Now the snow has come we have seen more activity at the feeders, including this Downy Woodpecker with brown feathers on he wings instead of the regulation black.  We had one a couple of years ago but this variation is not at all common and worthy of mention … It also counts towards by quota of bird pictures which, after all, is what this journal started with several years ago.

Brown variant of Downy Woodpecker

But it’s Christmas, so here is an excellent recipe that will appeal to everyone.  It had to be modified from the original to suit local ingredients but I assure you that it is delicious …

Cranberry cocoa meringue pie (with chocolate pastry)

The Chocolate pastry:

  •  5oz patisserie flour (and not the sort with raising agent added)
  • 1oz cocoa powder
  • 1oz icing sugar
  • 3oz butter
  • 2 tsps cold water

Mix the pastry in the usual way and then chill really cold before rolling out – it makes quite a dry paste.

Line a 9 inch pie tin and bake blind at 160degC/350F (fan) for 25 minutes – then remove the baking beans and paper and cook until finished.  Cool. You can keep this for a day or so before doing the filling and eating

The filling

  • 125 ml milk
  • 3 medium egg yolks
  • 2 tbs plain flour
  • 1 tbs cornflour
  • 3 tbs caster sugar
  • 175 g creme fraiche
  • 300 g fresh cranberries or blueberries

The Meringue

  • 3 medium egg whites
  • 125 g caster sugar
  • 1 tbs cornflour
  • A little cocoa

The method:

Whisk milk, yolks, flour, cornflour, sugar and creme fraiche in saucepan until smooth then bring to boil. Add fruit and cook, stirring constantly and squashing the berries to burst them until colour deepens.  Spoon the hot fruit custard into the pastry case.

Whisk egg whites to thick froth, gradually beat in sugar until thick and glossy.  Sieve and fold in the cornflour.  Spoon and spread over the custard in soft peaks.  Lightly dist with cocoa.  Bake at 160degC/350F (fan) for 20 minutes.

Cool before removing from tin and eating.