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Summer Dessert: Classic English Eton Mess

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England has its fair share of scrumptious and decadent desserts ranging from smooth and velvety to the crunchy and texturally interesting.

While Commonwealth countries Australia and New Zealand pride themselves for their national dessert– the pavlova– England boasts another meringue-fruit-and whipped cream confection, the Eton Mess.

Eton mess is a traditional English dessert consisting of a mixture of strawberries, pieces of meringue, and cream, which is traditionally served at Eton College’s annual cricket game against the pupils of Harrow School. The dish has been known by this name since the 19th century.

The dessert is delicious served on a warm day or best eaten immediately after it was served.

Though traditionally the dish has only three components, but you can add anything from a dash of port to a splash of ginger cordial for a twist, or try it with raspberries, bananas and pineapples.

Below is a recipe for the traditional dessert, and a few suggestions for variations. It’s time to get messy.

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Image credit: Gourmet Traveller

Serves 4

Ingredients 
450g strawberries, quartered
1 tbsp caster sugar
4 ready-made meringue nests, broken up (or make your own – see bottom of this article)
400ml double cream, softly whipped

Method

  1. Whip the double cream with the sugar until it is soft and thick – do not whip it too long, as you don’t want stiff peaks.
  2. Break the meringue into chunks and stir into the cream.
  3. Put half the strawberries into a bowl and crush gently with a spoon or fork so some of their juices are released. Mix into the cream and meringue mixture.
  4. Divide the mixture into four glasses, or a large trifle bowl if you prefer.
  5. Put the remaining strawberries on top as a garnish.

Eton mess variations

Peach, pistachio and honey Eton mess: Replace the strawberries with two ripe peaches. Top each portion with a sprinkling of pistachio nuts and a drizzle of honey. Particularly good with the half cream/half Greek yoghurt mix.

Tropical Eton mess: Instead of strawberries, stir in the flesh of a mango (chopped into bite-size pieces) and the pulp of three passionfruits.

Chocolate and cherry Eton mess: use a punnet of cherries (destoned and halved) instead of strawberries and stir in two chocolate brownies, crumbled into pieces. Scatter a few toasted almonds on top, if you have them.

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