When I was a child I lived a stones throw from the open moor of the Peak District. It was so close that I spent many a happy day riding my friends pony, or cycling, along its lanes, clambering across the heathland, making fires in the woods and generally having good old fashioned fun.
I did not appreciate any of this at the time – either the freedom I had or the beauty that surrounded me, but my love for this wild, open, untamed countryside has never left me. Those moors are my favourite place in the world.
In late July, often in the first week or so of the holidays, Mum would make an announcement – it was time to go bilberrying. Bilberries are the European cousin of the blueberry and their bushes, which grow wild all across the moors, were full of the tiny, ripe, juicy berries just waiting to be claimed.
The European bilberry is smaller in size than its American counterpart and blue all the way through, not whitish as the inside of a blueberry is. In my opinion the bilberry may also have a stronger, more fragrant flavour, but I’m not sure whether that’s true or whether it’s just the rosy glow of my memories…
Anyway, we’d jump into the car and drive to the best local spot, then, clutching our Tupperware, out we’d all pile to pick the berries, a reminder to try and put as many in the Tupperware as our mouths ringing in our ears
An hour or so later, fingers and often knees stained purple, we would head home with a carrier bag loaded with the sweet, intensely flavoured, little berries and Mum would set to work turning them into one of the most delicious pies I’ve ever tasted.
The smell, as Mum carefully extracted the first slice of pie, was unbelievable – fragrant, syrupy and fruity. If we’d been restrained enough during the picking, the slice would be more deep dish – higher and juicier than a regular slice of pie and bursting with fresh blueberry flavour. With the six of us, more if we had friends round, it never lasted long, and was a once a year phenomenon, but it was totally, totally delicious and has become an important childhood memory.
This is my version of the pie. Made from the cultivated blueberry rather that the wild bilberry, it lacks the adventure of the open moors, the thrill of the find and delight born of limitation. There is however a new delight to be found in the regular, homely smell of a blueberry pie baking on a Saturday – be it for breakfast or pudding – knowing that we will get to sink our teeth into a lovely big slice yet again.
This pie is incredibly simple to make. All you need to do is line the pie plate with the pastry, toss the berries with the sugar and flour, pour them into the pastry, top with the remainder of the dough, egg wash and bake.
I frequently use frozen berries, cooking the pie for around 45 minutes, until I can see the juices bubbling through the hole cut to allow the steam to escape. This bubbling ensures the flour has had the opportunity to thicken the juices making them silky smooth. However, if it’s summer then fresh berries are readily available. Go ahead and use them, just cook the pie for slightly less time.
- 1 x 375g packet ready rolled shortcrust pastry or the equivalent of home-made
- 450 g fresh or frozen blueberries
- 2 heaped tablespoons sugar
- 1 heaped tablespoon flour
- 1 egg
- A splash of milk
- You will also need a 24cm pie plate
- Pre-heat the oven to 180°C
- If using home-made pastry, cut your pastry ball in half and roll out one piece on a well-floured work surface, turning it a quarter turn every few rolls until it is big enough to cover your pie plate.
- If using shop bought dough, unroll it onto a floured surface and check to see if it is wide enough to cover your pie plate. If not, roll it out a little more until it covers it sufficiently. Scrunch the remains together.
- Grease the pie plate, and gently place the dough onto it, easing the dough into the edges and cutting off any excess with a knife.
- Pour the frozen berries into a bowl, spoon over the sugar and flour and stir, then pour the berries into the pie crust piling them up in the middle and sprinkling over any sugar and flour that hasn’t stuck to the berries.
- Beat the egg with a small splash of milk and brush this round the edge of the pastry so that the lid will stick to it.
- To finish, roll out the last piece of dough and carefully place it over the filling to create the lid, again cutting off any excess with a knife.
- Crimp the edges with a fork or your fingers and make a slit in the top to allow any steam to escape. Brush the top of the pie with the remaining egg.
- Place in the pre-heated oven for 30 – 45 minutes until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling.
- Serve with cream or ice cream.