Does this ever happen to you? You hear of a recipe you’ve never heard of before and suddenly you want to make it. It happens to me a lot. I was browsing somewhere and read the words “Shaker lemon pie” and I had to find out what it was straight away. In-depth research (obsessive comparison of online recipes) followed.  I discovered that you use the whole lemon, peel and all. The secret is to slice it so thinly that, as one recipe said, the slice of lemon drapes over the knife like a watch in a Salvador Dali painting. I needed to bake that pie. But I was away from home and I was busy. My oven called me from home, “Come and bake that pie!” but I couldn’t. My longing grew for that pie I’d never made.
I could almost taste it. Another week passed. I still wasn’t at home and I had no access to an oven. I ducked into a supermarket to grab food for my busy week and saw a man buying many lemons. “He must be making Shaker lemon pie,” I thought. That’s how obsessed I was. Did he go home and make it? We’ll never know. You’ll be glad to hear I didn’t stalk him.

A full 15 days after I heard of Shaker lemon pie, I was able to make it. But I made it in a hurry and I wasn’t concentrating so I ended up making…ahem…lemon tart. I forgot to put the top on it. I think that affected the taste a bit, as the pie filling got a little burntish and the…er…slightly charred lemon peel was very intense. I will make it again, next time with a proper pastry lid, and I think it’ll be much more mellow. I used this recipe: Shaker lemon pie. The two most important ingredients not listed in the recipe are: take your time and focus!

And what of the Countess? Well, that’s the china: Royal Doulton Countess. I spotted it years ago on a TV series, Lark Rise to Candleford, and became a bit obsessed about that too. It was made from the late 1800s to about 1930, I think. For a long time all the Countess I owned was a cake stand because the pattern was hard to get in Australia and too expensive to buy overseas. Then one day a friend of mine who has an eye for china was browsing in an op shop in a very untrendy part of Sydney when he spied a sweet little teapot, jug, sandwich plate and various cake plates in Countess. Because he is an outstandingly generous individual he bought the lot and gave it to me in shoeboxes wrapped up with thick green ribbon.  And that’s the story of how the tart met the Countess.