Master meringues this summer and a classic dessert can be ready in minutes. Tony Staples, head chef of The Grill restaurant, situated within Crawley’s Arora Hotel, shares his meringue secrets.
There are certain foods that sum up summer to me – fresh crab sandwiches (eaten while sitting on a Cornish beach) barbecue meat and Eton Mess.
The last one is a particular favourite of mine at this point in the summer when strawberries are still around, but I’ve had enough of eating them just with a dollop of cream.
My Eton Mess, served here in The Grill restaurant, is a spruced up version, less mess, more elegance.
However, it still has all the key components that make this dessert so delicious – strawberries, cream and meringue. We pipe the meringues into different shapes and sizes to add texture to the dessert, and serve it with a strawberry coulis.
If you are going to master one thing in the kitchen this summer, let it be meringues. Forget shop bought ones that crumble into white powder. Homemade have that satisfactory chewy centre, especially if you make them with my recipe.
Once made, they keep for weeks in an airtight tin which means as long as you have fresh cream in the fridge, and a punnet of strawberries, a great dessert is just a few minutes away. You can always crush the meringues, chop the strawberries and stir it all into the whipped double cream if you prefer a messier Eton Mess.
If you want to add a chef touch to your dessert, decorate it with tiny leaves of purple basil. The flavour combination is amazing and it will look very pretty.
Posh Eton Mess
For the meringue:
125g egg whites (the whites from approx. 4 eggs)
250g caster sugar
Pinch of salt
2 tabs cornflour
1 tsp white wine vinegar
Few drops of vanilla essence
Wedge of lemon
For the strawberry coulis:
Half a punnet of strawberries
150g icing sugar
Zest and juice of one lime
Few drops of vanilla essence
1tsp Xanthan gum – available in most supermarkets. This helps to hold the coulis together when put onto a plate
284ml pot of double cream
Seeds from half a vanilla pod
1-2tsp icing sugar to sweeten
One punnet of strawberries
Rub the lemon around the whisks of the food processor and a clean bowl. Wipe dry with kitchen paper.
Begin to whisk the egg whites with the salt until they triple in volume.
Gradually add the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, by gently sprinkling it in while still whisking. When the meringue starts to look glossy, add the sieved cornflour and one teaspoon of white wine vinegar.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, putting little dots of meringue at the corners to secure it in place.
Fill a piping bag with the meringue and pipe different shapes to your liking.
Place in an oven, 140oC, for an hour, then turn the oven down to 110oC and leave for at least six hours or overnight.
Once cool, place in an airtight container in a cool cupboard.
To make the coulis, simply blitz all the coulis ingredients in a blender.
To serve: whisk double cream into soft peaks, fold in the icing sugar and vanilla seeds, and arrange a few small spoonfuls on a plate.
Decorate with the meringues, strawberries and a drizzle of coulis.
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