Sunday, May 1, 2011

Boozy Eton Mess – A Celebration of Summer!

Pin It If you’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting a Wexford strawberry that has been basking in rare Irish sunshine, then you’ll remember it as possibly the most strawberry-flavoured strawberry you’ve tasted in your life. Each perfect specimen looks like it was hand-picked to star in an advert for strawberry-related products. They are the super-models of the strawberry world.
Summer 2011 starts right now!
Fantastic as a no-effort dessert, Wexford strawberries and cream were my choice for one of the ‘afters’ at a recent family party. Madame Unexpected-But-Very-Welcome-Guest, the-mother-of-a-friend-of-my-sister’s, was deposited at my door the previous evening due to double-booking of rooms elsewhere. A sweet lady, she was determined to make herself useful as I bustled around the kitchen, hulling strawberries, preparing salads and generally not being a very good hostess.
Another fine mess...

Without a word of English, she gestured that she would whip cream for me. I gratefully accepted as there was about a litre of the stuff. The trouble is, I assume that people know – by osmosis - where everything is in my kitchen, so when I turned around 10 minutes later, I was surprised to find that poor Madame, sweat dripping from her forehead, had bypassed my trusty stand mixer and was whipping the cream by hand. I pointed to the mixer – not sure she knew what it was – and said in that voice that is reserved for poor cross-language communication “IF ... YOU... PUT ... THE ... CREAM... IN ... THERE... – MUCH FASTER. Plus Vite, I added for good measure, feeling rather pleased with my command of French. The poor lady looked at me with a large measure of confusion and a sprinkling of anxiety, and quizzically confirmed the instruction ...“errr... faster?” When I nodded, she started whipping the cream at a rate that rendered her hand a blur.
I'm from Wexford too!
Confiscating the whisk, I sat her down and made her an Irish coffee while the cream was whisked to soft peaks by mechanical means. She, in turn, confiscated the strawberries and made them the star of the show with this slightly boozy version of Eton Mess, a silly name for one of the easiest, most summery desserts in the world. I can’t think of anything more appropriate to celebrate the start of Summer 2011. Happy May Day!

For 2 Summery servings you will need:
300g ripe strawberries
1 – 2 tablespoons icing sugar
1 – 2 tablespoons Strawberry/Raspberry liqueur (Crème de Fraise/Crème de Framboise)
1 ½ - 2 individual ready-made meringue nests, chopped into small bite-sized pieces
125mls double cream, whipped to soft peaks

Fresh mint leaves and 2 perfect strawberries to decorate

1          Start by cutting the strawberries into smallish bite-sized pieces. Place 200g of the chopped strawberries in a mixing bowl. In another bowl, roughly mash the remaining 100g of strawberries and mix in the icing sugar and the strawberry/raspberry liqueur. (You could use a teaspoon of vanilla extract if you prefer). Add to the bowl of chopped strawberries and mix gently.
2          Spoon a little of the strawberry mixture into two beautiful glasses or Sundae dishes.
3          Gently stir the meringue pieces through the whipped cream, followed by about half the remaining strawberry mixture.
4          Spoon some of the cream mixture in the glasses, and add a layer of the strawberry mixture. Continue layering until you have used up both mixtures, finishing with a final layer of the cream mixture.
5          Decorate with the mint leaves and a perfect strawberry.
Wexford Strawberries hard at work soaking up the sunshine

This can be eaten straight away, but I prefer to leave it in the fridge for about an hour to allow the flavours to meld – alchemy at work.
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