Meringues, according to one of my favourite food writers, Felicity Cloake, “look about as much like the chalk-white nests of yesteryear as Kylie Minogue resembles that fresh-faced, poodle-permed teenager.”
At this time of year, when an abundance of the best-tasting strawberries are being plucked from the fields of Herefordshire and Somerset, Eton Mess seems to become a popular pudding.
It is the easiest thing to whip up, and, I truly enjoy getting creative and inventing variations. My best mess ever was homemade meringues made in the ESSE ELX990, raspberry or blackcurrant sorbet, vanilla mascarpone and lemon zest cream, fresh figs and crushed frozen raspberries, topped with a cherry, raspberry and black currant sauce.
The ultimate summer pudding.
300g caster sugar (golden if you prefer a more caramelised flavour and colour) 5 eggs whites Makes 8 - 10 large ones
Heat the top oven of the ESSE ELX 990 to 200C. Spread the sugar over an oven tray lined with baking parchment and cook until it has just begun to melt at the edges, but not caramelise (about 8 minutes).
Crack the eggs, being careful not to drop any yolk into your whites. If you lose any bits of shell, scoop out with the eggshell – shell acts like a magnet.
Put the egg whites into a clean mixer. I use my Kitchen Aid, but you can use a hand whisk. Make sure there is no water or contaminants in the bowl or the egg whites will not froth.
The mixture should be just foamy by the time you start to add the sugar. Add the hot sugar slowly one teaspoon at a time, into the still-whisking mixer. Continue whisking until the mixture has cooled. It should look glossy and hold its shape. Turn the oven down to its lowest setting. I turn the bottom oven of the ESSE on to 60 degrees.
If you want to fold through any spices or other flavourings, or roll the meringues in nuts or another topping, this is the time to do it.
Line a baking tray with parchment. Use a serving spoon to plop a large blob of meringue on to the tray. You can pipe them if you are feeling truly swish.
Leave space in between each blob as the meringues increase a little in size as they dry out. Put them into the oven and bake until they are crisp on the outside, and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom: depending on their size, this could take six hours, so don't wait up.
Turn the oven off and leave them in there until it has cooled. Transfer to an air-tight container.
So take note…
Meringues need clean equipment, good sugar, and, most important of all, a low oven. If you don't have an oven thermometer, and you suspect your oven is too hot, try turning it down to the coolest setting, and leave the meringues to it. Don’t rush a meringue.
While the meringues are cooking, you have a lot of time to make the other components, all of which keep in the fridge or freezer.
Freeze a tub of fresh raspberries
200g golden caster sugar
200ml boiling water
4 tbsp liquid glucose
Juice of 2 lemons
Make a syrup by stirring the sugar into the boiling water and add the glucose and the blackcurrants and cook for about 5 minutes. Whizz in a food processor, and strain into a bowl through a sieve. Use a wooden spoon to sieve until you just have a dry pulp left in the sieve.
Stir in the lemon juice and cool. Place in an ice cream making machine or put in a tupperware container and beat 3-4 times as it freezes, every 20 minutes.
VERY BERRY SAUCE
100g Pitted cherries,
Juice of 1 orange
2 tbsp icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste
Place berries in the pan with the icing sugar, vanilla paste and orange juice. Heat for a few minutes to release the juices. Transfer to a bowl and blend briefly until berries are pureed. Blitz do not over blend. Pass through a fine sieve to remove the seeds and reserve in the fridge. This can be used on meringues, vanilla ice cream, over the top of a summer pudding. It is a great way to use up berries and it keeps in the fridge.
MASCARPONE VANILLA CREAM
1 x 250g tub of mascarpone
1 x 200g French fromage frais or crème fraiche
1 tsp vanilla
Zest of a lemon
1 Tbsp icing sugar
Whip all ingredients together (you might want to slacken with a little double cream). This keeps in the fridge. Do not over whip. Before I serve this I whip in a little of the berry sauce to flavour the cream.
Honey and Thyme Roasted Figs … are delicious on the top and around the sides ….
THE PILE UP
Meringue, Vanilla Mascarpone Cream, Sorbet, Very berry sauce, crush the frozen raspberries over the top for decoration and slice some fresh figs to place around the base of the meringue… and jolly well hope that someone calls you a show off because if you pull this off, you deserve that label!