After the last four years of a gypsy lifestyle, you would think I would know a thing or two about travelling light. And while it’s true I can now pack a suitcase sparingly, there are some things I just can’t do without.
And chief amongst these indispensables are books.
I have gathered favourite books for the last 40 years and I would never part with them. Some have run away from home, others I have loaned to friends and family never to return, but there are hundreds and hundreds of books in a storage unit waiting to be reunited to me. In my When-I-Win-Lotto fantasies I dream of a book-lined study with a brass ladder. It’s at the top of my list, only then is it followed by a lovely kitchen.
Meanwhile there is an accumulated pile of books I move with me from place to place. Gathered in secondhand bookshops and op shops, I have an ever increasing pile of To Be Read books next to my bed. I’m an unrepentant reader.
So now Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman has been released today you can be sure I will be sitting down to read what is the most discussed book of the year. And while I normally read a book quite quickly, this will be different. Having waited so long for Harper Lee to release a second book, this is something to savour, something to take small sips of, allowing each word and scene and set-piece to take its place in my heart. It will involve due ceremony – a quiet and pleasant reading nook, a cosy throw rug, a well-made pot of tea, and something to accompany it.
When my friends heard of the book’s imminent release earlier in the year they set me a challenge, to come up with a suitably Southern menu as befitting the theme. They suggested ribs, or mint juleps and they suggested pie.
Given I have done ribs before, I headed straight to pie.
This peanut butter pie is the real deal, coming as it does from Food & Wine’s Ben Mims, who sought to capture his own southern childhood memories of one of his Mom’s most treasured recipes. It’s not as nutty as you might expect, nor as salty. It reminded me somewhat of that iconic Aussie ice cream, a Golden Gaytime. It’s luscious and sweet and immensely reassuring.
Make it and eat it, slice after slice as you absorb chapter after chapter. And for those of you who want to talk about Go Set A Watchman, let’s meet on my Facebook page to discuss it later.
Adapted from a recipe by Ben Mims
Makes a 22cm pie, enough for at least 8 generous slices
This is best made the day before you want to serve it.
- 1 quantity of sweet shortcrust pastry, chilled
- 1 cup (140g) icing sugar mixture
- 1 cup (375g) smooth peanut butter
- ½ cup (100g) firmly packed soft brown sugar
- ¼ cup (40g) cornflour
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 5 egg yolks
- 2 cups (500ml) milk
- 40g butter, cut into cubes
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 300ml thickened cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract, extra
- 1 tbsp icing sugar mixture, extra
Preheat oven to 200°C (fan-forced).
Prepare the chilled pastry by rolling it on a floured bench top until it’s 5mm thick. Line a 22cm traditional pie dish or a fluted tart tin. Prick the pastry base with a fork, trim the edges and line the pastry case with a sheet of baking paper and some dried beans or rice.
Bake the pastry case for 15 minutes, then remove the paper and beans. Return the pastry to the oven and bake for a further 10 minutes until the pastry case is golden. Allow it to cool completely while you make the filling.
In a small bowl, mix the icing sugar with half the peanut butter with a large fork. As you mash it together the mixture will start to crumble to the consistency of large breadcrumbs. Scatter half the crumbled mixture over the cooled pastry case and reserve the rest.
In a saucepan, whisk together the brown sugar, cornflour, salt and egg yolks until smooth. Whisk in the milk until thoroughly combined, then place the saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the custard comes to a simmer and thickens. Cook for a further minute, stirring so it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the saucepan.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the remaining peanut butter until smooth. Stir in the cubes of butter and vanilla until the mixture is smooth and glossy, then gently pour the custard over the pastry case and peanut butter crumbles. Chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight until set.
To serve, gently remove the pie from the tart tin and place on a nice serving plate. Whip the cream with extra vanilla extract and icing sugar until it is thick and soft peaks form. Use a spatula or palate knife to spread the cream over the pie, creating peaks as you go. Scatter the remaining peanut butter crumbles over the top before slicing.
$9.40 for 8 generous slices