My dessert repertoire, alas, grows ever smaller: a (mostly) waning interest in sugar and wheat means you'll get either Lesh's chocolate and date balls or the chocolate cake from Supper For A Song. BUT here it is, cherry season already and occasionally what's required from the kitchen is something more celebratory, something that feels like a proper dessert. Simple and untaxing if possible given it'll probably be hot. A cherry pie at some stage between late December and January feels right; fits the bill rather nicely.
Pitting cherries is, I admit, a chore, but you're probably on holiday somewhere anyway if it's cherry season. Pitting over the kitchen sink could be viewed a kind of meditation, no? Bloody juices a part of the (beautiful) deal.
Much of the pleasure of reading Nigel Slater lies in his choice of words. Good recipe writing is an artform, one I can only aspire to, and his recipes are excellent writing full stop. Of the pastry Slater uses to top a plum pie (and I chose to cover every single fruit pie I make) he says, "The crust is very short, and it really doesn't matter if it tears as you lower it over the fruit. Some of the juice will probably erupt through the crust as it cooks anyway. At least I hope so."
I toss pitted cherries in a teaspoon of cornflour and a palmful of whatever sugar is to hand in the base of an enamel pie dish. I then make the pastry using roughly equal measures of oat and barley flours in place of the plain flour he uses to make an even shorter crust, one I squash with the heel of my hand into a thick circle, gently lift on top of the fruit and press out with fingers to the lip of the pie dish. It's very forgiving and very, very good.
Happy holidays, peoples! Three mad-busy shopping days to go, so, be nice to all the sales staff out there and, if you're stuck for what to buy someone tricky, buy a damned book. One you've loved. Best bloody gift there is, a book. xxx