A bucket list of food, or all that I want to eat in faraway places I can't afford to visit and will have to cook at home

If you're anything like me, you have a culinary bucket list. Yep. I have one of those. In fact, it is the only bucket list I have. While in my teens and early twenties, I had another sort of bucket list, which involved dating at least a guy from a band once, visiting Paris and London, going to 221B Baker Street - happy to say I did that one twice! - going to Jean Paul Gaultier's flagstore in Paris, reading Kerouac's "On the Road" while actually on the road, living abroad for a while, meeting Stephen King and visiting New Orleans. Of these, only the last two remain unacomplished and hardly ever will be. I don't fancy travelling anymore, nowadays, and though I imagine I would loooove to shake Mr. King's hand, I know for a fact that we'd best leave our idols just like that: idols. Unatainable. Besides, we would argue because of this.

So while nowadays I try to steer clear of regular bucket lists, I maintain my culinary one. Because things seem to be so much about food, really, and one can trace one's life through food, and recipes, and nourishment. Whole cultures can be understood just by diving into their gastronomy, one is better perceived through eating habits, personalities come to life when we see their owners eating. Food should be regarded as a pleasure, not an obligation. It should be perceived as a learning curve, actually, discovery in every sense, an act of love. I always feel that cooking is such an act of love, and I feel heart broken at people who don't really understand this and cannot comprehend that when you cook them a lavish meal you're not showing off, you're showing how much you care for them, how much you esteem them and want them in your life. Food must bring people together, be shared, be enjoyed, be discussed and offered and taken and given across a huge table, ladden with goods. Oh how I would love to do a Supper Club of sorts, were I less of an introvert!

From my bucket list, I've crossed so much already. I have crossed gumbos and jambalayas and biscuits - yes, my fascination with those areas around the Mississipi and the bayous is somewhat deeply engrained in my soul, were I to speak of reincarnation one of mine must have been lived in that area - I have crossed most italian classics that have taken my fancy, I have crossed some french must dos like cocq au vin and croissants, english roasts, the soda bread, massaman curry, nasi goreng, goulash, strogonoff, fritatta, pearl barley, bulgur wheat, my grandmother's silver cake, beef and duck Wellington, plenty of game like quails and wild chucks and vennison, and many, many more. But I still have a workload on that list of mine.

There's dutch babies on that list, and they will come soon. There's hog, I need to cook hog one day. And tarte tatin, either sweet or savoury. Pineapple upside down cake, it's a must! More cinnamon rolls, for we haven't yet achieved the level of perfection I find delightful. Clafoutis, cobblers, clam chowder, icecreams galore, crumpets. So many dishes, so little time - and money for the ingredients, should I add!!. But there has been one thing that has stood on the top of my list for so many years. More than I can really admit.

The Lemon Meringue Pie. And yes, you've guessed it, it has a story to it. Doesn't it always? It's another Summer story, this one, and one not set on my grandparents' home near Campo de Santana. It is set at my parents' house, straight across from the local police station - which didn't prevent a cop's car getting stolen from a parking lot on that side of the road! - a story set on a hot, hot Summer, when we couldn't really afford to go anywhere for more than two weeks, and we had just gotten back either from the Algarve or Vila Nova de Milfontes, I can't remember. I was stuck at home, being about twelve or thirteen I wasn't really allowed to go to the beach alone, most of my friends were away, so I had to resort to my most faithful companions ever: books.

I had somehow gotten my hands on a Trixie Belden book I hadn't yet read, so I sat myself down to peruse it, but as it often happens with that kind of books, I was soon too far immersed in the story trying to find out whodunnit and could not put the darn book down. Maybe it's not the best kind of literature, nor the best written thing in the world, but hey, it was mighty entertaining, for a twelve year old child stuck at home during the Summer, living in the suburbs of a big city, while everyone else is away (ensue Bananarama's Cruel Summer song right here).

Somewhere along the story, a lemon meringue pie is mentioned, capturing my imagination in a way I cannot explain, let alone describe. It pulled a string, somewhere deep inside me. It was as if all of a sudden, I was on the verge of remembering something, something I had long ago known oh so well, and forgotten all about it. That day I started thinking about reincarnation, and went in search of books on that subject. The local library was like paradise. But though my focus shifted almost immediately from the lemon meringue pie to my sense of recognition and thus to suspecting I might have lived before and thus pursue the subject of reincarnation and transmigration of the soul - leading to a life long delving into the occult, yeah, call me a witch if you want, I do!! - the thought of that lemon meringue pie stayed on.

Now, I've often said I am not a fan of meringue. It always seems like you're biting into mere snips of air, into fluffy clouds, so sweet they hurt your teeth. It was no different with this pie, and yet... and yet, the combination of the hard crust, with the creamy lemon curd, topped off by that cloud of egg white, sugary but not too much... it made perfect sense, you know? It was an "Aaaaaah, I get it!" moment, if I ever lived through one - I did, when I first felt my son kick inside my huge belly. I got why people want to have children. Luckily, I cured myself of that one right after the kid turned two!

So having managed to write this one off my bucket list, rest assured it is one pie we will be baking again, and again, as it is great for using egg whites that tend to pile up on the freezer - at least ours do, don't know why... - and it is also great for me having an excuse to cook up a batch or two of lemon curd, something I adoooore, and so does my son. I'll leave the dough making and the meringue for my husband, I assure you, though today I did get my hands into some dough as I decided to use the rest of the lemon curd on a simple lemon tart. It did not go bad, I must say, it did not go bad. I believe I'm on my way to beat my fear of touching dough!!

Enough with talking, here's the recipe. For the dough you'll need:

  • 185 gr flour
  • 125 gr unsalted butter, chilled and cut to pieces
  • 2 tablespoons icig sugar
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons very cold water
Sift the flour and the sugar into a bowl and add the butter. With the tips of your fingers, crumble both together, and then add most of the water, mixing together with your fingers until you get a firm dough. Place on a cool, floured surface and roll into a ball, wrapping it in cling film. Chill for twenty minutes. After that time, roll the dough between two sheets of baking parchment, and line a pie dish. Place the dough into the dish with the aid of the rolling pin, and chill once more for ten minutes. Pre heat your oven at 180. Once the ten minutes are through, cover the dough with another piece of baking parchement that you have crumpled, and on top of this scatter baking beads, small river stones - the kind you use in home decor, you know? -  or rice. Bake for about twelve minutes and then remove the baking parchement and the beads/rice/stones, allowing the dough to cook for ten more minutes. Let cool on a rack.

The lemon curd needs:
  • 3 eggs
  • 200 gr caster sugar
  • juice of 4 lemons (125 ml)
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of lemon zest
  • 125 gr cubed unsalted butter
Start by taking out of the fridge your ingredients well in advance so they can be at room temperature when you start cooking. On a glass bowl that is heatproof, whisk the eggs, the sugar, the lemon juice and zest. Put a pan on the stove in medium heat with about 2,5cm of water and let it come to a simmer, then place the bowl over said pan, making sure the bottom of it does not touch the water. Yes, we'll be using the bain marie method, but don't worry, it'll be fine. Stir the mixture until it's hot and slowly add the butter, whisking untill it's well combined and incorporated. Turn the heat lower and let it cook, whisking constantly. You want to keep a low heat to prevent the eggs from cooking too fast and forming lumps. If you find it too runny, you can sift a tablespoon of cornmeal to help it thicken. Now, I would never advocate this short cut while making lemon curd that is meant to be used on toast, eaten as jam, but for a pie, I find that it does work better if you add the flour. Once the mixture thickens up and becomes glossy, coating the back of a wooden spoon, it's done. Remove it from the heat and let cool. 

And finally, for the meringue be sure to use:

  • 6 egg whites
  • 250 gr caster sugar
Whisk the whites to had peaks with an electric whisk and gently add the sugar, making sure you keep whisking until you get a glossy, thick meringue. Reserve. Now for the assembling of the pie, you just scoop the lemon curd into the pie crust and cover with the meringue, forming swirls with the blade of a knife, for added beauty. Bake in the oven for five to ten minutes, until the meringue has browned. Serve it warm or cold, I will say I prefer it really cold, with a tall glass of homemade lemonade on the side, but it goes down a treat with a nice cup of tea as well! What do you have on your bucket lists? Do you even have a cooking bucket list, like I do? I'm rather curious to know!


  1. oh que perdição! está absolutamente fantástica!
    pure gourmet!
    votos de uma ótima semana

  2. Descobri uma lista de comidas que queria fazer de quando andava no básico e só envolvia várias versões de bolo de chocolate hehehe. Concordo tanto quando falas que uma refeição esforçada não é um show off, é um gesto de amor. Cozinho várias vezes para os meus amigos (e familiares) e só a ideia de eles irem regalados embora dá-me um sorriso enorme e quero-os sempre de volta.
    Adooooooooooro merengue, não tens noção! Adoro tartes com merenge, pavlovas, enfim, mas lá está acho sempre que não tenho pedalada pra estas coisas, sou uma cobarde culinária! (só hoje é que fiz molho de barbecue). Fiquei a babar com a tua tarte :'(
    ps: cinnamon rolls? vendia metade da minha família para os ter sempre em casa :||

    1. nunca fiz molho barbecue loooool!!! O merengue é o meu marido que o faz, eu não aprecio... ;)


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