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If there is one thing that I can make reliably and excellently, it’s lemon meringue pie. This is my culinary claim to fame, and I’ve been waiting for this day to come up in the food calendar for most of the year. And while there is some small part of my mind that thinks I should protect my secret, I’m going to ssh that brain-bit and share my recipe with you. Warning – this is not the fastest pie to make in the world…there are many less complicated. But there aren’t any that taste better. So put in the time, you’ll be happy you did. The recipe that follows makes one 9″ pie plate.

First, some tips:

+read this all the way through – you can’t really stop once you’ve started as you need to put the hot filling in the warm pie shell, and have them still be hot when the meringue is made… in other words, get as organized as possible. Also helps to do things like juice and zest the lemons, separate the eggs, measure stuff out, etc before hand.
+Seems to cook better in pyrex for some reason, but a metal pie pan will do if you don’t have the glass.
+For this entire recipe, much depends on fresh ingredients. The eggs can’t be more than a couple days old, the lemons should be the nicest you can find (and since you’re using the peel, organic), fresh spices, etc.
+It usually takes me 4 -6 lemons to make this recipe, but you may want to get a couple extra, b/c running short would suck. 🙂
+ be REALLY careful not to get any egg yolk in the egg whites when you are separating them. Yolk will ruin the meringue (however a little egg whites in the yolks won’t hurt the filling). Also, it’s really important that there is no oil on the bowl, beaters, etc that you will use to make the meringue.
-the egg whites have to be at room temperature. gotta plan ahead!

#1 – make the crust

preheat oven to 350.

mix with a fork until everything is moistened (will look a little crumby, but not chunky): 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs, 6 tbsp melted butter, 1/4 c white sugar, 1/4 tsp each cinnamon and nutmeg (<–this is one of my secrets!)

Spread the mix evenly in the pie pan. use your fingers, or I like the bottom of a juice glass, to press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the pan until it’s pretty firm. Bake for 10-15 min, until lightly browned.

#2 – make filling

turn the oven down to 325, and move the rack to the top third of the oven. If you haven’t done so already, prep materials in part three, below, before making this filling

whisk in a med saucepan:
1 1/4 c white sugar
1/3 c cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt

whisk in, blending well:
1 1/2 cups water
2/3 c strained lemon juice (fresh squeezed from the lemons– pulp is OK, seeds are not))
4 teaspoons lemon zest

Whisk in until no yellow streaks remain
4 large egg YOLKS (not the whole eggs!) (save the whites for the top)

2 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into little chunks

Put this pot on the stove, and STIR CONSTANTLY (scraping the bottom), with a wooden spoon or rubber/silicon spatula, while bringing to a simmer over medium heat. Once simmering, cook for 1 minute. The filling will be very thick. remove from heat, and if there are any lumpy bits (which happens if you overcook it slightly) whisk the mixture vigorously for 20-30 seconds to make it smooth again.

Pour into the pie crust and immediately press a sheet of saran-wrap directly onto the surface of the pie. You’re trying to stop it from steaming, and hold as much heat as possible while you whip the egg whites. When you put the meringue topping on, the heat from the filling will cook the meringue from the bottom and the oven will cook it from the top.

#3 – meringue!

Prep: measure these ingredients out BEFORE making the filling:
1/4tsp cream of tartar
1/2 c berry sugar (finer than regular sugar)
1/2 tsp vanilla

Once the filling is made and is under the saran:

In a clean, grease free metal or glass bowl beat 4 large egg whites (at room temperature) on medium speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar, and continue beating until soft but definite peaks form. Very gradually ( one tablespoon at a time) beat in the sugar. Once all the sugar has been added, begin to beat on high speed until the peaks are stiff and glossy. Beat in the vanilla.

Immediately peel back the saran off the pie filling, and drop the meringue by the large spoonful onto the pie, going around the outside edge of the pie first to anchor the meringue to the pie-crust. make fun swirls and loops.

Immediately bake for 20 min, until the meringue is a nice light brown. Let cook completely on a rack – tastes best a room temperature.

Eat, drink and make merry. 🙂


Just like how every food culture has a version of meat-on-a-stick (kebabs, souflaki, brochettes, etc.), every food culture has a version of rice pudding. Why? Rice pudding is delicious, inexpensive, and uses ingredients that everybody has: rice, milk, sweetener, and flavouring. It can be savoury or sweet, though for the purpose of this blog I have chosen to neglect the savoury kind and indulge my sweet tooth for a week, and it’s really, very easy to make! Over the course of this week, I have eaten four servings of pudding, and have sampled nearly ten different flavours, giving me the knowledge and experience to share with you the ultimate in rice pudding.

For some research into flavours and a bit of inspiration I started at Riz en Folie (On Mackay, just south of Sherbrooke, for you Montrealers), a teeny restaurant that serves only rice pudding. Set up like an ice cream parlour, when you go inside, the different puddings are all displayed under glass and you get to sample each flavour before you make your decision. Riz en Folie uses short grain sushi rice and bakes their pudding. It has a super creamy texture with a sort of tapioca pudding vibe – lots of pudding, only a little rice. This past Tuesday, I went for lunch (sort of) with friends and between the five of us we sampled seven of ten flavours on display that day.  Again, like an ice cream parlour, Riz en Folie does your standard vanilla and chocolate; “rough & tough”, a sort of rocky road flavour; and a mint-chocolate. Of these flavours, I tried the mint-chocolate. It tasted as weird as it looked:

While the flavour started out like its delicious, ice cream counterpart, its finish was unfortunately reminiscent of the “almost mint” flavour found in oral hygiene products, particularly floss.  A rough start, but Riz en Folie did redeem themselves with some of their other flavours:

Original: It was sweet and creamy and hardly spiced, if at all. The girls who tried it found it light and described it as “nice” and “yummy.”

Sucre a la crème: This one was like the original, but more. It was more sweet, and more creamy, and heavier and denser. I asked about the flavours and the response was, “It’s not that it has different flavour… it’s just MORE. It’s better than the Original.”

Exotika Passion:  “What does taste like?” “It tastes like passion fruit.”  “…weird.”

Rose Water: The flavour was so light and delicate that it was almost bland – at least when tasted next to the other very sweet puddings. Rose water didn’t seem like it could stand alone as a flavour. The pudding was obviously missing something we thought.

Lemon: Straight up lemon curd. It was oh-so-delicious like lemon pie filling and was the one I chose to have a full serving of.

Carrot cake: This one was definitely the team favourite. It was very lightly spiced and the flavour was very fresh and carroty.  It was more like a carrot ice cream or cheese cake. Very good!

I left with a different idea was what I expected from rice pudding. Though it’s obvious now, I never would have thought to do anything more to it then add cinnamon and sugar, never mind lemon or passion fruit.  Since I had Friday off work, I did a little reading up on rice pudding recipes and picked a few to try out. I invited a couple friends over and with my roommate, my old roommate, and a coworker we binged on 3 rice puddings:

Our trio of rice puddings for the evening

Black Rice Pudding

I got this one off Epicurious.  Such a simple recipe, and it looked so cool in the photo, I decided I had to try it. It was probably the most basic recipe I found and the truest to the natural simplicity of the dessert:

1 cup black rice

3 cups water

1 can coconut milk (1 ½ cups for cooking and the rest for garnish)

A pinch of salt and sugar to taste

[Gourmet, December 2005]

Bring to boil rice, salt, and water in a large pot. Reduce to simmer and cover for 30 to 45 minutes, until the water is absorbed. Stir in a roughly a cup and a half of coconut milk and sugar to taste (I added about a half cup) and cook until creamy and pudding-like. Let it cool, or eat it warm and serve with coconut milk poured over top.

This pudding was a little chewier since black rice doesn’t get at gooey and mushy as white rice. It has a really nice nutty, sweet flavour and anyone without a big sweet tooth would probably appreciate this one for it more subtle flavour.

Banana-Anise Pudding

Soooo, it didn’t really work. This recipe was dictated to me by one of the kitchen staff at work (I chose the flavours and he gave me portions of each ingredient), but I must have missed an instruction. It tasted great! But, there obviously was not enough liquid and the rice ended up not so pudding-y and a lot like… rice. This one was done in the oven, and I don’t know if it’s because I didn’t precook the rice or that I needed more cream, but the texture didn’t work out at all. I’m planning on trying this again, as aniseed and banana and coconut milk were meant to be together, but this time maybe they can mingle on the stove top where I’m clearly more apt. If you wanted to try it, combine your rice of choice, cream, coconut milk, mashed ripe banana, LOTS of aniseed (we’re talking at least a couple teaspoons), and sugar to taste and bake covered at 350F for 45 minutes to an hour. I’ll leave it to you to portion out the ratios though so perhaps you have more luck than I did!

Rose Water-Cardamom Pudding

AAH, SO GOOD. The rose water rice pudding at Riz en Folie was lacking, but it has the potential to be amazing! More rose water, some cardamom, and some vanilla make for the favourite rice pudding. On epicurious I found a recipe for a guideline. The amount of sugar in this recipe was waaay too much. I cut it in half  to 3/4 cup and it was still quite sweet. Here is what I did:

½ cup Arborio rice

3 cups cream

½ to ¾ cups sugar

Some cornstarch (optional, maybe?)

1 tablespoon Rose Water

Some cardamom (I write my recipes more like mum every day. By “some” I guess I mean to taste.)

Some Vanilla

Bring to boil one cup of water, add rice, reduce to simmer and let the water absorb. Add 3 cups of cream (I used 10%), cornstarch, sugar, rose water, cardamom, and vanilla, stir it all up thoroughly and bring to boil again. Watch that pot or else it will boil over and make a pretty awful mess on your stove top. Reduce to a simmer and cover partly. Stir periodically and cook until it has the pudding consistency that you want. This will fit into 4 ramekins. Allow it to cool. It might make a skin/film on top, but if you give a good stir before you serve it, it will look and taste just fine.  I dyed mine pink and sprinkled it with pistachios for a garnish. It looked quite cute I think.

This one is my favourite rice pudding now! After extensive research, this is the best in Rice pudding. It was creamy, but the rice was still present. The flavour was very rosy and spiced and sweet and just wonderful.  From these 3 recipes, I have made a sort of criteria for my ultimate pudding: done with Arborio rice and on the stove top.  The Arborio made for a really fantastic texture and the stove top gives you more control; you see if you need more liquid or taste if you need more sugar or spice.

The Greek men at the cafe-bar I worked at during world cup say that Efes, the Turkish bakery across the street, makes the best rice pudding – “it’s better than my mom’s.” I haven’t tried it yet, but it might be worth the trek out to Parc-Ex to see if my number one can be beat.

Also, Happy Birthday Dad!



[Ed.: We’re glad to see Sage could still operate the keyboard after guest blogging about today’s boozy goodness…]

“Toddy… is a simple drink in the same way a tripod is a simple device: Remove one leg and it cannot stand, set it up properly and it will hold the whole weight of the world.”

-excerpt by David Wondrich from Imbibe!, which contains a fabulous essay on the topic of Toddies.

The Hot Toddy is mainly a winter drink, which makes Hot Toddy Day well timed for rained-in Vancouverites such as myself. On a chilly night a hot, boozy drink is about as good as it gets. Ignoring the most generous definitions (which are so broad as to include the likes of mulled wine and hot cider), a Hot Toddy basically breaks down like this:

Hot water or tea

Honey or sugar

Lemon juice


The most commonly featured spirits are Scotch, Whisk(e)y, Bourbon, Rum or Brandy.

Other common additions are cinnamon sticks and cloves, and of course spiced butter in a Rum Toddy will give you the classic Hot Buttered Rum.

You might think that a warm, cozy drink, perhaps shared around a fire, (and featuring purported medicinal properties to boot!) would be the kind of drink that would bring people together. And perhaps, if the people are actually drinking the toddies together, this would be true. When it comes to talking about toddies, however, I can’t think of a more divisive drink. Its history is contested, its recipes are contested, and its role as a cold and flu remedy is contested.

Wow. Some people get really passionate about the “right” way to make this drink. I’ve seen insults fly on many a comment board after one recipe or another was posted. One guy in the scotch/hot water camp proclaimed that the brandy/tea version he was commenting on was an “effeminate imitation”. In fact, the scotch-toddiers throw the world “girly” around a lot when discussing other recipes, which is kind of ironic because according to some, the Scotch Toddy was actually invented to make scotch more palatable to women, and is therefor a “girly” drink in and of itself. I’ve also seen many a fine rebuttal from the much-maligned brandy camp asserting that they drink their scotch neat, and their toddies brandied, and why would these scotch- toddiers be spoiling their scotch in such a fashion?

From what I can infer, the original Hot Toddy did use scotch, but many other versions have come into their own and gathered devoted followings. I’ve seen recipes featuring unlikely spirits (Tequila Toddy, anyone?) and some altogether unlikely combinations. See two sample recipes below, submitted in comment streams*:

“For a maega [sic] dose of vitamin C and all the relief of a hot toddy heat one cup orange juice, 1/4 cup cranberry juice and a [sic] 1-2 shots coconut rum. Tastes great, works quickly. Soothing and restorative!”

“I mixed tea with lemon and Brandy, Patron, Whiskey, Jaggermeister, NyQuil, Theraflu and a little Listerine. When I woke up in the hospital 5 days later my cold was completely gone.”

Commenter No. 2 is obviously poking fun at the medicinal reputation Toddies hold, as well as the dangerous (but seemingly common) practice of mixing booze with acetominophen-based cold remedy products.

Many people hold Toddies to be medicinal, the idea being that booze is a cough suppressant, honey is antibiotic and soothing on the throat, and lemon clears mucus and the sinuses. Of course, booze and sugar are also dehydrating and alcohol is often considered an immunosuppressant. While I can’t make any claims as to the effect of a toddy on symptoms or recuperation, I’m sure sipping one under a nice blanket will help you get to sleep, and be the most pleasant part of your ill experience.

On New Year’s Eve, after an invigorating session of snow-shoeing, a classic Brandy/Earl Grey/Lemon toddy went down very nicely. On Saturday night L and I celebrated an anniversary dinner at db Bistro Moderne, and after a lovely meal L was inspired to do some research on the blog’s behalf. So I can report that the bartender there created a delicious take on the toddy using:

Black Tea

Black Rum

House-made Ginger Syrup




It was wonderful, if a bit sweeter than I make my versions. The ginger syrup was an inspired addition.

Tonight’s version was intended to include Cointreau, but the neighbourhood liquor store had no orange liqueurs whatsoever. So we returned home with a bottle of Limoncello and hoped for the best.

It broke down like this:

1.5 oz Brandy

.5 oz Limoncello

1 Orange Pekoe tea bag

1 Tbsp Honey**

1 star of star anise

1 cinnamon stick

Orange for garnish

Hot water

Brew the tea with the star anise. Let the anise steep even after the tea bag is removed. Pour the spirits into the glass, top with tea, stir in honey and garnish with orange and cinnamon stick.

I thought it was pretty darn tasty. Post-photo I actually added more orange wedges into the glass which was nice too.

Conclusion: However your prepare it, a Hot Toddy is a lovely beverage for a January evening. Using caffeinated tea lends a nice balance to soporific booze, and is a much lighter option than rich specialty coffees. A decaf toddy makes for a relaxing hug of a drink. Enjoy!

** I didn’t use the honey in mine, but recommend it for most palates.

* Comments found here: