Toast: a movie review and a recipe for lemon meringue pie

Toast

There hasn’t been a good foodie movie since Julie and Julia came out in 2009. (Well, that was half of a good foodie movie as the parts with the blogger Julie were annoying.) Now we have the movie, Toast: The Story of a Boy’s Hunger, based on food writer, Nigel Slater’s book of the same name. The movie just came out on DVD in the US – just in time to buy it with that Amazon gift card you got for Christmas or Hanukkah!

In Toast, we quickly learn that Nigel’s mum literally cannot cook – well just about everything but mince pies. Her idea of making dinner is taking canned food, placing the unopened cans in a pan of water, and boiling them until heated. Poor Nigel is starving for a decent meal (he doesn’t even like the milk at school), but at least has his mum’s love – and toast with butter – to sustain him.

Nigel’s mum passes away from severe asthma while he’s still young. Nigel and his distant, sad father bumble through trying to care of each other. Nigel attempts to fill the void by cooking dinner himself. Instead, he ends up with a very burnt dinner that his dad assures him is just fine. It’s rather touching.

Life changes for these two sad blokes when their new cleaner (housekeeper) Mrs. Potter, played by the wonderful Helena Bonham Carter, shows up. She’s dressed like a tart and has the amazing ability to make enticing and picture perfect tarts, cakes, pies, roasts, and British classics like Toad in the Hole. Her cooking goes straight to Nigel’s dad’s heart and he moves them all out to the country, so he can live in sin with Mrs. Potter and her fabulous cooking. There’s something to be said for the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach!

Meanwhile, Nigel discovers the Domestic Science (home ec) class at his new school and his talent for cooking. Nigel soon starts a culinary rivalry over scones and lemon meringue pie with Mrs. Potter for his dad’s affections. Instead, Mrs. Potter turns up the kitchen heat a notch until she literally feeds Nigel’s dad to death. Fortunately, with his parents gone, cooking serves as a way for Nigel to leave all the madness behind him and start his adult life.

Toast is a lovely snapshot of England in the ‘60s and a sweet, funny story. However, I almost feel much of it is lost on American audiences as Toast’s appeal is nostalgia for a lost time in British life. Still, if  you’re a food aficionado, you’ll enjoy Toast’s classic vintage food presentations while rooting for Nigel – and marveling at Mrs. Potter’s wicked kitchen skills.

lemon meringue

And now for a dessert recipe from Toast’s food stylist, Katharine Tidy. Read an interview with her to find how she made all those amazing movie food dishes at Q & A With Katherine Tidy: Buttering Up the Food Stylist From BBC Films Toast from the LA Weekly blog.

Lemon meringue pie

Pastry ingredients:

  • 8 ounces flour
  • 4 ounces butter
  • a pinch of salt
  • cold water to mix

Pastry directions:

  1. Sieve flour into a bowl rub in the butter until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.
  2. Gradually add the water approx 2 tablespoons mixing with a knife then your hands until the mixture comes together.
  3. Chill in fridge for 30 minutes then roll out the pastry and line a flan case and bake it blind for approx 10 minutes. Line with baking paper and fill with rice or dried beans and cook until golden brown.

Lemon layer ingredients for a 9 inch pie pan:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup corn starch
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • the peel of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 4 eggs
  • 10 grams of gelatin powder
  • yellow food coloring (optional)

Lemon layer ingredients adjusted for very deep pie pan or flan pan:

  • 2 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup corn starch
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 3/4 cups warm water
  • the peel of 2 lemons
  • 1 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 10 eggs
  • 10 grams of gelatin powder
  • yellow food coloring (optional)

Lemon layer directions:

  1. Put all the ingredients except the eggs into a saucepan and bring slowly to the boil, mixing slowly to combine allowing the sugar and cornstarch to dissolve and thicken.
  2. When it has reached boiling point continue mixing for about a minute.
  3. Separate the eggs and whisk the egg yolks and gradually add the thick lemon mix.
  4. Return to the heat but do not allow to boil.
  5. Sprinkle 10 grams of gelatin powder into a tablespoon of water leave for a few minutes until it looks spongy. Slowly heat until the gelatin has melted.
  6. Add to the lemon mixture along with yellow food coloring for that total Toast effect.
  7. Pour into the prebaked flan case and allow to cool.

Meringue ingredients:

  • 4 egg whites for the 9 inch pie pan

OR

  • 10 egg whites for the deep dish

Meringue directions:

  1. Whisk the egg whites until thick and you can hold the bowl upside down without the egg whites falling out.
  2. Gradually add the sugar.
  3. Spread the meringues onto the lemon mix making sure to cover right to the edge then pile the rest of the meringue on top or pipe in a decorative design.
  4. Bake in the oven at its highest heat for about 5-10 minutes until lightly colored.

________________
Disclosure: I received a movie screener (not the full DVD version) to facilitate this review.

19 thoughts on “Toast: a movie review and a recipe for lemon meringue pie

    1. Anne-Marie Nichols Post author

      Angela, I just finished the book, too! It was a lot more explicit (especially about sex) and the movie had to cut a lot out (such as Nigel’s older brothers). Still it’s a good adaptation of the spirit of the book and the actors are marvelous in it, especially the two young men who play Nigel.

      Reply
  1. michelle

    Sounds like we have a bitter blogger. LOL. Its ok to be happy for other bloggers who have had books, tv shows or movies be successful. Just saying…

    PS. Toast we a very clever movie, and I would love to try and recreate some of those lovely old dishes.

    Reply
    1. Anne-Marie Nichols Post author

      I’m happy for any blogger who has a book deal, TV show or movie, Michelle. (Many of them are my friends or people I admire, like The Bloggess whose new book is FABULOUS.) I just found Julie’s portrayal in the movie totally annoying because it made food bloggers look like neurotic ninnies.

      Reply
    1. Anne-Marie Nichols Post author

      Stephanie, the recipe above is what was sent to me by the movie’s publicist and is based on the recipe created by the movie’s food stylist but in American (not English) measures and using American ingredients. Originally, as you can see from the LA Weekly article, the recipe uses grams and items like corn flour, which is what we call corn starch here in the US.

      Hope that explains things for you!

      Reply
    1. Anne-Marie Nichols Post author

      I haven’t tried it. I love lemon meringue pie, but can’t eat it due to my food sensitivities. Try comparing it to other recipes out there to see if it’ll work. I’m sure it will as the publicist said this is the recipe that the movie’s food stylist made. Not only did it have to be pretty and cook up well, but it had to taste good since the actors did have to eat it on camera.

      Reply
  2. Neil

    Thanks your recipe,I always trying to make a lemon meringue pie after i watched this movie
    but the taste always not satisfying(especially layer part)
    I wish i could make a successful pie with the recipe you offered
    Thank you!

    Reply

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