I often find the beginning of autumn a bit of a downer. I mean, I like crispy leaves and winter boots as much as the next person, but the unavoidable fact is that the short pretty bit announces the beginning of months of gloom, drizzle and getting home from work in the dark.
This year, though, I’m happier about it – it’s nearly time to plant fruit trees, and, finally, I can be excited. At long last we’ve got around to clearing the corner to put them in; I’m plotting raspberries and plums, but mostly some more blueberries. Our bush at the moment yields enough for a handful every so often, as you walk past, but nowhere near the amount I need to feed what probably ought to be called my blueberry habit. Especially not now I know about this pie (and this cobbler).
The lemon verbena I’ve got sorted – the 79p pot I bought last year miraculously survived the winter and is straggling away happily in a corner. Its leaves are a perfect match for blueberries, which can be a bit sweet, a bit one-note on their own. The lemon verbena replaces the lemon zest you might ordinarily put in your blueberry baking, but is more floral, more herby (and, importantly, more delicious).
However, if you don’t have any, don’t forgo the pie – that would be foolish; just replace it with a few zestings of a lemon, or some lemon thyme. If there is a 79p pot lurking in a corner of the garden centre, though, bring it home and find it a corner where you can run your hands through its gorgeously scented leaves every time you walk past.
Recipe after the jump.
blueberry lemon verbena pie
The recipe is Heidi Swanson’s, of 101 cookbooks (via forty-sixth at Grace). I’ve tweaked it slightly, as the bottom crust disintegrates into a soggy mess if you use frozen blueberries. Rather than assume you’ve all got access to super cheap fresh blueberries (900g is a lot, after all), I’ve halved the amount of pastry to change this into a single crust pie.
For the pastry:
40g rye flour
85g plain flour
115g salted butter
40ml ice cold water
For the filling:
100g caster sugar
20 fresh lemon verbena leaves, chopped
3 tbsp flour
Zest of 1 lemon
2tbsp lemon juice
1 egg, to glaze
If you want a flaky pie top, Heidi recommends either the food processor technique or this technique for making the pastry. I prefer idleness to puff pastry, so I just use a standard shortcrust technique: use a food processor, a pastry blender or your fingers to mix the flours and butter until they resemble breadcrumbs, then drizzle in the water until the mixture comes together. Wrap the pastry in clingfilm and pop it in the fridge for an hour or so.
Preheat the oven to 220℃ (200℃ fan).
Grind the lemon verbena and sugar together with a pestle and mortar, then mix with the flour and toss with the blueberries. Pile the lot into a 25cm pie dish, aiming for a bit of a mountain effect – the blueberries will sink during cooking – then drizzle with the lemon juice and dot with the butter.
Roll out the pastry into a circle a bit larger than your pie, and drape smoothly over the filling. Patch up any holes (use little circles of dough and you can pretend this is “blueberry decoration” and intentional) and use a fork to press the edges of the pastry onto the side of the dish. Trim any excess and brush the top with beaten egg.
Put in the oven for around 45 minutes, until the pastry is a deep gold colour. Start checking after 25 minutes with a piece of emergency foil at the ready, in case the edges start to brown.