Eton Mess is a traditional English dessert which originated, no surprise here, at Eton College in the late 1800s. It’s formed of broken meringues, whipped cream and fruit (normally either strawberries or bananas) and it’s a perfect summer pudding due to the lightness of its ingredients.
Now that spring is creeping in, with its sporadic sunny, but chilly days it’s tempting to get work done in the garden. However, I know fine well that if I’m going to be working in the garden all day the last thing I’ll feel like doing when I get in is cooking a decent meal from scratch. I think a hot bath to take the chill from my bones (helped along by a warming glass of wine or two) will be a much stronger calling. So it was with a great deal of foresight that I prepared this beef madras in the slow cooker before I headed outside the other day.
The beauty of using the slow cooker to cook a curry is that it allows the spicy flavours to permeate into the casserole beef throughout the whole day while the slow cooking process also tenderises the meat. As a result, you’ve got a wonderful meal to come home to after a hard day’s work with very little effort and minimal prep work involved.
Upon tasting this beef madras, I discovered that it was a bit on the spicy side for my family so I kept my (dairy-free) portion aside and added lactose-free double cream into the rest. I don’t mind quite a generous amount of heat in my curries, but the addition of the cream seemed to be a resounding success with my family because it tamped down the heat of the chilli in the curry while adding a luxurious richness. Equally, you could omit the madras curry powder and use a garam masala curry powder instead, which will add flavour, but not heat.
If you like meals that involve very little work to prepare and curries with plenty of body and flavour then this beef madras is definitely one for you to try.
This orange and white chocolate pavlova is one of the easiest desserts you could ever make and I’ll bet it’s one that’ll be eaten the quickest too. I don’t know about your house, but few sweet things are demolished faster in our household than a pavlova, particularly one which merges a good zesty fruit with sweet sugary shards of meringue and rich, lightly whipped cream.
The combination of creamy orange curd spread over layers of thick meringue which is crisp, but still just slightly chewy, and sandwiched by silky whipped cream is a great marriage altogether. Although I’ve used orange in my curd you could easily opt to use lemon, lime or even passionfruit instead and any of them would give you a great result.
As this was made as a treat for my family I didn’t make it a dairy-free version, but if you can’t tolerate dairy you could easily adapt the recipe by using non-dairy versions of the ingredients such as oat cream, coconut cream, non-dairy butter and dark chocolate instead of white chocolate.
As easy as this orange and white chocolate pavlova is to make there are just a few small, but important, rules you must follow in order to get the best results:
1.) Don’t get any fat in the egg whites. Egg whites will not whisk properly if there is any fat in them whatsoever, so crack each of your eggs into a small bowl before tipping the egg whites one at a time into the bowl you’ll be whisking them up in. That way if you accidentally break an egg yolk you’re only throwing away one egg rather than the whole bowlful. Also, make sure your bowl and electric whisk beaters are spotlessly clean of any residual fats.
2.) Use room temperature eggs as they will be much more voluminous than fridge-cold ones.
3.) Use caster sugar. The egg white bubbles are so delicate that they’ll break more easily if they’re in contact with large pieces of granulated sugar. Therefore, using the smaller sized caster sugar granules will help to retain as much air within the egg whites as possible.
4.) Add a little cornflour to stabilise the egg whites and to create a slightly chewy texture to your meringue.
I made my meringues the night before I was intending to make the pavlova which meant that they could cool down slowly in the oven overnight, ensuring their crust did not crack very much, but you could just use them immediately once they’ve been cooked and have cooled down. Trust me, if you follow these tips you’ll be rewarded with beautiful, big meringues that’ll be just begging to be topped with whipped cream and an assortment of fruits.
For the meringues:
6 egg whites
375g caster sugar
2 tsps cornflour
For the orange curd:
1 large orange
The zest and juice of 1 orange
6 egg yolks
150g butter (or a non-dairy version)
225g caster sugar
A carton of lactose-free double cream (about 284ml) or a non-dairy version
100g white chocolate (you could use dark chocolate if you prefer)
Preheat your oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F/Gas mark 4.
Put greaseproof paper on two large baking sheets.
Separate 6 eggs and put the egg whites in a large mixing bowl. Whisk until firm and then whisk in the cornflour and sugar.
Spread three equal circles of meringue mixture onto the baking sheets.
Put in the oven and then turn the oven down to 150C/130C Fan/300F/ Gas mark 2. Bake for 1 hour and then leave the meringues to cool.
To make the curd:
Put all of the curd ingredients into a small saucepan and over a low heat gently whisk it together until it is hot and the curd leaves a thick coat on the back of a spoon dipped into it.
Strain it through a sieve into a bowl and leave it to cool.
To assemble the pavlova:
Break your white chocolate into small pieces and place in a bowl. Leave the chocolate to melt by putting this bowl into a larger one filled with hot water. (Make sure no water gets into the chocolate though, otherwise it’ll seize and will be unworkable.)
Whip the double cream.
Put the first meringue on a serving plate and spread it with the cooled orange curd and then a layer of double cream.
Put the second meringue on top and put the rest of the curd on it, followed by another layer of cream (reserving a little cream for the top).
Put the top meringue on and spread with the last of the cream.
Put the melted white chocolate into a piping bag and drizzle over the top of the pavlova. You could just use a spoon to drizzle it over the cake though if you don’t have a piping bag.
Serve with aplomb to the astonishment and adoration of those around your dinner table and be prepared for people to come back for seconds or even thirds.
For all that I enjoy cooking and baking complex things involving a number of components, sometimes it’s the simplest marriages of ingredients which result in being the tastiest meals.
My mother-in-law came along the other evening with a little treat of raspberry meringues for us which was very welcome indeed. They weren’t fancy and they weren’t complicated, but they were sweet, fresh and creamy and was the perfect light dessert for eating while sitting in the garden on a summer’s evening.
The beauty of these raspberry meringues is the way the crisp meringue breaks into sugary shards in your mouth while being encapsulated in the sweet cream, but then a raspberry will explode between your teeth, zapping your tastebuds with sharp, yet sweet, fruit juice. When you taste something as perfect as this, it reminds you that it truly is the simplest things in life which bring the most pleasure.
Oat or coconut cream or freshly whipped lactose-free double cream (Add a little icing sugar while whipping to sweeten the cream, if you’d prefer)
Raspberries or sliced strawberries
Top each meringue nest with a generous dollop of whipped cream and then place your fruit on top. Enjoy.