Archive for June 14th, 2010

Not a very inspiring name for something so delicious, Eton Mess is said to have originated at Eton College, the famous public school near Windsor in Berkshire.  Traditionally, it is a combination of strawberries (also banana in the original version), cream, sugar and meringue and served each year at the picnic held on the Eton College playing fields following the annual 4 June prizegiving ceremony.  The derivation of the name is unclear: it could refer to the appearance of the dessert, but ‘mess’ is a word often connected with food, most notably army catering.  This comes from the word ‘mensa’: Latin for table.  Twice recently, while out for a pub lunch, I have had Eton Mess for dessert.  The first version was excellent but the second less good, the difference being the small size of the meringue pieces, which must be kept recognisable otherwise the dish can become a sickly mush. 

I decided it was high time I had a go at making Eton Mess myself.  I particularly liked the idea of adding another flavour when mascerating the fruit: various suggestions included Kirsch, a berry flavour liqueur or Cointreau (Jill Dupleix, Times online), Port (Antony Worrall Thompson, BBC) or Pomegranite juice (Nigella Lawson, Daily Mail – also book: Nigella Express).  As I had just bought a small bottle of Pomegranite Sauce/Syrup that I was itching to try out (ÖNCÜ brand Pomegranite Sauce, found in ASDA), this seemed the ideal opportunity.  I used this to mascerate the strawberries and raspberries (aproximately 450g strawberries and 150g raspberries), adding some sugar as well as the Pomegranite Sauce is quite tart in flavour.  It may be possible to use the sweeter French style Grenadine syrup, which is usually diluted with water as a fruit drink and available from continental supermarkets, but the sugar may need to be adjusted according to taste.  Some recipes use a mixture of yoghurt and cream, which helps to cut through the sweetness of the dessert.  We are very fond of crème fraîche, which is similarly although less sour than yoghurt, so I used a mixture of this and cream.  I was careful to leave the meringue in largish pieces as they break up a little more as the mixture is stirred together.  This dish can mostly be made in advance, although I would suggest that the components are combined shortly before serving.  A word about mixing Eton Mess: just because it is called ‘Mess’ it doesnt have to be too messy!  Aim for alternating spoonfuls, gently combined so the colours just start to mingle … it’s probably one of those cases where ‘less is more’!

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Eton Mess
Serves 4

600g strawberries & raspberries, mixed – reserve a strawberry/berries to garnish
3-4 teaspoons sugar or vanilla sugar, if available
2 tbsp Pomegranate Sauce/Syrup
145ml/5fl ozs whipping cream
145ml/5fl ozs crème fraîche
6-8 meringues, depending on size or 4 small meringue nests

1.  Hull the strawberries and halve (quarter or slice if they are large). Place them in a bowl with the raspberries, rinse gently, drain well and dry on kitchen paper.  Add the sugar and pomegranate syrup.  Leave to macerate for at least 30minutes.  Reserve a large strawberry or one good sized strawberry per portion to decorate. 

2.  Whip the cream in a large bowl until it is thick but still soft.  Gently fold in the crème fraîche. 

3.  Crumble the meringues or meringue nests aiming for largeish pieces, although there will be a mixture of large and small, all of which can be included.  Gently fold most of the meringue pieces into the cream reserving a few pieces to decorate.

4.  For one serving dish: Using a large bowl, alternate spoonfuls of cream/meringue mixture and fruit.  The mixture needs very little mixing together so the cream and fruit do not combine too much. 

5.  For individual portions: Divide the cream/meringue mixture between dishes or plates, placing a spoonful of fruit mixture on top of each and if necessary fold gently together once or twice with a spoon.

6.    Depending on size, carefully cut the reserved strawberry/berries into 4-6 slices without cutting through to the green stalk, gently fan out and place on top of the bowl or individual dishes.  Scatter over the reserved meringue pieces.  To serve, drizzle over a little additional Pomegranite Syrup (optional).

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