Lemon Meringue Pie and Dark Brooding about Meal Planning

I used to work with a lovely Cypriot called Christina who gave me her mother-in-law’s recipe for Lemon Meringue Pie about 10 years ago. I found it the week before Easter as I was forlornly thinking what to bake for a dessert for an upcoming family meal. I also wanted to use this gorgeous red clafoutis/pie dish that Celia sent me for an Easter gift made by Emile Henri. I couldn’t take a decent photo of it for some reason so I have attempted to draw it with the Paper 53 app on the iPad. I’ve ordered a stylus as my finger isn’t the easiest thing to draw with – or that’s my excuse!

I confess, though you may find this hard to believe, that I absolutely loathe planning meals to the point of hysteria and phobia. Some people like nothing more than pouring poring over their cook books and rifling through their recipes and I just get swamped with choice and possibility and want to hide under the duvet. I am not really a foodie you see, I like eating it and I quite like making bread in particular, but that’s not usually tied in to meal planning –  but the rest of the hoo-hah surrounding food – it’s just not me. I try to play along but you won’t find me on Come Dine with Me ever.

I have been puzzling about this one as it is fairly dysfunctional of me and it comes down to three key things:

I don’t like choosing for other people what they are going to eat.


I want other people to be happy with the food on their plates.


I want all the food to arrive on the table in perfect condition at the right time.

I’m working on it – so if you have fool proof three or more course menus which tick the not too heavy on the fats (everyone watching their weight)  not too over the top on meats,  nice veggies,  no fish(family member hates fish) , no nuts (one allergy family member) , no sweet milk, no berries (another allergy person) foolproof menus for my family get togethers, with most of it made beforehand so I can relax a bit then please send them over here. It’s about time I got the hang of this. I do have loads of books, but the more I read, the less able I am to make choices. I will never make a proper foodie!

However, let’s stay positive, once I decided on making this I was quite content with the dessert side of things.  Most people seem to like, soft over the top fluffy meringue and sharp-sweet lemon filling, that you can pile on your plate and yet not feel ridiculously stuffed when you have eaten it. In fact we had a two pudding Easter Lunch, with this pie and a lovely fruit salad (dressed with left over hot cross bun glaze, curacao and lemon juice with home made vanilla yoghurt). I was quite surprised at my family’s enthusiasm for puddings.

What else did we have? We had the first English asparagus from Somerset as a starter, with a melted butter and lemon sauce. My sister’s tip : Just melt the butter in the microwave and then whisk lemon juice into it while it is warm. Ace idea!

Then we had a rolled loin of pork off the bone which was roasted with garden herbs and sliced faster than you could say knife; served with roast new potatoes and cherry tomatoes. My sister made a wonderful green salsa with green peppercorns and anchovies and green herbs,  plus a roast red pepper sauce to go with it, she is a far better cook than me –  and a pile of steamed purple broccoli that didn’t want to cook but no one said anything about it.

I would do the roast new potatoes again as you hardly need any oil to cook them in. You wash and scrub them, parboil them for 5 minutes. let them sit in the colander so they are fairly dry by the time you pop them in the oven in a spoonful of oil with cherry tomatoes tucked around them and any herbs or seasoning you fancy. They take about 45 – 50 minutes in a 200 C oven and look very pretty when they come out. No peeling involved!  The cherry tomatoes retain their shape too and cheer up the potatoes no end.

Christina’s Mother’s Lemon Meringue Pie


  • 250 g ( 8 oz) plain flour
  • 30g (1 oz) icing sugar
  • 125g (4 oz) chilled cubed butter
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tbsps cold water

For the Filling

  • Grated zest and juice of 4 large lemons (mine were huge!)
  • 90 g (3 oz) cornflour
  • 600 ml (1 pint) water
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 175g (6 oz) caster sugar

For the Meringue

  • 5 egg whites
  • 250 g (8 oz) caster sugar

You also need

  • 25 cm (10 inch) loose bottomed fluted flan tin
  • baking beans or dried pulses, I used chickpeas


  1. Sift flour and icing sugar iinto a large bowl. Add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs
  2. Mix in the egg yolk and enough cold water to make a soft pliable dough. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for 30 minutes
  3. Roll out the dough on a floured surface and fit it gently into the dish. I use a round ball of dough to ease the pastry into the corners. I cut it with about a 1 cm overlap and folded the top bit down to make a nice solid edge to the pie.
  4. Bake the pastry blind. To do this prick the pastry shell all over with a fork. Press a piece of foil or greaseproof paper into the pastry shell, smoothing it over the bottom and up the side of the shell, very tricky with this dish, I used several bits of paper to do this.
  5. Fill the shell with baking beans, and bake in a preheated oven at 200 C (400 F, Gas 6) for 10 minutes.
  6. Remove beans and foiil and bake for a further five minutes or until the base has dried out. Remove the shell from the oven and reduce the temperature to 150 C (300 F Gas 2)
  7. Mix the lemon zest and juice with the cornflour in a small bowl. Bring the water to the boil, then stir into the lemon cornflour mixture. Return to the pan and bring back to a boil, stirring until the mixture thickens and if you taste it you can’t taste the floury taste anymore.
  8. Leave to cool slightly, then whisk in the egg yolks and sugar. Return to a low heat and cook, stirring until just simmering. Pour the filling into the shell.
  9. Whisk the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Whisk in the sugar 1 tsp at a time. Pile on top of the filling and spread over. Stand your dish on a tray, just in case it leaks, mine did a bit.  Bake for 45 minutes or until crisp and brown. Serve warm or cold.

I suspect that this recipe probably comes out of a book somewhere along the line but I don’t know which one as all I have are Christina’s hand written notes, so if it looks horribly familiar please let me know. Lemon meringue is a classic pie though and I doubt it belongs to anyone in particular. If you want to tell me about your Easter meals, I am all ears, particularly on how you solve the minimising anxiety and making everyone happy thing.

48 thoughts on “Lemon Meringue Pie and Dark Brooding about Meal Planning

  1. tutak

    It was delicious. All of it. But you must stop pouring over the cook books, it could get very messy. Paw them instead? xxx

    1. Joanna Post author

      poring? pawing? not pour? poring…. oh bum… which is it dearest?

      Edit : I have looked it up ‘poring over books’ homophones honestly -that will teach me to employ a cliché I’ve never used before…. Mutter, grumble, winge…. :(

  2. sallybr

    Joanna, what a great post! First, it taught me a new word in English, and I love that! Dark Brooding! Now I will be dark brooding over cake baking, and will think of you as my hysteria hits… don’t you love company in dark situations? ;-)

    Meal planning can be so tricky. I think the more cookbooks a person owns, the worse it gets. Too many options, too many choices = too much anxiety in the process.

    but, your lemon meringue pie turned out picture perfect, and you should be proud!

    1. Joanna Post author

      Dark Brooding, Furrowed Brows, Small Hot Tears of Rage. I have to laugh now I am out the other side of the festive melt down season. I forgot about you and the cakes, I do love company in the dark xxx

      PS …h it’s not just the cookbooks any more is it? It’s the whole of the darned internet as well….

  3. Debra Kolkka

    I want to come to your place for lunch!!!! I’ll eat anything you prepare. I eat meat, fish, peanuts, have no allergies, don’t mind a bit of fat….can I come???

    1. Joanna Post author

      I love guests, I just don’t want to choose what to cook, but you would be most welcome anytime :)

  4. Lynne

    Ah that is a PROPER lemon meringue pie… I don’t like the modern habit of using lemon curd, it is too heavy and sickly sweet. The lemon meringue pie filling of my childhood is this slightly gelled yet opaque texture, only achieved by cornflour and egg yolks.

    As a child, all lemon meringue pie filling was from a packet, it was basically cornflour and sugar, with a lemon oil capsule, and you added an egg yolk as you brought it up to a boil. It wasn’t until I was a lot older, and read the labels, that I realised you could just as easily (and more deliciously) make it yourself.

  5. Ray

    Great drawing – you be able to illustrate your own bread book!

    I have looking at your friend Nils’ blog and kindle book on German bread. Very interesting they are too.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thank you! Yes, Nils is a very fine baker, lots of good things in his work – glad you have found his blog Ray :)

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thankyou KV! How nice of you to say. Tutak improvised as I didn’t have all the ingredients she wanted, I will ask her for a recipe or maybe she might do a guest post on sauces … I will try and persuade her :)

        1. Joanna Post author

          From Tutak for you :-

          “You could look up salsa verde and find correct proportions, try Nigel Slater ” Click on Nigel’s name above for the link to his classic salsa verde recipe in the Guardian last year.

          She goes on to say….

          or (as she did on Sunday for us)

          shove some flat leaf parsley, fresh mint, basil if you have it (works fine without), largish clove of garlic, spoon of mustard (dijon or English as long as it’s smooth, not seedy which I hate), a couple of anchovies, capers-in-salt with the salt washed off, table spoon of red wine vinegar  into a processor (preferably use the stick variety as it then doesn’t get too smooth, maintains some leafy texture) and add some oil if it seems too sticky….

          1. Kitchen Vivacity

            Hi, Joanna. Thanks for asking your sister about the recipe. I found Nigel Slater’s one under the following link: Brilliant, I’m trying this out at the weekend:)

            You’re welcome ! Just Edited this as if you click on Nigel Slater’s name in my reply above it goes to the recipe. I leave the full link out as it extends beyond the side of the comment box and have made it a hyperlink instead.

            I will amend my reply above to make it clearer that it goes to Nigel’s recipe if you click on it.

  6. ninopane

    Absolutely lush looking pie, brings back all sort of childhood memories.

    I cooked for my parents this year, always a challenge with a Sicilian Dad who is conservative (with a large C) when it comes to food!

    I played it safe with a lovely roast leg of Lamb. The old adage “you get what you you pay for” really proved to be the case with the lamb which came from our local but expensive butcher which meant that the trimmings could be kept simple (carrots in butter, honey & thyme and French beans lightly dressed in olive oil and lemon)

    The roast spuds ended up as a cross between the way I do them and my mum’s recipe but everyone seemed to like them whilst the gravy was a slight journey into the unknown as my OH who is the gravy expert had strangely gone walkabout!

    Fortunately my mum has one of those induction hobs which meant that the veg and gravy could be done in no time at all whilst the meat rested so the “bringing it all together without it going stone cold “anxiety was kept to a minimum

    Dessert was a mixture of out of season berries ( blue, rasp and straw brought together with squeezed passion fruit to be precise)

    The highlight of the meal for me was not the all the clean plates around me rather the bottle of 20 year old Zibbibo wine my Dad dug out.

    A Sicilian version of a Muscat desert wine made from grapes left to dry out on the vine, 20 years in the bottle had done it no harm at all and it universally warmed the cockles of everyone’s heart who drank it..

    1. Joanna Post author

      Wonderful meal Tony! I love roast lamb :) Your Zibbibo sounds like a bottle of pure happiness !

  7. Just A Smidgen

    It looks like you had the perfect meal! This is a gorgeous cake and I love that dish!! Very pretty and ruffly! Thanks for the tip on Paper from 53, I’m downloading it now!

    1. Joanna Post author

      Aww thanks, when I look back I think what was all that fuss about too…. for someone who can’t draw a little app like that is quite fun to play with, if of course you are a good artist then I imagine you could have a bit of fun with it, I am curious to know what you think when you have had a look Barbara.

  8. C

    Great looking pie (not sure I’ve ever had LMP – it’s a meringue thing…), and I love the drawing too. Can’t wait to see more of what you draw – all fun.

    I won’t come round to yours and add to the complications of your guest list requirements – I’m far too fussy. I’m with you on the menu planning though. I always intend to do it, and the problem is not in the planning, but in the execution. When it comes to it, I never want to eat what I’ve planned for. And because there’s no-one else here expecting that I’ll make what I’ve said I can just change. I agree that too much choice is definitely a problem – it’s certainly one of my problems. Too many cookbooks, too many ideas, too many meals and so I just shut it all off and stick to tried-and-tested. Very boring. I am not a foodie at all.

    1. C

      Just noticed that I am still ‘bakecakecrumbs’. Hmm, don’t know what wordpress are doing, but if I’m going to keep defaulting back then I don’t expect you to change my username! I think it’s because I registered with gravatar.

    2. Joanna Post author

      Anyone can come, all welcome always! I just have difficulty in choosing for everyone, if you ring me up and say can you make x y or z? then I will say ‘absolutely!’ :) I am not big on meringues, but I make an exception for this one pie, the sharpness of the lemon makes the sickliness of the meringue possible, if that makes sense. I have changed your login bits, and will continue to do so until WP fix it xx

      1. bakecakecrumbs

        I think I’d ask to make bread with you! I understand the sharp lemon/sweet meringue thing. Hopefully I’ve amended my gravatar profile so it’ll link back to my blog, but I can’t easily change my username. You’re very kind changing this sort of niggly thing!

  9. Evidence Matters (@EvidenceMatters)

    I have fond memories of that style of lemon meringue pie: it reminds me of the place that I drank my first coffee that sold lemon meringue and both of them made me wonder why people were content to make-do w the more usual inferior stuff. :)

    I like casseroles for feeding visitors as they take little intervention on the day and I typically find that stews/casseroles/curries are all better for maturing at least overnight. Casseroles can be the usual meat ones or ones such as charred aubergine cooked with potato in tomato sauce. One of our favourite cook-ahead curries is chickpea and potato.

    Meatloaf, meatballs, pulled pork or a similar technique applied to slow-cooked lamb can be prepared in advance and both are very fine with a bun or wrap and an accompaniment of pickles/slaws/salads/chutneys (all of which can be pre-prepared).

    I always have soup in the fridge for either lunch, a snack or a first dinner course (I just checked at at present we have caramelised carrot; potato and leek; sweetcorn soup).

    If the family member can’t have nuts (it’s usually tree nuts or ground nuts that are the problem) can s/he tolerate seeds such as sunflower and pumpkin? I’ve very fond of stuffed mushrooms and they’re very good with seeds rather than the nut filling (this makes a substantial lunch or a good vegetarian main course with accompaniments).

    During Summer, we always seem to have something like ratatouille in the fridge because it’s good cold or reheated and accompanies a lot of other items very well.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thankyou for all those wonderful suggestions,I am making notes :) my casseroles need working on, they are a bit hit and miss and the last time I stuffed mushrooms I winged it and they ended up very burnt and odd, so I am keen to learn more. Do you have the secret of how to do the cake layers for Black Forest Gateau hidden away too? We are into seventies desserts in my family and have been pondering the right sort of sponge for a while now…

  10. hotlyspiced

    That is the best looking slice of lemon meringue pie i have seen in a long time. And your Easter menu sounds delicious. How lovely to start the meal with new season’s asparagus. Your rolled loin of pork with the two sauces would have been delicious and I’ll try your potato and cherry tomato dish. I’m sure the colours, flavours and textures on the plate would have been amazing. Great post Joanna xx

    1. Joanna Post author

      I am going to try to remember the dishes that work and build around those, and you are lovely to be so encouraging about my menu – thanks :)

  11. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial

    What a lovely post! I adore your drawing – I’m going to check out that app now! I didn’t know you had a phobia about meal planning, but I do know you are always so kind and keen for things to be wonderful for everyone, so I’m not surprised that you work so hard to make things perfect. Maybe you need to adopt the Asian approach of having SO much food that everyone gets to choose. ;-)

    The lemon meringue pie looks and sound stupendous!! I’m so glad you’re enjoying the pie dish. And can I just say, the little poodle ear in the second last photo put a very big grin on my face this morning.. :)


    1. Joanna Post author

      Thanks Celia, your dish was much admired by everyone :) My food is far from perfect and it is so easy to be dissatisfied and ungrateful and lose the plot, so this post is slightly tongue in cheek and a way of telling myself to get a grip on reality here.

  12. teawithhazel

    jo..it must be really hard when you have family members with so many different preferences..i would freak too..one thing that really stresses me is the anglo saxon preference for everything to be so hot..how anyone does a roast and has all the ingredients at the right temperature is beyond me so i don’t even try doing a proper roast for more than about 6 people.. the food you made sounds delicious..love your pie drawing with your handwriting..and the real thing looks pretty darned good too..xx

    1. Joanna Post author

      I am a neurotic I think Jane – I just want to please, I always remember being really embarrassed if I didn’t like someone’s food as a kid and I hate it if I make something and people don’t like it and then you have to watch them deal with it politely.

      I did toy with the idea of doing mezzes and a more laid back sort of buffet meal and to be honest my family members are dear souls and wouldn’t want me to be stressed. What works best for me is just to have a smallish choice of fresh veggies and my store ingredients and maybe some fresh meat or fish and just cook from what I have in the house, no looking at books, no consulting the ‘net, that’s what I do most nights for us. I need to practise more cooking for bigger groups that’s all (says my sister). ;)

  13. North19

    Your drawing is beautiful. You are artistic!

    Regarding meal planning, there really is a knack to it. Firstly I make sure I have A LOT of plastic containers (mainly those plastic takeaway containers – I actually buy them as they tessellate well in the fridge – you can use over and over, but after a stressful dinner, if you really can’t face any more clearing, you can just chuck them away). I should send you a pic of my fridge before a dinner party ;-)

    An interesting salad is a great starter – then you don’t need to think too much about providing lots of vegetables for a main course, and those watching weight feel ok about it. Bread alongside caters to the hungrier guests. Two delicious favourites: 1) this chervil/prawn salad http://north19.co.uk/chervil-the-perfect-herb/ 2) Slow roasted tomatoes, steamed/blanced green beans, pea shoots, thick shavings of a hard cheese (love berkswell), plus an acidic dressing with very very fine shavings of the same cheese mixed in, all tossed together. Each element can be prepared separately in advance and kept in one of the plastic containers as it’s served cold.

    Will also usually serve at least one course ‘family style’ – with dishes in the middle of the table (maybe the salad & dessert), so the heavier and lighter eaters can choose appropriately. Plus decide on which things they like, as – like you – I hate to choose what others should eat.

    Dessert – as you say – can be made in one: a tart, pie, etc, and kept. That leaves main course. Again, even if it’s something that might need last minute prep, I’d get everything ready in the plastic containers (bit like restaurant cooking) so it can all be assembled and heated in about 5 minutes so very little time spent in the kitchen. Can think up a few examples, though am sure you don’t really need them! In summary: many many containers, stacked together in the fridge, so everything is completely ready (even if it’s just chopped chives!). Plus – if it’s in the pile of containers – you don’t forget about it!

    Sorry this is a little epic… something I think about a lot! ;-)

    1. Joanna Post author

      Very excited now! I’ve never thought about how they cook in a restaurant, is that what they do. plastic boxes in the fridge? Do you write lists to go with the boxes. Ready and heated in five minutes…. this is another world – you might have to teach me how to do this one day :) I love your chervil prawn dish too – yum !

    1. Joanna Post author

      I can do it, application of brain and all that, but I don’t enjoy the process if that makes sense. I need to find a way to do it that I enjoy and can feel pleasantly excited rather than faintly hysterical. I love it when everyone is here and happily together and don’t want to put them off by my wild eyed look of worry as they come in the door ;)

  14. spiceandmore

    Love the drawing…and the look of that pie too. Looks like a perfect LMP.
    Menu planning…hmmm. I actually think that your desire to ensure that each dish arrives at the table in its ideal state, and that you cater for all tastes – in fact makes you very much a foodie. If you weren’t one, you would not care so much about either of those things.

    I find that I mentally do a walk through of all the things I am to make, a few times in my head, before I get a plan of action in place. I am (also?) a tad obsessive about ensuring that every single dish is just perfect. Cooked just in time to be presented and eaten at its optimum. No pre-cooking for me….and I usually end up wishing I had a spare oven or two…but it gets there in the end. Doing that mental run through shows me what I can/not achieve and I modify the menu accordingly. Now that I am sounding quite mad to you I will l let you know that the hardest ‘food requirement’ I struggle to cater for are the kids who are incredibly fussy with their food – white food only, food should not touch other food items, no flavour, no herbs. Yeesh. Totally goes against the grain for me. I can cope with food allergies no problem, but this sort of neurotic diet I just can’t do. Now when people come over to our house for a meal and ask what they can bring, I usually ask them to bring something their kids will eat. Problem solved for all concerned!

    1. Joanna Post author

      I care about food because it is a way of sharing and showing love in a very fundamental way. As my Grandma Lily would have said and we would parody remorselessly as we were growing up. “Sit down, sit down, eat, eat!” It’s what we do when we get together. Both sides of my family, the Jewish side and the Danish side, are all really into the food = hospitality axis – I embrace it and just want to do it in a more relaxed way. As to kids, I ask their parents and hope for the best. I found a great peas and pasta dish that was was very simple to put together the other day that my nephew ate with relish and I was very pleased :)

      I do a bit of a walk through, (OK several walk throughs, and that’s when I realise my plans won’t work and then I swap and then I swap and I don’t like the process – but then I don’t like getting dressed to go out either, similar sort of thing) As I say I’m going to work on this one and see if I can develop a different mindset :)

  15. Liz

    Lemon Meringue pie–our family’s fav birthday ‘cake’! Your recipe is similar to the one I use and after many trials, the best. I try to keep the menu very simple when we entertain. Casseroles or pasta bakes, salad and freshly baked bread to mop up the sauce. Most times, when we have bigger gatherings, it’s bring a dish and I just try to coordinate so there’s variety.

    1. Joanna Post author

      I haven’t done many trials, only made this once or twice before – so it’s good to hear it’s close to yours Liz :) Thanks for the advice, I do appreciate everyone’s lovely comments on this post !

    1. Joanna Post author

      Hee hee I was just over on your blog reading about your buns and your lovely salads! Thanks :)

  16. heidi

    Your pie and your drawing look marvelous!
    I can do little doodles of drawings- when I’ve finished my shopping list it has more little sketches of food than actual words. My husband takes the list and then hands it back-” I can’t read this”- he says. :( I guess I’m no artist- just a doodler.
    The pie sounds much like the recipe I got from my mother- recipes belong to the ages- and the innovators I guess.
    I made a leg of lamb with garlic and rosemary, roasted leeks with olive oil and sea salt and herbes de Provence, riced potatoes with roasted onions and Parmesan cheese and a Pavlova for dessert. Not everyone liked everything- I had some porkroast for the lamb haters and roasted new potatoes for the cheese haters and baked carrots for the leek haters. My d-i-l and grandson make a carrot cake with pink glaze? as well- but everyone loved both the desserts!

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thank you – It really is a doodle, done with my forefinger on the little iPad screen as I don’t have a stylus thingy yet. It’s lovely for doodling on.. Heidi, I would like to see your shopping lists though! Maybe you could scan one in one day and post it on your blog ;) It could be a new meme “On My Shopping List” I think doodles say more about us than our photos, mine probably shows you that I am left-handed and much prefer curves to straight lines ;) You take the cater for everyone approach which is probably very sensible, I am fascinated by how we all approach these feast things so differently.

  17. cityhippyfarmgirl

    lemon meringue pie… quickest way to my heart! Actually I really think I should make one soon, there has been far too much chocolate action round here lately, (and that’s more the fella’s thing.)
    as for menu planning, sends me into an absolute tail spin. if some one says hey can you make…… no problem. if I have to think of it, problem. Oh the pressure!! You see, I forget what I can cook. I frequently have to go look at my blog to remind myself what I can do… that’s a bit odd isn’t it? Also things always seem a bit hit and miss :-/

    (…also just wanted to say I always read, just don’t always get the time to comment. There is a time fairy that sucks time up at a rather rapid rate.)

    1. Joanna Post author

      I think you should make one soon too Brydie :) You sound a bit like me on the menu planning, it’s all in the thinking and remembering what you can do… I look at my photos more than my blog and am often surprised what I have made in the past. Don’t worry about commenting, I can’t keep up with all the blogs I would like to read and comment on x Joanna

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