Wimbledon reaches its denouement and that means we’ve reached peak strawberries and cream season. It’s difficult to beat bright, ripe strawberries drenched in single cream and perhaps the crunch of demerara sugar, but Eton mess is up for the challenge.
Strawberries, broken meringue, and softly whipped cream: it really is hard to think of a simpler summer pud, but I’m always surprised by just how delicious Eton mess manages to be. A pavlova for those who can’t be bothered to make pavlovas, the cream is sweetened by the crushed meringue folded through it, and the star of the show, the strawberries, are gleaming rubies threaded through the pudding. It’s a pudding that, when placed in the middle of the table, will force spoons to stray back for more.
Robin Weir writes about the origins of Eton mess in Recipes From The Dairy: it’s no surprise that the pudding heralds from Eton, with the dish being served in the school’s tuck shop. Perhaps less predictably, the librarian of Eton College interviewed by Weir is unable to say definitively which fruit was the original mess fruit. There’s a suggestion – one that Heston Blumenthal champions – that the dish may have been made with bananas, or at least that fruits were used interchangeably. But it’s safe to say that the pudding has become known for strawberries, and that’s what I’ll be employing here. Although, never a stickler for authenticity, I ate an Eton mess last weekend which added blueberries to the mix and drizzled the whole thing with mango coulis, and it was absolutely gorgeous: use the best looking, ripest fruit you can find, and to hell with the purists.
Most of the time, I plump for supermarket meringues, for simplicity’s sake, but homemade are cheaper and better; so if you’d like to make your own meringues for this, it’s a cinch, and you can find our recipe here. It goes like this…
Makes: Pudding for four
Takes: 10 minutes
Bakes: No time at all
2 meringue nests
300ml double cream
1. Whip the cream until it thickens and begins to hold its shape; it should hang off the whisk, rather than dribbling, but you want to stop short of it forming peaks that will stand up on their own.
2. Cut the tops of the strawberries and slice them into four. Spoon them into the whipped cream.
3. Break up the meringues in your hands: you want good bitesize chunks of meringue, rather than a load of dust. Gently sweep the broken meringues – and any dust that has been produced! – into your cream.
4. Fold almost all of the strawberries and meringue through the cream until they are distributed evenly. Spoon into individual serving dishes, or pile up on a plate.
5. Scatter the reserved meringue and strawberries over the top of the pudding, and allow everyone to dive in.