Rhubarb and Meringue Pie

Rhubarb is a great plant to have in the garden. It makes a brilliant statement with its large leaves and bright red stems, and it is also one of the earlist plants we grow that gives us a taste of things to come. Rather unusually, it is not the leaves, flowers, or fruit that are of use but rather the stems. These stems are most often used in a crumble, however, to break tradition, this year we've started with a Meringue pie as the chickens are already giving us an excess of eggs and we think one last pie to round of the colder months seemed fitting. If you're wondering what to do with your rhubarb, then the recipe is below. it is a really lovely dessert to start the growing season off with:

300g shortcrust pastry
flour, for dusting
Butter, for greasing
3 free-range eggs, separated
700g rhubarb, cut into 2cm chunks
260g caster sugar
1 lemon, juice, and zest
5 tbsp cornflour
4 tbsp water

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface and use to line the greased flan tins. Prick the base of the pastry with a fork. Line the pastry with greaseproof paper, fill it with baking beans, and bake blind for 10 minutes.

Remove the greaseproof paper and baking beans and brush the pastry with one of the egg yolks. Return the tins to the oven and bake for a further 15 minutes until golden brown.

Place the rhubarb, 7 tablespoons of the sugar, and the lemon juice and zest in a pan. Cover and cook over a low heat until the rhubarb has softened and then mash the fruit with a fork.

Mix the cornflour and water in a bowl to form a smooth paste. Stir into the rhubarb, bring to a boil, and stir until thick. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the remaining two egg yolks. Use a ladle to pour the mixture into the baked pastry cases.

Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until they form stiff peaks. Gradually add the remaining sugar, whisking between each addition.

Pipe the meringue over the fruit filling and bake for about 20 minutes or until the meringue is golden-brown.

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