We went to a neighbourly potluck last night. We all sat outside around a blazing brazier and a chimenea, under the icy glittering stars, wearing ski gear. It was pretty funny. I wish I had photos for you folk in the Summery parts of the world, but it’s very hard to focus a camera with gloves on and your mug of Gluhwein snuggled under your armpit….and you just know I wasn’t going to put that down.
A few days prior, my lovely neighbour who organised it was able to give me a rundown of what various households were bringing. A dessert dish was missing, and as I am typically a savoury cook, I saw this as a challenge. HAH! I did not. Judy said “It would be great if you could do a dessert,” and I said “Oh, err, ummmm,” and then she said “You could make a pavlova, you’ve got enough eggs,” and I said “Ohhh, err, yeah? That could be good?” The voice of confidence…not.
As luck would have it, I had recently picked up a beaut book from an Op Shop, called: The Potluck Cookery Book by T.H. Campbell, edited by Elizabeth Craig, Rand McNally & Co. UK, 1960. The few simple meat dishes I’d made from it had hit high notes when served to SH and kids for dinner; dishes with names like “Best Meatloaf Ever” and “Plenty More-In-Kitchen” most of which contained at least one can of soup, daring herbs such as oregano and enough of a whack of melted butter or fat to clog a vein. I mean, these suckers are tasty! So with these ringing endorsements, I figured that T. H. Campbell and Elizabeth Craig would know a thing or two about crowd pleasing desserts. And no-one expects slimmer meals at a potluck, right? Especially in the middle of Winter – I mean we all need a good inch of fat extra then, don’t we? Guys? Guys?
Anyhoo, I was trawling through receipts such as Ambrosia Flan, Cuban Wonder Loaf, St Clements Chiffon Pie, Eggnog Chiffon Pie (they liked the whole Chiffon thing in the 60’s didn’t they?) and then I found it: Lemon Angel Torte. It was eggs, it was sugar and it was lemon….oh and cream, lots of cream – mmmmmm. We had a winner. Oh, and you know what else? It was gluten free for the coeliac guest – very cool and not an issue of any importance in the 60’s. It was like that recipe had waited for 48 years, for me to find it with my plethora of lemons, eggs, and a coeliac neighbour and all. Have you ever had that feeling?
What’s more, it was pretty! (Now, I really wish I had photos for you, because the picture of the disaster area that is the scraped out dish is not one you should see on a Sunday morning.) My cooking is pretty much always tasty, but it’s not always pretty. This dish was pretty like snow, pretty like daffodils, pretty like…like an angel. And I’m thinking that’s where it got its title.
Lemon Angel Torte
(from The Potluck Cookery Book)
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
4 egg whites
8 ozs caster sugar
4 egg yolks (I love the symmetry)
4 ozs caster sugar
Grated rind of 1 lemon (I used three small ones)
2 tablespoons lemon juice (I doubled this – I like good lemon tang)
1/2 pint thick cream
1 and a 1/2 tablespoons caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
To Make Meringue Case:
Add cream of tartar to egg whites. Beat until foamy. Gradually beat in sugar. Continue beating until mixture is glossy and stiff. Spread evenly in a greased 9 – 10 inch pie plate. Draw mixture evenly towards the edges to form a shell. Bake in a slow oven, 300 degrees F for about 45 minutes, till crisp and dry. Remove and cool.
To Make Filling:
Place yolks in the top of a doule boiler. Beat until thick and lemon-colored. Beat in the juice, lemon rind and sugar. Cook over hot water until thick, stirring constatnly. Leave until cool.
Whip cream until stiff. Ad sugar and vanilla essence and whip till sugar is dissolved. Spread half the cream in the case. Cover with the lemon filling. Top with the remaining cream, allowing filling to show around the edge and in the centre. Sprinkle with additional grated lemon rind if liked. Before serving, chill in refrigerator for 2 or 3 hours.
Yield: 6 servings.
* If you use a glass pie dish, lower oven temperature by 25 degrees – this tidbit was also in the book and finally explained to me why I find everything cooked in my pyrex has to be caught before the timer goes off!
* Use a mixer or hand mixer unless you have the biceps of Popeye – even beating the egg yolks with an old rotary beater is better than whisking this with your elbow grease – now there’s a visual image.
*Another reason this recipe is cool is you will have more than enough meringue mixture for really good bowl licking – or to make a few meringues for the hangers’ on (Down kids!).
This was more enjoyable to me (and more successful) than any pavlova I’ve made. It was really a corss between a lemon meringue pie and a pavlova – why didn’t I think of that? And the gluten free meringue case – who knew? How clever. I would certainly make this again, but possibly double it and make it a bit more deconstructed on a sheet tray, instead of in a pie plate. However as it stood, exactly as directed in the book – it was a success, as was the chilly night.
Here’s cheers to potlucks and to fab old books in op shops!