My Dad’s favourite Eton mess

As it’s Father’s Day, I wanted to cook my dad a meal of his favourite things. As I mentioned previously in my ravioli post, I’m making him that as a starter, then cooking an Italian chicken dish, then serving his favourite dessert, Eton mess. I made this Eton mess a few weeks ago at our second barbecue of the year and he absolutely LOVED it, so I figured it was the best choice to make today.

It’s really easy and I just do a few little things to make it a bit more special and delicious. I think I picked up the tip of mashing and steeping the strawberries from a Nigella recipe and it makes ALL the difference; you get a lovely sweet sauce which makes the whole thing much more flavoursome than the strawberries would be if they were just ‘au natural’. I steep the strawberries in Chambord, and although it’s a raspberry liquer it really brings out the taste of the strawberries and doesn’t taste overly alcoholic (my pet hate in all cooking!). If you don’t have Chambord then any other strawberry liquer would do, or even fruit juice like cranberry, pomegranate or other red fruit.

To make things a bit easier on myself I made the meringue last night; it’s much easier that way and it keeps so well it seems silly not to. It cooks at such a low temperature there’s not much you can do with the oven whilst it’s in there so it’s good to get it out the way before you’re going to be doing other cooking.

Best ever Eton mess

Serves 4

2 large eggs, seperated

120g caster sugar or golden caster sugar (depending on how toffee-ish you want it)

400g strawberries

2 tablespoons Chambord or other juice/liquer

1 tablespoon caster sugar

250ml double cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method

Preheat the oven to 140C. Seperate the eggs and keep the yolks (they’re great to use in pastry). Whisk them with an electric whisk (or by hand, if you’ve got arms like the hulk) until they’re stiff. Add in half the sugar and keep whisking until really stiff and glossy. Fold in the remaining sugar and then spread the meringue onto a lined baking tray, into a circle around 9 inches in diameter and 1 1/2 inches thick, or into small blobs around 3 inches in diameter.

Bake in the oven for around 40 minutes until golden and set (the smaller ones will probably take a bit less time than that so just keep watch!). If you flip the meringue(s) upside down it/they should be dry underneath but will probably break apart (this is ok since you’ll be breaking it/them up anyway). It will give you an opportunity to see inside; it/they should be marshmallowy and gooey inside with a nice crunchy crust.

Leave the meringue(s) to cool either overnight or whilst you get on with the other things.

Cut half of the strawberries into quarters and put into a bowl. Mash gently with a fork and then sprinkle with the tablespoon of caster sugar and the Chambord. Mix everything together well. Quarter the remaining strawberries and sit them on top of the mashed ones, but don’t mix together. This way you get the contrast in texture between the mushed strawberries and the raw ones. Yum. Leave everything to steep for at least half an hour, but you could leave them for hours if you wanted to.

When you’re ready to serve, pour the cream into a bowl with the vanilla and whisk until thick but still soft. Don’t overwhip it because it becomes dry and less voluptous. Crumble in the meringue and toss in all the strawberries, sauce and all. Fold everything together and serve in bowls or glasses.

As my dad says, it’s the best treat of the summer, and should be enjoyed as much as possible!

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