For some reason we were talking about summer, about typical summer food, about strawberries, green peas, melon, okra, peaches, spinach and new potatoes. Of course, most of these are available all year round, but we like to enjoy the season. Today was different, we really wanted to eat strawberries and we decided to make Eton Mess.
According to Hilaire Walden in her excellent Book of Traditional English Cookery the strawberry dessert is eaten on June 4th in Eton during a picnic for pupils and parents of Eton College, as part of the annual prize giving ceremony. Others say it was first served during the annual cricket match between pupils of Harrow School and Eton College.
One anecdote is that a chef planned to make Pavlova but it collapsed, the other anecdote is that the Pavlova was perfect but a dog sat on it, making a mess, an Eton Mess.
Mascarpone is sometimes added to the cream, but that’s a bit over the top. No need to add sugar to the cream because the meringue is sufficiently sweet. Hilaire Walden suggests soaking the strawberries for two hours or longer in kirsch, an idea we liked. She also suggests using ready-made meringues, which make it even easier to make Eton Mess.
What You Need
- Raspberries (optional)
- Kirsch (or Brandy)
- Lemon Zest
What You Do
Clean the fruit, chop, place in a bowl and sprinkle with kirsch or brandy (one or two small tablespoons per portion). Leave in the refrigerator for at least two hours. Whip the cream. Add some lemon zest, mix. Start assembling the Eton Mess: first a layer of merengue crumbles, then fruit, then whipped cream, then a second layer, same order but make sure you can see some of the red fruit. Serve immediately.
In case you want to make your own (French) meringues: you need 2 egg whites and 100 grams of (finely granulated) sugar. The weight ratio should be 1:2, egg white to sugar. Set your oven to 90 °C or 190 °F. Whip the egg whites until somewhat stiff. Start slowly adding the sugar and continue whipping until the egg white mixture shows stiff peaks. Pipe the mixture on a baking sheet, transfer to the oven for 2 hours. The shape of the meringues is not important because you will need crumble for the Eton Mess