Tuesday, June 8, 2010


It's a hot summer’s day, deckchairs are out, everyone is sporting the latest trilby, and grandfather’s binos are fixed on the riveting game on the green. Two teams of strapping, young, well-brought up boys are all adorned in starched whites and spotless knee-pads. After the last innings, an afternoon tea is served, in the pavilion, of cucumber sandwiches and scones...

...Yet, amidst the impressive neatness and stiff upper lips, Eton MESS sits pride of place. A towering castle of meringue, upon strawberries, upon cream. Rather a triumphant piece, yes, but surely not for here? A schoolboy prank, perhaps..?

Of course, there are those who would serve a neat little mound of whipped cream, with carefully cut meringue, and equally sliced strawberries. But where is the fun in that? One thing is for certain, my take on Eton Mess can in no way be described as tidy and conservative.
Unlike a game of cricket (though some might argue otherwise), this summer pud has no rules. You can make it any way you like and it will still taste the way it should. All you need is a few vital ingredients: a bat, a ball and some players...

Serves one Etonian cricket team of 11 players.
(Double the quantities if good sports)

750g whipping cream (double cream is fine but produces a heavier whip)
4 punnets/ 1kg of British strawberries.
1 vanilla pod
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 heaped tbsp caster sugar

750g small meringues:
750g egg whites
750g caster sugar
750g icing sugar

MERINGUES: Preheat the oven to a low temperature of 110C – you don’t want ‘em to burn.. Whip the egg white with an electric whisk, (by hand is fine if you want to increase the size of your biceps), until soft peaks appear. Then add the caster sugar. Continue beating for about five minutes, then add the icing sugar. Beat slowly for five more minutes. With a metal spoon, place small equal sized dollops (size doesn’t really matter for this recipe, it just looks more satisfying) on to a nonstick baking sheet. Why not make one giant meringue for the top of the mess? Bake for two hours, or until the meringues are crunchy and dry. You want the meringues to be white for this recipe, so make sure they do not start to brown. Leave to cool on a rack.

THE MESS: With an electric whisk (seriously, I would) whip up the cream until stiff and fluffy. Gently scrape the vanilla pod of its seeds and add to the cream.
Hull and quarter all the strawberries. Take a third of them and mash in a separate bowl until juicy, but still visibly chunky. Add the balsamic and sugar and marinate a while. Now fold into the cream, a little at a time. If the consistency becomes too wet, hold back on the mixture.
Crush the meringues, bar 11 into the cream. Best to leave slightly crunchy otherwise it just turns to sugar. The bittier the better.
Tower the rest of the meringues on top and sprinkle the remaining strawberries.
You now have a mountain of messy, summer scrumptiousity. Almost good enough to dive into...But if you’re wearing cricket whites I suggest you refrain, as strawberry juice is a toughie to remove and mother won’t be best pleased. Eat with spoons, forks, cricket caps or fingers. Anything goes old chap…

1 comment:

  1. May I thank the wonderful James Harris for this recipe. All credit goes to him!