September is upon us once again, and the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, fickle friend that is English Summer is bowing out. This week we shut the bedroom window for the first time in a month and have started to debate exactly where we cache the large fan bought at the height of the brief, but to our chilly English souls, intense heatwave of last month. I am ready for autumn. I long for the nights drawing in, the crackle of rusty gold leaves underfoot and, most of all, the glut of beautiful produce the season brings with it – because in reality, what can possibly compare to a piping hot apple and blackberry crumble drizzled/doused/utterly drowned in Bird’s custard? Yes, there is a time and a place for delicate, vanilla-scented creme patissiere, but that place is not on any crumble of mine, which requires bright yellow, extra thick Bird’s custard, thank you very much. Don’t look at me like that…I know you expected better of a chef, but I stand by my custard!
Saucing aside, it wouldn’t be right to skip straight to the autumnal goodies without first doffing our caps and biding farewell to summer. This pie is absolutely a last hurrah for the sunshine season. It makes the most of fragrant late summer raspberries and heady, almost over-ripe peaches. As I was cutting the fruit and staring out of the window at the slightly gloomy day outside, my pot of Greek basil caught my eye and I figured the floral, pepperiness of this little herb might just compliment the punchy fruit in the pie, so I threw some in. The combination worked beautifully. The scent of the basil, softening fruit and sweet pastry that filled the flat as it baked was delicious and so utterly summery. A slice of this pie, warm from the oven and topped with a dollop of clotted cream is a deeply satisfying end to the season, and leaves me more than ready to wave goodbye to berries and their sunny friends and turn instead to figs, chestnuts, pears and, of course, my apple crumbles…with whatever canary-yellow, controversial accompaniment they may bring.
Peach, Raspberry and Greek Basil Pie
Grease a non-stick loose bottomed 22cm/9inch tart tin
Heat your oven to 190c/gas mark 5
- 180g plain flour
- 90g unsalted butter
- pinch of salt
- 1 1/2 tbsp sifted icing sugar
- 3 egg yolks + 3 extra for egg washing
- 3 large ripe peaches
- 150g punnet of raspberries
- 1 sprig of Greek basil, picked (optional)
- 1 tbsp golden caster sugar
To make the pastry sift the flour, icing sugar and butter into a bowl and lightly rub them together with your fingertips until the mix resembles course breadcrumbs (think crumble topping). Add the 3 egg yolks and bring together to form the pastry. If the mix seems dry then add another yolk. As soon as the pastry comes together and forms a uniform dough stop, wrap it in cling film and chill in the fridge for minimum 2 hours, but preferably overnight. If the pastry is overworked it is more likely to shrink when cooked, so less is definitely more here.
Meanwhile cut the peaches into rough chunks (around 1.5cm cubes), place in a bowl and muddle together with the raspberries, basil and caster sugar. Set aside until the mix is juicy and the sugar dissolved.
Once well chilled, roll out two thirds of the pastry to approximately 4mm thick and line your tart case. Chill again for 10-15 minutes, then prick the base lightly with a fork, line with baking paper and fill with baking beans. Bake at 190c for 20 minutes, then remove the baking beans and parchment and return to the oven for 10 minutes until light gold. As soon as the pie is removed from the oven brush all over with egg yolk and return to the oven for 1 minute (this ensures that none of the fruit juices will leak out of the pie).
Fill the pie with the fruit and roll out the remaining pastry to decorate the top. If you are attempting a lattice or some pretty braiding make sure your pastry is extremely cold or you will have a floppy, pastry mess on your hands. Use egg yolk to stick the uncooked pastry to the top of the tart. Egg wash the pastry a final time and bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.