For those of us who write about food, being invited to go and eat somewhere is fairly commonplace. Sometimes it’s a new restaurant, a cookbook launch or a street food market. Sometimes it’s an event tailored especially for food bloggers, which can either be tedious beyond belief or the perfect place to meet new drinking buddies. Most of these invitations come with freebies of some sort, which you repay with a plug – a tweet, Instagram photo or, if you have time, a blog post. Although these events can be fun and do have their uses, they also come with the risk of sapping the fun out of eating out.
Which is why the best invitations of all are those that come from friends.
In this world of promotion and social media, it’s easy to forget that there is joy in just eating out for the sheer hell of it. Enjoying food, sharing time with friends and just having a good time. It’s why most of us (bar an unscrupulous minority who are in it for the free goods) started writing about food in the first place: because we love it. Before hashtags, sponsored content and reviews, there was just dinner. And it was joyful.
So I spent Sunday afternoon at a south London barbecue in the garden of some very good friends. One just happens to be one of the best chefs in London, but don’t let that distract you from the story. We sat under a huge parasol chatting, drinking, cooing over the baby and eating olives. The sun was out and we had nowhere else we had to be. Six hours later, realising we had work in the morning, we wandered home full, a little drunk and very content. My friend cooked a shoulder of pork that spent a couple of days in a dry rub, before being cooked in beer, smoked and then finished on the barbecue. I knew it was going to be a cut above sausages and burgers – let’s face it – but nothing prepared me for how much I was going to love that pork. Three days on and I still dream about it.
My usual contribution to a barbecue is prosecco and dessert. The first is universally accepted as is, but the second can be a bit of a struggle when there are multiple guests with different dietary requirements. Fortunately this time, the brief was wide open, which I interpreted as an excuse to make my favourite chocolate pecan pie.
There’s not much more to say about it other than it being a classic pecan pie with the addition of chocolate chips. The only anomaly from the general rules of pie-making is that I don’t blind bake the tart shell. I have done in the past, but I find that a slightly softer, less cooked pastry works better with the filling; the flavours seem to permeate into it somehow. The pastry on this particular example is not my best, as I forgot how difficult it is to make pastry by hand in a hot kitchen when your food processor has gone on strike. These are moments when ready-made shortcrust is forgivable, if not preferable.
Chocolate Pecan Pie
Serves eight. Adapted from a recipe by David Lebovitz.
For the pastry
175g plain flour
1 tbsp icing sugar
120g unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small cubes
A little water
For the filling
3 large eggs
150g soft light brown sugar
200g golden syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
30ml olive oil
200g toasted pecans, roughly chopped
150g chocolate chips
To make the pastry by hand: sift the flour, salt and icing sugar into a large bowl and rub in the butter until it has the consistency of breadcrumbs. Gradually add the water, a little at a time, until it comes together in a smooth dough.
To make the pastry in a food processor: pulse together the flour, salt, icing sugar and butter until it has the consistency of breadcrumbs. With the motor running, gradually add the water until it comes together in a smooth dough.
Shape the dough into a disc, wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour.
Preheat the oven to 190ºc. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface and use to line the inside of a pie dish. Crimp the edges and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, golden syrup, vanilla extract and olive oil until smooth. Stir in the pecans and chocolate chips. Scrape the filling into the pie dish and bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes. When ready, the filling should be mainly set but with a slight wobble in the middle. Allow to cool completely before serving.
One year ago: Blueberry and Lemon Breakfast Scones