Lemon Berry Meringue (the party in a pie)

berry lemon meringue pie || cityhippyfarmgirl

Let’s cut to the chase with this.

Lemon Meringue Pie is the best dessert in the world.

The end.

Well, perhaps just a touch more. It has to be lemony, and tarty (and just quietly, a generous serving.)

I’ve been slowly building on my lemon meringue pies over the years and have accepted the fact that come birthday time, it’s a little meringue something that is to be made for the celebratory affair.

As the day in question was going to be a day that fell in the middle of the week with rather a lot of ‘normal’ things going on around it, I took it upon myself to create my own party in a pie shell.

As I’ve said before, I love, making my own birthday cake (or pie) as it happens. It means I get to make whatever I want and however I want. That is indeed a wonderful thing when I usually make things to cater for other people’s taste buds all year long.

This year there was no tweaking of last years recipe except for creating more “bling” up top in the form of flowers and berries. Sometimes it can just be ridiculously fun to, well, play with your food. (Even when your Italian Meringue doesn’t behave as it should and becomes the smooth oozy type. Yep, you just roll with it… keep playing.)

italian meringue || cityhippyfarmgirl

berry lemon meringue pie || cityhippyfarmgirl

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Lemon Meringue Pie Recipe can be found here.

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Blueberry Cake and how did two happen?

blueberry cake recipe || cityhippyfarmgirl helping || cityhippyfarmgirl

There is a little lump in my throat this week,

she turned two, and I’m not sure how that happened.

Feels like nothing since I birthed that baby bundle in a pool by the dining table windows-

I still think of the afternoon light and the peaceful way she swam into this world.

Turning two meant there was birthday cake with her favourite, favourite “blues”.

She helped me make it, but we had to be quick-

one blueberry in the mouth and one for the cake.

There was a doll- the most beautiful doll you ever did see.

And after that, she will be two and one day, then two days and so it continues,

gulp.

lady || cityhippyfarmgirl a little vintage doll || cityhippyfarmgirl

A Little Vintage Store, is where the lovely doll is from. Beautifully handmade by Jennie in Brisbane, Australia- I’m in awe I really am. Love, love, love that this birthday present didn’t come from a department store with a ‘made in china’ tag.

cake || cityhippyfarmgirl

Blueberry Cake 

300g softened butter

300g sugar

4 tsp vanilla

zest of one lemon

4 beaten eggs

600g self raising flour

125mls milk

approximately 300g blueberries or enough to cover the cake surface

Cream the butter and sugar together, add vanilla, eggs, lemon zest and milk. Then fold through flour. Into a greased and lined tin and arrange blueberries.

Bake until golden at 180C.

(Depending on your cake tin size, this recipes bake time will differ. Cooked as I did, it took forever (23cm)- but I wanted it tall. Baking it in a much wider cake tin will ensure a shorter cook time…or half the recipe, (but where’s the fun in that.)

little soft sweet white peaks of cloud

lemon meringue

lemon meringue

My grandmother once told me she used to make a sponge cake each year for her own birthday cake when her kids were young. That’s what they all loved to eat, so that’s what she would make, she said over a pot of tea one day. Kind and generous yes, and certainly in keeping with a birthday spirit. But… my 83 year old grandmother doesn’t like sponge cake. She never has.

It was probably never going to be a problem that I would have. Committed to my kids taste buds, of course. I frequently catered to their often under ripe taste buds. But committed enough to make them (me) a sponge cake? Oh hell no, (I don’t like them either.)

Several people offered to make me a birthday cake this year. I said that was so very kind, and then politely declined though. You see, I love making my own cake (or tart as the case may be.) It’s the one time of the year, I can make something exactly to my own taste buds. No chocolate, no lollies, no cream… no sponge cake.

For this years birthday I had lemon meringue pie on my mind, and I’d been planning it ever since the last time I had made it, (with added blueberries for good measure.)

“…but it’s not a proper birthday if there isn’t cake,” declared an unsure little voice.

 “Piffle,” I said confidently, “How exciting will the little soft sweet white peaks of cloud like meringue look in amongst a few candles.” Birthday’s can be anything you want it to be, that’s the wonderful thing about birthdays.” 

I kept that close in mind when I decided I would like wholemeal spelt pancakes, blueberries, mangoes, crackers and cheese for dinner as well…anything I want it to be, right?

lemon meringue

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And as my still fairly recent tradition of making something meringue-y for my birthday continues, so does my recipe list.

Lemon Meringue Pie 2013

Blue Cherry Meringue Tart 2012

Berry Meringue Tart 2011

A Rather Tall Birthday Cake 2010

just how hot is hot?

I did a post at the end of summer on my tiny gas metre box garden. Nothing flash. Just a few pots of greenery that keep me centred. The chilli plants happily flowered and grew, they even got through the Noah’s Ark of winter rain thrown at them. Then they turned red, actually they are still turning red. Slowly changing from subtle green, to come on- I dare you red.

Now when I planted these little fella’s I wanted something a little feisty. The packet said hot, actually it said piccante. It was an Italian heirloom variety. So anything labelled piccante, and I have high hopes.

Not gaspingly, oh for the love of god, find me a river and submerge my firey mouth.

 But, hey…Oooo, yep, that’s a bit hot right there.

Something like that anyway.

So they have been turning red, and I’ve slowly been collecting them on my kitchen window sill. A little fiery red mountain growing. Each day I wonder, just how hot they are.

these look like a completely different variety, but I'm sure they came out of the same packet.

Blueberries are also flowering. Last season there was just a tiny handful of flowers that seemed to take six months to actually develop the fruit. This year with quadruple the flowers, I’m hoping the fruiting doesn’t take quite so long.

Rosemary is also happy. I just have to remember not to remember it. It’s never happy when I give it too much love and attention. Neglect, and the odd whisper of I’m still watching you, and it seems to thrive.

There are some other pots as well that look empty, but have sleeping seeds in them. What’s in there though and I wouldn’t have a clue. I planted them one evening and then got rushed inside. Distracted for the next few days, I never quite made it back out to write what I had planted and where. So now, wouldn’t have a clue what was in there.

Never mind, who doesn’t like surprises….especially the plant kind.

Now, speaking of surprises, I think it might be time to find out just how hot that chilli really is…

Just how hot is hot?

Blueberry Frangipane

3am and I’m sitting in an armchair next to Little Monkey’s hospital bed when he broke his leg. The armchair was my bed for the duration, swamped by blankets I’d made a nest for myself so I could keep one eye closed for sleep and one eye watching carefully over the little fella as he slept.

In my hand however was a the most delicious thing I had encountered for quite a while. Not hospital food, but a frangipane fruit tart. Brought in earlier, by my very thoughtful sister from Brasserie Bread.

I’m not sure whether it was the fact that I was eating it at 3am that made it delicious, or it really was the best darn tasting tart I had ever tasted. Either way, it was superb and I couldn’t get enough of it. Fast forward 2 months, and that hopsital stay is happily a distant crappy foggy memory, but that tart….

That tart, was the kind of tart that makes you sit back, and let those taste buds reminisce. I put the tart in my, will have to give that a crack one day… thought pile and then went about my business. Until Amy at Tiny Tea Room posted on a pastry-less almond Pear Tart. Now with Amy’s stunning photography I’m sure she could make a white bread cheese sandwich appealing, but non-the less that sweet almondy goodness was brought back to my mind, front and centre…. and no pastry? Even quicker!

I wanted not crazy sweet, vanilla-y tones, and a gritty type texture….oh and easy. Let’s play…

Blueberry Frangipane

150gms softened butter

1/2 cup raw sugar

2 tsp vanilla essence

3 eggs

150gms almond meal* (1 1/2 cups)

100gms course semolina (1/2 cup)

125gms blueberries

Cream butter and sugar together, Add the vanilla and eggs. Stir through almond meal and semolina. Blueberries on top. Bake in a greased, floured tin (approx 23cm square) at 180C for about 30minutes or until light golden.

* I lightly toasted whole almonds, skin on, and then blitzed them in the blender to make the almond meal.

Verdict? It didn’t quite match that 3am frangipane fruit tart but I was happy with it. Super easy, and really quick. I think this one might become a regular favourite. You can easily up the sugar if you want it sweeter, and swap the blueberries for other seasonal fruit.

a tiny gas meter box garden

This, to many people with lovely edible gardens, back yards, ample sun, and green fingers will probably not be the post for you. This is a story of a couple of happy pots that despite their partial sunny aspect, and unlikely sitting position (on top of a gas meter box) are surviving.

When we first moved here, I was desperate for some greenery. I spent quite a bit of money on containers, seedlings, soil, potting mix, mulch, and hangers to go off the fence. The Monkeys and I trawled the streets looking for more containers we could grow things in. Carting them back home with high hopes of a sea of green down the side of our flat. Time went by, and I did grow things. I tried to companion plant, I looked up seasonal planting guides and tried to make smart choices with what I chose to grow. Some things grew, some things were eaten to stumps by usually slimy creatures of one kind or another. I looked up natural ways to get rid of pests. I went out at night with a torch to protect my little patch of green. I would check on these same pots as soon as I woke, looking anxiously out my window to see if they had survived the night.

Unfurl yourself slithery beast from those delicate green tendrils. Begone, and never darken my gas meter box again!

Time went by and I had got to the point where I was putting more and more money into my poor little pots. I was getting nothing back in return except for disappointment and frustration. Getting the right levels of acidity, sunlight, depth of potting mix was getting too tricky. Edible gardens in pots was just too hard for me with the partial sun aspect and resources that I had.

I gave up.

I planted flowers. Flowers that would hopefully attract bees. Maybe that would be something, a tiny something I could do.

Time went by and the pots slowly called to me again. I really wanted to grow something on that darn gas meter box and falling down paling fence. I didn’t have an acre, or a backyard. All I had was a bricked sideway apartment block.

I thought I would try with just one pot. Don’t worry about the rest of the pots sitting stacked up. Just focus on the one.

Rosemary. I popped in some worm castings, gave it some daily whispered love to its green stems… and bless my Birkenstocks if it didn’t grow!

It is growing, still growing. I tentatively added a blueberry, and it still survives. My dad gave me some mint. Despite being eaten to green stumps by minute caterpillars, it’s still with me too. (I went out and plucked the caterpillars off twice a day until there was none left.)

Mama, why are you throwing the caterpillar towards the road?

It needs to go for a WALK!

I got optimistic and planted some Italian chilli seeds, within a week green shoots were coming up. Big green leaves…hmm, I might not have the greenest thumb around but unless I’m wrong, Italians don’t grow chilli in the shape of cucumber leaves. (Presuming that’s what it is)

I also had a geranium in a fence container, two capsicums sprung up as a surprise package and seemed to suck out all of the life of the geranium while it looked pretty good. They then battled for top dog, couldn’t decide who was going to be boss so it seems they both have given up and are now looking a little exhausted from the whole ordeal and worse for wear. Never mind, I can console myself with my little patch of greenery to the right.

My little green gas meter box garden.

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* If anyone can answer a couple of my ‘I’m not so sure’ questions, I would be very thankful.

1/ What should I do with my chilli/ cucumber plants? Should I haul one out? Which one? (Given, that it’s a miracle they both look happy, and I’m a little nervous about moving either while they look so…alive.)

2/ Is it really a cucumber? Zucchini…god forbid in that tiny pot, pumpkin?

picking your own blueberries

Standing in Berry Sourdough Bakery, waiting for coffee. My eye catches sight of a rather enticing book; Locavore, A foodies journey through the Shoalhaven. Hello, what have we here?..The Shoalhaven is an area that sits just south of Sydney, and according to this book there is a whole wealth of wonderful food deliciousness just within reach. Now I already knew of a few, but to discover more? Well, I had to buy the book didn’t I?

One of the places mentioned is Clyde River Berry Farm. A place where you can pick your own fruit. Primarily a blueberry farm, it also has a variety of other berries, peaches, plums, nectarines, honey and jams.  A slight detour on a dirt road and we were there. Obviously very popular, as the place seems to be rather busy. It’s bakingly hot, the middle of the day and we still had a long way to drive with The Monkeys. We wander through the orchard rows, picking blueberries, nectarines, plums and peaches as we go. At least now, we had something to munch on in the car.

Munch we did. It was so lovely to be able to taste fresh fruit. Really, fresh fruit. Selected by the grubby paws of Little Monkey and Monkey Boy, nothing could be finer.

Some Blueberry tips:

* Let the berries stay on the bush for a week once ripened.

* Once the fruit has been picked, it can stay in the fridge for up to a week plus.

* If still uneaten after a week, can be easily frozen.

* Don’t wash them first before freezing, as they won’t defrost well.

Awhile ago a reader suggested I try growing blueberries after hearing of my rather dismal gardening in pots effort. The next week I went out and bought a bush. I still haven’t killed it, (hooray!) it seems to be quite happy in a pot, no critters have demolished it, and I have now tasted my very own blueberries from it. So Lotte, if you are still reading…Thank you.

sourdough blueberry pancakes

Clyde River Berry Farm is open December- January. 10am-6pm.