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The great Pumpkin Pecan Pie conundrum of 2009

Well well well, it's marvellous when a cool head and a cool countertop come together to solve the great Pumpkin Pecan Pie conundrum of 2009. After numerous consultations (cheers Leith's Baking Bible and the Market Kitchen home economists) I managed to work out what was going wrong with my pie. As suspected, the kitchen was too hot to make good pastry; but I can't just blame the central heating. I was also reminded of the films I presented for Richard & Judy a few years back, cooking & eating regional Italian food. In Bologna, while attempting to make tagliatelle, a diminutive granny chef slapped my palms and told me my hands were too hot to make pasta. So clearly my pie failure is all my fault.

I also realised pre-baking the crust for 10 mins before filling it with the treacly pecan goo prevents any cracks in the pastry and makes for a nice, crispy bottom. Why did this little nugget of wisdom not cross my mind earlier?? Here in the UK, people take their desserts very seriously; in the US, no one would think twice about not pre baking the pastry "to save time", or opening a few cans of this and that, bunging it in a store bought pre-baked pie shell and calling it "homemade". I have realised that even after 17 years of life in London, old kitchen habits die hard.

Anyway, here is Ruth's Pumpkin & Pecan Pie...with corrected crust and in tip top form. i'll post the recipe when it's up on the Market Kitchen website. By the way, there's none left- I've dished a few pieces out the the handymen who have come this morning to hang our pictures; the rest is going to my agent.

crispy pig tails and pumpkin pie

when friends visit, it's always a great excuse to eat out. So when our dear pals Alan & Nick came down from Glasgow and offered to take us out for a meal, I spent the better part of an afternoon just deciding where we should go. Lots of restaurants are shut on Sunday night, so that automatically discounted many of our faves like Bocca di Lupo and Great Queen Street. I wanted to try the new Pinxitos in Bloomsbury, but that was closed too. I called Yalla Yalla, but the whole restaurant had been booked out for a private party. So back to a tried and trusted favourite, St John Bread & Wine. For the uninitiated, it is the sister restaurant to St John, renown for the nose to tail eating its owner Fergus Henderson pioneered. SJB&W has more of a bistro feel, with a menu organised by the clock-hour when dishes are available (6pm smoked sprats, 7pm snails on toast...) a killer wine list and a scribbled board of specials that get crossed out as the dishes are ordered.
Our happy band was completed by two more chums. H ordered the deep fried crispy pig's tail, "for novelty value". When it was placed on the table, it looked like...well...a deep fried crispy pig's tail, all curly cued and cute. But she couldn't eat it. Luckily the Strawberry Blonde (being Northern and that) dug in with gusto, lip smacking the gelatinous fat and shreds of deep pink meat.
My girolles, lentils and goats curd was rich and earthy and perfect for a crisp autumn night. We also shared, amongst other things, a whole crab, beetroot & ticklemore salad, a ruby red Angus flank steak, snails on toast, salt beef with picalilli, a quince trifle, ginger loaf with butterscotch sauce, and a plate of cheese. Wine drinkers washed it down with a Picpoul de Pinet white and a Cotes de Catalanes red. Great friends, great food...what else is there in life?

The scent of pumpkin pecan pie has been haunting me all week. I've been recipe testing for my imminent appearance onMarket Kitchen, the Good Food channel's foodie magazine programme. Now, I have appeared on the show dozens of times talking about everything from LA food trends to whoopie pie. But this week will be the first time i've ever COOKED on the show, and I am pretty darn excited (and a little nervous too!) I'll be making a recipe inspired by my grandmother's Thanksgiving desserts- Pumpkin Pie & Pecan Pie. But instead of having to choose between one or the other, I've combined them both in one pie. Here's a picture of my fabulous grandmother, Ruth, who inspired the pie...she's 91 !!!
The bottom layer of the pie is gooey mapley treacly pecans, and the top layer is a refined pumpkin custard. I have made two test pies so far, and have encountered a number of problems (new cooker in new flat and haven't got used to temperature variations yet; new flat is centrally heated beyond our control so kitchen is too warm to make good pastry; i used a pie tin with removable bottom and all the treacly stuff seeped out onto the bottom of the oven...etc etc blah blah blah)
I'm getting there...and making my third and final test pie today. With 24 hours to go before filming, this one better be perfect. Keep your fingers crossed for me!