I am sorry tiramisu and crème brûlée. I am messing with someone else. In the summer I long for strawberries and Eton mess.
How many English desserts have you heard of? Britain has many delicious desserts, yet I dare say few people outside Britain has ever heard of them. The British dessert is the shy guy in the corner never being asked to dance.
Typical British dessert
Eton mess is probably the most typical British dessert after strawberries and cream. It has traditionally been served at the annual cricket match between Eton and Harrow, two of Britain’s most prestigious boarding schools. There are only four boys-only boarding schools in Britain. Eton and Harrow both belong to this exclusive club. Eton College was founded in 1441 and is situated near Windsor which is home to Windsor Castle. At Eton boys from 13 to 18 years old attend before entering Oxford or Cambridge.
Eton’s arch-enemy is Harrow School from the town of Harrow in northwest London. While Eton has educated 19 prime ministers, authors like George Orwell and the poet Percy Shelley. Harrow may not equal Eton in the number of prime ministers, but Harrow has educated the greatest of them all, Winston Churchill. Eton and Harrow are called public schools – a confusing term that might make you believe these are ordinary schools when they indeed are private schools.
Fagging was a tradition at public schools until the 1980s
Fagging is a system where younger students (called fags) act as servant to older students. The author Roald Dahl who also attended public school recalls in his autobiography ”Boy” how he in the winter had to warm the toilet seat for older boys at Repton. Roald Dahl had to choose between two boarding schools, Repton and Marlborough, and in his familiar style he chose the former because it was easier to pronounce. Public schools also had a tradition with punishment, e.g. flogging day at Eton, a tradition that was not ended until 1984.
No wonder the boys needed respite!
A jolly good cricket game and a jolly good dessert. Eton mess consists of strawberries, cream and meringue mixed into a ”mess”. You can use many types of summer fruit but strawberries is the most traditional choice. Try it also with slightly poached rhubarb or crushed raspberries.
Eton mess is the perfect dessert: It is easy, delicious and clever. In many dishes like custard, ice cream, mayonnaise, béarnaise or spaghetti carbonara, you only use the egg yolks which means that you have to throw away half the egg. Instead of wasting food, whip the whites with sugar to make meringue. Eat immediately or store in a box for later and you will have a delicious dessert in no time. Once the meringue is done, Eton mess is as easy as whipping cream. In Norway meringue is known by the name ”a girl’s kiss” (pikekyss).
Eton Mess (makes 3)
3 big meringues or 6 small ones
1 punnet strawberries (500 g / 17 oz strawberries)
300 ml / 10 oz double or heavy cream (similar to Norwegian 38 % kremfløte)
1 + 1 tbsp sugar
Meringue (makes 6 big meringues):
2 egg whites
100 g / 3,5 oz sugar
1a. Start with the meringue. Preheat the oven to 130C/260F/Gas 1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Tip the egg whites in a clean bowl. Beat them on medium speed with an electric whisk for about a minute. Then continue whisking while you add the sugar, a spoon at a time, incorporating the sugar before you add the next spoon. Do not over-beat. When finished the mixture should be stiff enough to make “soft peaks”.
1b. Scoop of a heaped spoon and with another spoon place the meringue on the baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes. The meringues should be chewy on the inside and crispy on the outside. They will keep in an airtight tin for several weeks.
2. Wash and hull the strawberries. Purée ¾ of the strawberries in a blender with one tablespoon sugar. The remaining strawberries should be used as garnish so cut them in half and mix with the rest of the sugar.
3. Break the meringue into large pieces. Whip the double cream and fold in the meringue. Finally, fold the strawberry purée into the meringue-cream to make a marbled effect. Spoon in individual serving bowls with the remaining strawberries on top.