by Mary Berry from Mary Berry’s Absolute Favourites (BBC Books / Ebury)
THIS IS A CHEAT’S RECIPE! With no pastry and no long, complicated method for making the lemon filling, it is straightforward to prepare, and a lovely variation on the classic dish.
The pie can be made up to 6 hours ahead. The base and filling can be made in advance and chilled in the fridge overnight, then topped with the meringue and cooked on the day of serving.
FOR THE BASE
75g (3oz) butter
25g (1oz) demerara sugar
175g (6oz) digestive biscuits, finely crushed (see tip below)
FOR THE FILLING
1 x 394g tin of full-fat, sweetened condensed milk (see tip below)
3 egg yolks (see tip below)
finely grated rind and juice of 2 large lemons
FOR THE TOPPING
3 egg whites (see tip below)
175g (6oz) caster sugar
1 You will need a 23cm (9in) round, straight-sided or fluted ceramic tart dish, about 4cm (1½in) deep. Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan/Gas 5.
2 Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the sugar and biscuit crumbs. Press the mixture into the flan dish using the back of a spoon to bring the crumbs up around the sides of the dish and smooth the base in an even layer.
3 To make the filling, first pour the condensed milk into a bowl, then beat in the egg yolks, lemon rind and strained juice. The mixture will appear to thicken on standing, then loosen again as soon as it is stirred. This is caused by the combination of condensed milk and lemon juice and is nothing to worry about. Pour the mixture into the biscuit-lined dish.
4 Put the egg whites into a large, spotlessly clean, grease-free bowl and, preferably with an electric hand whisk, or using a balloon whisk otherwise, whisk the egg whites until they look like clouds. Now start adding the caster sugar, a teaspoon at a time, whisking well between each addition and with the electric whisk at full speed.
5 Spoon the meringue over the surface of the filling in separate blobs, then spread gently with the back of your spoon to cover the filling to the biscuit-lined edges. Lightly swirl the surface of the meringue, then bake for 15–20 minutes or until the meringue is pale golden. Set aside for about 30 minutes to allow the filling to firm up before serving warm.
To crush the biscuits, place in a plastic bag, seal shut and use a rolling pin to bash to a fine crumb.
Do make sure you use full-fat condensed milk, not light, or the filling will not set.
It’s best to separate the eggs one at a time to minimise the possibility of contaminating the whole lot with egg yolk, as this will prevent the egg whites from whisking properly.