This Magic Strawberry Rhubarb Pie is crisp, bubbling, sweet, tart, and mysterious. Strawberries and rhubarb combine; one bubblegum-sweet and the other tooth-achingly sharp, along with a pinch and a splosh and a dusting of a few other secret ingredients, to make something so much more than the sum of its parts. Delicious, easy therapy in the kitchen.
The world can be a shitty place, no? We all see the news. Shitty things on shitty things. I’m not, nor have I ever been the kind of person who thinks that cooking or baking actually do anything to solve the problems of the world (I’m not sure anyone thinks that). In fact, I see the whole idea of baking something to lift other people’s spirits as an essentially selfish conceit – how ridiculous to expect that anyone should be cheered because you made them a muffin. But I bake anyway. And I do find it therapeutic.
The thing is, the world keeps turning. Time passes and how you pass that time is entirely up to you. Whenever I’m lucky enough to stumble into some hours where we can choose my occupation, then I personally get a lot of joy out of mindless tinkering in the kitchen. Squidging together a pie dough, rolling it out, tossing berries with a pinch of this and a scrape of that, weaving together a fat lattice to go on top, and then crimping the edge of the pie – every one of these tasks seems to absorb my mind completely. It’s as close to a meditative state as I get.
But that’s not why I call it a magic pie. It’s magic because of the incredible flavour that this filling produces. I totally winged it on the filling the first time and it was so insanely good that I had to replicate it, and shockingly, it was just as delicious again. The mix of strawberries and rhubarb needs no further explanation: they are made for each other. On top of the two lovers, I added white sugar, so as to let their flavour shine through, then a squeeze of lemon and a scrape of zest. After that I hit the store cupboard for a little cinnamon, some lemony cardamom, mucho vanilla bean paste, a pinch of salt, a splosh of my favourite ingredient ever – maple syrup, and juuuuuust enough corn flour to hold everything together.
The results? Magic. Completely, unbelievably delicious. No one flavour overpowering the other, but everything combining to make a straight up incredibly delicious pie. The kind of pie that wins awards. The kind of pie you would wait in line for. Not the kind of pie that will cure the world’s ills, but a damn fine pie. And that’s a win.
Let me ask you what my granddad Ernie always used to ask me – are you winning? What’s going great for you right now, in the kitchen or out of it?
- 2½ cups (375g) plain flour
- 1 tbsp caster sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 230g (2 sticks) butter, cold, cut into small cubes
- 1 cup (250ml) cold water
- 1 tsp vinegar or lemon juice
- 1 egg yolk, optional, to glaze the pie
- 500g (1lb) strawberries
- 500g (1lb) rhubarb
- ¾ cup (150g) caster sugar
- Zest and juice of half a lemon
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp cardamom
- 2 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 4 tbsp cornflour
- First, make the pastry. Place the flour, sugar and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the butter to the flour. In a separate jug, stir together the water and vinegar.
- Work the butter into the flour, using the paddle attachment of your mixer on a low speed, until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs with lots of large, visible pieces of butter still remaining.
- With the mixer still on low, stream in the water a few tablespoons at a time, until the mixture looks like it's about to come together. Use your hands to clump the dough into two halves, and then flatten them into discs and wrap in plastic. Place in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.
- To make the filling, wash and hull the strawberries and slice into halves or quarters if they're very big. Wash and trim the rhubarb and slice into 1cm (1/2 inch) pieces.
- Place the fruit into a large bowl, and add all the remaining ingredients for the filling. Toss together very well.
- Roll one of the discs of pastry out into a circle large enough to line a 9inch (23cm) shallow pie tin, with about 2-3cm (1 inch) of overhang. Ease the pastry into the tin, and then place in the fridge to chill.
- Roll the second piece of pastry out, into an equally large circle, and slice into thick strips.. Take the pie base out of the fridge, pour in the filling, and then weave the strips into a lattice on top of the filling. Trim the edges of the lattice, then fold over the bottom crust overhang, and crimp using your thumb and forefinger.
- Place the pie in the fridge to chill for 15 minutes, and preheat the oven, with a tray on the bottom shelf, to 220C/425F.
- When the 15 minutes are up, place the pie into the oven on the tray, and bake for 20-25 minutes, before rotating the pie, turning the oven down to 180C/375F and baking for a further 30-35minutes or until dark golden brown and bubbling.
- Leave to cool for an hour before serving (it will still be just warm, but cut nicely) with ice cream or cream.
- If desired, whisk the egg yolk with 1 tbsp water, and brush the top of the pie with a thin layer of glaze - be careful not to drag the filling onto the pastry as it will burn.