smooth. Tip is to use a ladle to push it through and sieve nice and quick.
Flour your surface and Line a 28cm/11 inch loose-bottomed flan tin with the pastry. Line it with some scrunched up parchment paper or some heat proof cling film. Fill it with either baking beans, rice or dried marrow fat peas. Top tip is to fill it to the brim, like right to the top otherwise the sides will shrink. Bake it blind for 10-15mins at 180oC. Remove the lining you’ve used to bake it blind and bake for a further 10mins in the oven.
Now you can add the curd filling to the shortcrust pastry.
Once you’ve that done you can now make the meringue. In a clean dry bowl whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks with an electric mixer. You should be able to hold them upside down over your head with the dropping. If they are too loose keep whisking until you achieve this. If under whisked it turns into a sloppy mixture.
Now add the sugar whisking small amounts in a time. If you add all in a once the meringue won’t hold its stiff peaks. Once done you can spread it on top
Of the curd with a spatula or even go to the effort of piping it on with a nozzle.
To finish you can blow torch it or pop under the grill for 1-2 mins to colour nicely. Place into the fridge until ready to serve. Enjoy Christmas Day with the whole family.