And here’s this week’s Salient column…
I think it’s pretty miraculous that it’s taken me until now to write about a pie. Let’s be honest, pies are one of the high points of baking. They are juicy, flavour filled and delicious. They offer an infinite number of options, with flavours for any mood or occasion – creamy, fruity, chocolatey, plain, formal, or casual. On a purely practical level, they are easily transportable and can be eaten hot or cold. Plus, every time you lift a pie out of the oven, you feel like Julia Child, Nigella Lawson and a 50s housewife (but without all the oppression) rolled into one. Best food ever? I think so.
This is a perfect celebration pie. It is incredibly rich, sweet, sticky, and unforgettable, and would make a lovely end to any special dinner. It’s nice hot, but I think it is even better when it is only just warm; the filling thickens, the flavours are more prominent, and it doesn’t melt the ice cream as fast. This pie is also good eaten cold the next day, especially for breakfast (all in the name of research!).
Fig and Pear Pie (serves 8)
120g brown sugar
30g cornflour (cornstarch)
300g dried figs
1 cup water
2 ripe pears
1.5 sheets of sweet short pastry*
Preheat the oven to 180. Place the figs and water in a small pot, and boil for two minutes. Mix the brown sugar and cornflour together, and add to the figs. Continue boiling for about three more minutes, stirring constantly to prevent it sticking or burning. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for about 30 minutes.
When it is cool, slice the pears into small pieces. Grease a pie dish/tin all over with butter, and line it with the pastry. Pour the fig mixture and the pears into the dish. Cut the remaining pastry into long strips, and place over the top of the filling, forming a criss-cross pattern (see photo). Bake in the oven until the lattice top is golden brown. Leave it to set for at least fifteen minutes, then serve with ice cream, cream, or yoghurt.
* This can be found in the freezer section of any supermarket. It’s also very easy to make yourself; my favourite recipe can be found on the Annie’s Eats blog (http://www.annies-eats.com/2010/06/30/basic-pie-dough-tips-and-tricks/). The quantity yielded is enough to make the bottom crust and lattice top for a medium sized tart tin.