Sunday, 12 January 2014

Blueberry Pie

Blueberries are regularly hailed as a super-food, containing many minerals and elements essential to good health. I have to admit that I remember the very first time that I ever tasted blueberries was in a commercially mass-produced blueberry muffin, which was enjoyable to eat but was in no way indicative of all that the blueberry has to offer!

In my early twenties, I briefly lived and worked in the United States and was introduced to many of the culinary possibilities that blueberries had to offer, above and beyond the ubiquitous muffin – cakes, ice-creams, crumbles, cobblers and cookies to name just a few. Essentially the blueberry is an extremely versatile fruit and one that I believe that we should use more often in the kitchen. Blueberries can also be used in savoury recipes, where they can add a fruity tartness that cuts through the richness of other ingredients.

Although I have a sweet tooth and enjoy eating and making desserts and other sweet treats, I much prefer restrained use of sweeteners in recipes that include soft fruits or berries. Too much sugar can result in a “jammy” consistency which swamps the true taste of the fruit.

One great advantage of blueberries is that they can be frozen very successfully and once defrosted can be used as you would fresh blueberries in a range of recipes. I wanted to post a recipe that really celebrated blueberries and one where they were the main focus of the dish and quite simply, I believe that this recipe for blueberry pie is just the thing to do that.

I have made a slightly adapted version of the sweet shortcrust pastry that I use all the time but I have cut back on the sugar used to sweeten the blueberries. I have also used lemon juice in the filling and some finely grated lemon zest in the pastry as I believe that it serves to emphasize the flavour of the blueberries.

I created a lattice top for my pie, which can be a little fiddly to make, but I just think it looks so pretty. I love the way that the blueberry juices bubble up between the lattice strips during baking to give a really home-cooked feel.

Although I like challenging dishes and love precision in the dishes that I make, the reality is that I am a home cook and taste is the most important thing! I am not a chef – I cook because I love it and for me cooking and creating tasty foods/meals for friends and family is a way of my expressing how much they mean to me. So, this pie may not look absolutely perfect, but it tastes really delicious.

I would recommend serving the pie still slightly warm from the oven with a cold scoop of vanilla ice-cream. I have recently been experimenting with making different flavoured ice-creams and the nutmeg ice-cream that I made was also particularly good with this pie!


Ingredients:

Pastry:
185g plain flour
60g icing sugar
125g butter, cubed
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 egg yolk
Filling:
500g blueberries, fresh or frozen
85g caster sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
1tsp arrowroot
To glaze:
1 egg white
1-2tsp caster sugar

Method:

Filling:
1. Put the blueberries in a medium sized saucepan with the sugar and half the lemon juice. Heat over a moderate temperature until the mixture starts to bubble and the sugar has dissolved. Allow to simmer for 1-2 minutes and remove from the heat whilst you mix the other half of the lemon juice with the arrowroot in a small bowl. Add this to the saucepan with the blueberries and stir through.
2. Return the pan to the heat and simmer the blueberries for a further 2 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the blueberries to cool completely. Meanwhile, make the pastry.
Pastry:
3. Sift the flour and icing sugar into a large mixing bowl. Add the cubed butter and using your fingertips rub in until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the grated lemon zest and mix through. Add the egg yolk to the flour mixture and using a fork, mix through until a dough starts to form. Tip out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead briefly to form a ball. Cover with cling-film and place in the fridge to chill and relax for about 30 minutes.
To finish:
4. Preheat the oven to 180C/ Fan Oven 160C/Gas Mark 4. Lightly flour a 20cm round, 4-5 cm deep loose bottomed tart tin.
5. Remove pastry from the fridge and divide in two. Roll out half of it to about 4mm thick and use to line the tart tin. Add the cooled blueberries. Brush around the edges of the pie with some of the egg white.
6. Roll out the other half of the pastry to a similar thickness as before and use to top the pie enclosing the blueberries. (You can fashion a lattice top as I have done or just top it with a plain circle of the pastry). Press the edges together. Brush the top of the pie with a little egg white and gently sprinkle with 1 or 2 teaspoons of caster sugar. Place in the preheated oven to cook for approximately 35 minutes until the pie is cooked through and the pastry is golden brown.
7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Serve whilst still warm from the oven.

Serves 6.