Okay. So we’re approaching the beginning of the middle of the end of this novel we call Covid-19 and I for one am furiously licking my thumb to turn the page. I don’t care about spoilers.
I want this book done.
This does mean that eventually we will be released into the wild and we will be able to congregate in crowds with wild abandon. As an insular and self-confessed creepy loser who enjoys the confines of personal space, even I can admit I am looking forward to being in a crowded environment once again.
But what’s more, I’m looking forward to just being able to have my friends around a table again, long arms being stretched in zig zag directions over a table as we pass around food and bottles and utensils and bird-like chatter soundtracking the nonsense. It’s something I live for and long for and I think we can all agree that we will appreciate those gatherings so much more when it is safe to do so.
Now the timing means that we will most likely be greenlit to congregate when the weather will turn. The desperate rays of spring should evolve into raging beams of summer. Sounds great on paper. But this means we will probably want to eat outside… which is something we’ve only been allowed to do in patches for the past year… great…
As someone who has a fear of small flying bugs and proactively avoids sitting in direct sunlight (not for skin safety sake but for pore definition… uuuch) then I am a bit gutted that being able to sit in groups again probably means – even though lockdown will ease – I will be forced to do it outside.
But I will take my gatherings as I can get them.
However, the burning sun, while it does warrant lounging about for hours on end on plastic furniture and doing so until it’s in the middle of the night but still sunny, does also mean I tend to turn away from my oven and hob. Not out of malice or disrespect, but when the sun is hot and the groups are gathering outside, the last thing I like to do is hunch over a bubbling pan or have the oven motor going full pelt.
So during these times, I like to keep cooking to a minimum as much as possible, and I have a few “no-cook” recipes up my sleeve for when the situation calls.
As a Brit, the Eton Mess has crossed my table on many occasions and under many guises. Traditionally made with strawberries, it’s a true summer staple and has a flexible plethora of variations. My personal poetic take on it combines the florally sweet but sharp notes of a Turkish Delight, which happens to be my mothers favourite chocolate bar and I would jokingly gift one to her on every celebratory occasion.
This recipe, while being a carpet ride of strong, bolstering flavours, still manages to sit comfortably with the delicate texture that you’d expect from an Eton Mess. But my favourite thing about it, even more so than the melody of flavour combinations, is the fact there is no cooking involved and I can make them in advance which means they can chill in the fridge until the moment arrives when I can ceremoniously serve them.
All you have to do is make your raspberry puree in one jug and then your Eton Mess base in another bowl and stash them separately in your fridge. When it comes time to serving, just assemble them as directed and serve.
Even if it does mean carting them outdoors to be eaten alive by gnats and summer wasps, which, to be honest, these days are the size of badgers with wings. I promise I’m not wishing isolation on us again, I swear. I just hate eating outdoors… sue me…
For the raspberry puree
1 tsp icing sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp rose water
For the Eton Mess
450ml double cream
2 heaped tbs icing sugar
2 tsp rose water
4 premade meringue nests
A handful of chopped pistachios
- For the raspberry puree, combine the 1/3 of the raspberries, the icing sugar, the lemon juice and rose water in a small jug and blitz to a runny, smooth liquid. You could also do this in a blender. If you want it to be slightly more liquid, just add a tiny splash of water but not too much. Put to one side.
- For the Eton Mess, put the double cream and icing sugar in a large bowl and whisk until the cream thickens. I find it easier and quicker to do this with an electric whisk but if you have enthusiasm and skipped the gym this week, go for it manually with a whisk and a strong arm. You want the cream to thicken and hold it’s shape if pulled up from the bowl with the whisk, but you don’t want it too stiff.
- Now add the rose water and using your hands, crumble in the meringue nests. You want a mix of thumb sized chunks and dust to give an interesting texture to the cream. Fold these into the cream.
- Grab your serving bowls. I often just use little glass cups depending on how many people I’m serving. I find that a smaller glass bowl or cup is best for this as opposed to big whopping bowls. You’ll find that these measurements will fill either 4 medium sized bowls or about 6 – 8 smaller cups.
- Spoon the Eton Mess cream into the bowl. Now add a tablespoon or so of the raspberry puree and using a spoon, mix the puree into the cream.
- Now pour over a small amount of the raspberry puree just to cover the top of the Eton Mess and dot with a few whole raspberries.
- Scatter over some chopped pistachios and repeat this process with all of your serving bowls or cups until you’ve used the mixture up.