Baking has always been a spiritual practice for me. I have struggled my whole life with grief. I lost my stepfather who I believed was my dad when I was 3, then both maternal grandparents when I was 8. My maternal grandmother Grace was a fixture in my early childhood and she was in many ways the greatest influence on who I am today. I credit her with my creativity, my flair for the dramatic, my love of sequins and my fun loving attitude. She drank a little too much and said things she probably shouldn’t have and I’m afraid I’ve inherited that too… I’m working hard on finding the line where a good time ends – especially since the kind of ‘good’ times involving afternoon drinks or nights out are so few and far between. It’s just so easy to overdo it when you get a taste of the freedom of your youth. Another thing I got from her was my love of baking. She had a bakery when my dad and my Uncle Kev were small that had long since closed by the time I came around yet she hadn’t lost her touch. We’d spend long Sunday afternoons baking together and everything she made she made a miniature version for me, often crafting tiny pans out of cooking foil to make mini bread loaves, hot cross buns and delicious fruity pies from the wild blueberries we’d pick in the bush (that’s Canadian for DEEP woods). I created this recipe the other day because Tim came home with a massive bag of cherries given to him by the fruit seller at the end of the day for £1. I dug the blueberries out of the freezer and had a good rummage of the cupboards while my mind was many, many miles away thinking of a dear friend going through a difficult time. I’ve always turned to the kitchen in times of need. I’m not a religious person but I suppose baking has become a bit like prayer for me and with each measurement, each pour and sift I am calling from my heart for love, peace and hope. There’s a fantastically cheesy Sarah Michelle Gellar film called Simply Irresistible about a chef called Amanda who makes food that can magically make whoever is eating it feel what she was feeling while she cooked it. It’s a pretty ridiculous movie but one whose premise stuck with me. I feel like when I am baking that my grandmother is still with me whispering the ingredients in my ear and invoking some kind of ethereal spell of understanding and protection. It reminds me that the most valuable gift we can give children, or anyone really, is our time. A wise person once said:
They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.
I wasn’t able to share these pies with the person who they are intended for but I can tell you that they are delicious, delicate and unique, the accents of rose and cinnamon add and unexpectedly elegant twist. Please make them, eat them, and feel the love.
Kindred Pies ( blueberry, cherry, rose and cinnamon)
2 boxes of JusRol shortcrust pastry (it’s vegan! also I’m too lazy to make pastry from scratch)
1 1/4 cups fresh cherries split and pitted
3/4 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 cup demerara sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tbs rose water
Preheat the oven to 200 c. Use a wide cup or container to cut out pastry to fit your tin. I used a plastic soup container and it was the perfect fit for my muffin tins to make mini pies but you could make a whole pie if you have a pie tin handy. Mix your blueberries, cherries, sugar and rose water in a big bowl. In a smaller bowl sift your cinnamon into your flour then toss gently into the berry mix while stirring until everything is coated then spoon the mix into the prepared pasty cases. I chose to do a very simple lattice top (again, lazy) by cutting 1cm strips and making x’s across the pies and crimping at the edge. Pop in the oven to bake for 15 minutes then check on them and turn the oven down to 175 c and bake for another 10-15 minutes (for mini pies) or 30-35 mins for a big pie. I don’t trust my oven so I check a lot. You’ll know they are done when the crust is dark golden brown and the filling is bubbling.