A handful of wild strawberries embracing garden strawberries. A doll-up of meringue. The loveliest strawberry dessert.
Right now strawberries are on everybody’s lips. People have strawberry moustaches, and newspapers tell stories about strawberry “cocktails” you do not want to encounter. The lovely but disputed strawberries colour the Norwegian summer red with its peak in July. What is the best way to enjoy the jewels of summer? Is it Eton Mess? With panna cotta? Or the Wimbledon way with cream, which also is the preferred manner in Norway?
According to my lovely better half, there are two ways to enjoy strawberries: Au naturel or with raw meringue. I remember the first time I made lemon meringue pie. I was so disappointed. I thought the meringue should be like a pavlova – chewy and crisp, not like a mess of fluffy uncooked marshmallows. A meringue with a thin shelter of grilled crust, otherwise almost raw. I did not understand this was exactly the point.
Later on I tried an even rawer version. At the Oslo restaurant St. Lars, I had strawberries in a bay-scented syrup with fluffy, raw meringue. This time I got it.
The bitterness of the bay leaf may not be your first choice of spice to pair with strawberries, but it works well. However, here I opt for a much more local ingredient that grows in the garden right outside my window. My garden is a typical Oslo garden with patches of green in the shades of low apartment buildings. Here a few patches have escaped the tidiness of the lawn, bringing to life wild strawberries, tiny and almost hidden by weed and grass. In Norway they are called markjordbær, ground strawberries, because they grow so close to the ground.
I flavour the syrup with the wild strawberries to let their delicate flavour embrace the garden strawberries. If you are not lucky to have a patch of wild strawberries, use a bay leaf instead or go natural. Either way, the combination of strawberries and raw meringue enhances the strawberry flavour more than cream does. And if you are lactose-intolerant it sure is a good option.
P.S. If you do not want to use raw egg whites, leave the meringue for 15 minutes in the oven at 325F.
Strawberries with meringue and wild strawberries (makes 4)
150 ml water
1 tbsp sugar
1–2 punnets strawberries (washed, hulled and halved)
a handful of wild strawberries (or a bay leaf)
2 egg whites at room temperature
100 g sugar
1. Put water and sugar in a small pan. If you go for the bay leaf syrup, add the bay leaf and boil on low heat until reduced a third, about 15 minutes. Allow to cool and add the strawberries. If you make the version with wild strawberries, let them marinate in the finished and cold syrup for 15 minutes before you add the strawberries.
2. In a clean bowl, whip the egg whites with an electric beater for at minute before adding the sugar, a spoon at a time until the mixture is thick and glossy. Best used within an hour or two.
3. Serve the berries with a doll-up of meringue and drizzle with some of the syrup.
More recipes with wonderful strawberries?
Music: Hard way home, Brandi Carlile