Not So Mile-High Chocolate Meringue Pie

The silver lining in every stuff-up

Let me say at the outset that no matter what you set out to do in the kitchen, it is important to remember that the key to learning to cook well is to make mistakes.

I wish I could say that everything I make in the kitchen is a success, however that is not always the case. When I decided to make the mile-high chocolate meringue pie, I had no notion that it would turn out as it did.

The process of my not so mile-high chocolate meringue pie…

But let me tell you what went wrong: while the Carême pastry crust* was faultless, the chocolate centre was too runny and the so-called meringue wasn’t anywhere near stiff enough to pile on top (being a “mile-high meringue” and all). Once I had tipped the mixture out into the tin, I thought it was going to turn out alright…

And then it wasn’t. Mercilessly flat and dripping out down the sides. After my pie had chilled a while, I thought at least it would have firmed up a little in the fridge. I cut into it and it was like an open wound in my pie as filling and meringue slid slightly out, rather than making a satisfying cut-out slice (surely I’m not the only one who takes pleasure in the slicing of pie?)

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking, you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” – Julia Child

However, despite all of this, the taste was still enough to satisfy my chocolate cravings, almost feeling the happy chemicals hit my system as I ate, beginning on my tastebuds and warming through my heart. And while my pie wasn’t how it was meant to be, I know what I did wrong and my advice to my future self would be to whisk it thicker, baby!

Never lose heart!

“Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.” – Julia Child

*NOTE: Carême dark chocolate shortcrust pastry – I was excited to find – you can get from Panetta Mercato, where some of my favourite things can be found like truffle oil, the fresh fruit and vegetables of my dreams and a selection of delicious cheeses.

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Comfort Cooking

The art of pleasurable food

When I think about comfort food, to choose a favourite would be like choosing between hot and cold weather – there are pros and cons for each and, ultimately, they say variety is the spice of life…

Sweet potato macaroni cheese

But in the end, comfort food has the ability to warm us from the inside and brings us a warm fuzzy feeling which – as Nigella Lawson says of fresh nutmeg – restores a wonderful feeling of wellbeing. However, sometimes I find that happiness can be brought about just from cooking such food that I know is going to be amazing.

So in my excitement I made Nigella’s sweet potato macaroni cheese, which she admits is the best macaroni cheese she’s ever eaten. And she wasn’t wrong. The thick creaminess of the roux and the sweet but comforting starchiness of the sweet potatoes – mixed with good cheese and some of the many packets of pasta in my cupboard – was like a thick blanket was being wrapped around me. And it was even good reheated later on.

Southern-style fried chicken with aioli

Another culinary triumph I made in the past week was the homestyle fried chicken of my dreams. As I told my jealous friends afterwards, this chicken is better than KFC. Not only did I feel competent in my efforts, but well rewarded in the result (see above). I’ll admit, I added more cayenne pepper and seasoning than was stipulated, as I love spicy chicken; however one of the many pleasures of home food is that it is your kitchen and you can do whatever the hell you want in it!

“There are few things in life that can’t be improved by a little deep-frying. Chicken, I think, is the ultimate deep-fried food… For it to reach perfection which is very important, especially with trashy food, it really has to be balanced. In other words you need to have it tender within and a crisp, crisp skin on the outside.” – Nigella Lawson, Nigella Bites.

With the cooler weather on it’s way, I highly recommend trying these recipes. Whether cooking for a crowd, for a few, or for you. Happy eating!

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