This week I got to thinking about how recipes are invented. Now, bear with me here, I’m not being totally stupid. Obviously some stuff just tastes good together, like macaroni and cheese. And clearly the Irish national dish of spuds, bacon and cabbage evolved simply because, way back in the day, there just weren’t many other dinner options. But do you ever think some recipes were ‘invented’ by accident and just kind of caught on?
The reason I ask is, this week I made the traditional English summer desert, Eton Mess. Now, I don’t want to mislead you, I hadn’t originally intended to make it. Instead, I envisioned making a beautiful, white, fluffy, towering pavlova. But unfortunately my meringue looked like it had fallen off the back of a truck and then dragged through a hedge backwards by a pack of wild and ravaging dogs.
But it tasted good, nice and crispy on the outside and slightly chewy in the inside and deliciously sweet. So really, the only option was to smush it up, cover it with cream and pretend that’s what I had really intended to do all the while. And I’d like to think that’s how the recipe was ‘invented’ in the first place!
Will make desert for 4 people
4 free range egg whites
115 g (4 oz) caster sugar
15 g (½ oz) dark muscovado sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp white wine vinegar
200 ml cream, whipped
1 punnet of fresh strawberries
I took the meringue recipe from Maureen Tatlow’s The Back to Basics Cookbook. To start, preheat the oven to 130 °C. Then put all of the ingredients into a super clean metal bowl, the bowl needs to be totally free of any grease or fats, as these will kill your egg whites. Whisk together all of the ingredients with an electric beater until all of the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is stiff and glossy. This will take nearly 10 minutes. Lay non-stick baking parchment onto a baking tray and make four meringue domes with plenty of space between each one.
Now, if you’re a better cook then me, after about an hour in the oven, you should have four beautifully white peaks of sugary goodness. However, my four domes were obviously too close to each other, and managed to morph into a fantastically awkward and ugly shape in the oven. But they tasted good. So I crushed them, added some whipped cream and strawberries and pretended I was a star in some BBC period drama with fancy dresses and smouldering Englishmen.
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