Hello and welcome to all about food. It’s time for a classic and with strawberries a plenty, nothing says summer quit like Eton Mess …
I’m looking for a seasonal summer dessert to serve at Sunday lunch for my in-laws in a few weeks time. Do you have any suggestions?
At this time of year nothing tastes as good as strawberries. We produce some of the finest strawberries in the world and during July and August it is great to see them being sold along the roadsides. As I type I’m enjoying a bowl of strawberries from my own garden, having fought off some very aggressive birds earlier in the day!
One of my favourite strawberry desserts has to be the classic Eton Mess. Eton Mess was created in the English Eton College in the 19th century. The dessert consists of strawberries, meringue and fresh cream.
Although the dessert works just fine with shop bought meringues, there is more satisfaction telling your guests that you have made them from scratch – especially when cooking for your in-laws! There are a few tips to consider to ensure your meringues are a success. Firstly, ensure there are absolutely no traces of egg yolk (or shells!) in your whites. Secondly, always use spotlessly clean bowls and equipment, any grease or water will stop the whites from whipping. I only use stainless steel bowls as plastic bowls are more likely to hold residue. To make double sure all equipment is clean, pour boiling water over the bowl, whisk etc and dry with a clean cotton cloth. Finally, I make the meringues at least one day before I need them and store them in an airtight container – meringues will keep for at least a week in an airtight container.
6 large free-range or organic egg whites
300g of caster sugar
a pinch of salt
500ml of whipping cream
500g of fresh strawberries
2 tablespoons of flaked almonds, lightly toasted in a dry pan. (optional).
Preheat your oven to 150ºc and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Place the egg whites in to a large stainless steel bowl and whisk until they reach firm peaks. With the mixer still running, gradually add the caster sugar and a pinch of salt. Whisk for a further 8 minutes until the meringue is smooth and glossy with no sugar grains. Spoon the mixture into ‘blobs’ on to the baking sheet, leaving a gap between them. Bake for one hour, remove and allow to cool.
To make the Eton Mess, hull and roughly chop all but a handful of the strawberries. Puree the remaining strawberries and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk the cream until you have soft peaks; be careful not to over whip the cream, you want it to stay soft and delicate.
I like to serve Eton Mess in a large serving bowl – break the meringues into bit size chunks into the serving bowl. Gently fold in the cream followed by the chopped strawberries and strawberry puree – do not be tempted to over mix, you want an array of colours rather than one pink mass! Finally, sprinkle with the toasted almonds before serving.
Though strawberries are traditionally used in Eton Mess feel free to play about with whatever fruits tickle your fancy! Try a mix of raspberries and redcurrants or blueberries or why not experiment with a rhubarb or blackberry compote. If you are not a fan of flaked almonds, try topping with pomegranate seeds for added texture and taste.
Gingergirl aka Helen Keown is an artisan food producer who produces a range of handmade luxury jams, preserves and chutney’s made from local, seasonal or organic ingredients. Helen’s produce is available nationwide from independent food emporiums and is also available at selected food delis across Europe.
Letters to ‘gingergirl’ c/o The Limerick Leader, 54 O’Connell St. Limerick.
You can follow gingergirl’s on Twitter – under gingergirlfood or on Facebook – under ‘gingergirl’.
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