Saturday, 19 May 2012

Meringue Disaster (or, Eton Mess)

I've never told anyone this, but I have a problem which is quite embarrassing for a New Zealander. I can't make pavlova. Every time I try, my egg whites bypass the stiff peak phase and turn straight into a sloppy, gloopy mess. I know it can't be a genetic problem, as my mum can make perfect pavlovas* - all wonderfully risen and light. I've tried every solution - I clean the bowl and whisk with vinegar or lemon juice to rid the bowl of grease; I crack each egg with careful precision so as not to get a speck of yolk in the bowl, then I add the sugar a spoonful at a time - but all to no avail. I end up with meringues that are as flat as a pancake.

The only thing to do in such an instance is make an Eton Mess! I believe that the Eton Mess must have been created by someone as unfortunate as myself - after years of trying to perfect the meringue and failing, they thought " Stuff this, I'll just mash it up with some cream and fruit and pretend it was meant to be like that". And so the Eton Mess was born.

Eton Mess
Serves 4-6

You can use any of the following to make your Eton Mess:

1 disastrous meringue
1 perfect meringue (though if you can make this, why not make a pretty pavlova?)
A packet of store bought mini meringues

1 pint of double cream
450 g strawberries, cleaned and halved
1 tablespoons icing sugar

1) Whip your cream until soft peak stage. Place the strawberries and icing sugarplace in a blender. Whiz them into a purée and then pass through a sieve for extra smoothness.

2) Break up the meringue into largish chunks and fold into the whipped cream with the strawberry purée. Do not over-mix, as you want a nice marbled effect.

3) Dollop the mixture into 4-6 serving bowls and finish with the rest of the strawberries on top.

* Incidentally, Wikipedia states that the origin of pavlova is New Zealand! It was created by a hotel chef in Wellington in 1926 to celebrate the ballerina Anna Pavlova's tour of New Zealand and Australia, and the soft white meringue is said to have been inspired by the tutu Pavlova wore in Swan Lake - her most famous role.

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