The Perfect Eton Mess with Strawberries and Raspberries

Finally the French windows are throw open, the laundry is hanging up outside and fluttering in the breeze and I feel like I’m in a washing detergent advert at last. Even doing the laundry is better in the summer. Roland Garros is on the TV, not that I’m watching, my desk is conveniently angled in the opposite direction. Gaylord is bent over his puzzle on the dining table. And we spent the long weekend eating two copious helpings of pillowy, creamy Eton mess with strawberries and raspberries. I think we’ve found our dessert of the summer.

eton mess

It’s the food on our plates which alert us to the seasons. I can’t think of a more effective timer, forget the countdown clock on our phones or those egg timers we all used to have that clicked away like a bomb about to go off.

Last week, the glut of cherries arrived. France loves cherries and prefers them dressed simply in a sweet, soft clafoutis, with a crisp sugary surface. I passed a mountain of them at the local market the other day, a great sea of shiny crimson, and got out my phone to take a picture, then the seller called out a heavy ‘Excusez-moi?’ positively dripping with indignation. Surely it’s a compliment to photograph your cherry mountain, madame? I called out that her cherries were beautiful, and she paused in seeming surprise then muttered a truculent ‘Merci.’ Bloody hell. Thanks to her, we are not here to talk about cherries.

In Toulouse, strawberry season starts first. For the last six weeks, I’ve admired the packed displays of plastic-wrapped strawberries in the supermarkets, always sold alongside cannisters of squirty whipped cream. April struck me as far too early for strawberries and cream – I need Wimbledon on the TV for it to feel appropriate – but with this sudden burst of sunshine and heat, I think I can live a little. Plus, there is at least tennis on, does it really matter where in the world it’s being played?

eton mess

So strawberries and cream is on the menu, so why not make it into a real dessert and serve Eton mess?

What is an Eton mess?

Apparently an ‘Eton mess’ doesn’t actually exist. According to one ex-pupil of the school itself, the dessert was called strawberry mess, and ‘Eton mess’ is apparently an adopted misnomer, much like hamburgers from Hamburg. Although I wonder whether ‘strawberry mess’ would have become an international favourite with such a forgettable name.

The legends claim that a pavlova was dropped at a school cricket game sometime in the late 19th century, and all the cream, strawberries and meringue shards were scooped back into bowls and enjoyed by the hungry school boys. It is refreshing to make food that is intended to look sloppy, as though it’s been dropped and scraped back up again, because honestly, I sometimes feel that food presentation will be the death of me.

Layered like a trifle or simply dolloped onto a plate like I did, Eton mess appears to be one of those desserts where anything goes. There’s no need for frills or flounces when you have thickly whipped cream marbled with chunky strawberry compote, and meringue slowly softening into mallowy supplication.

eton mess

Typically a creamy vehicle for strawberries, Eton mess also benefits from tangier berries like raspberries. With all that sugar on the plate, freshness is welcome. While some chefs are avant-garde with their use of yoghurt or creme fraiche for lactic vigour, I’ve kept my dairy products simple, yet incorporated raspberries for the necessary balance. Add a few sprigs of mint on top and, while it looks like it belongs at a 70s dinner party, I must say, it is incredibly easy to eat or should I say gulp, each mouthful offering new textures and sweet, fresh or tangy flavours.

Best of all, you can buy ready-made meringues if you’re feeling lazy. I certainly was, but Lidl in Toulouse wasn’t being helpful, forcing me to make my own. However, as I don’t make meringue often, I’d forgotten just how truly effortless they are to whip up – just an egg white and sugar needed. The bake was only 40 minutes which was just long enough for me to take a bath and wash my hair. Really, Eton mess is a very considerate dessert.

No need to throw a pavlova on the floor for it to be authentic, dollop mounds of cream and strawberries and meringue all over a plate, grab two spoons and sit on the couch with someone you don’t mind sharing with and together you’ll scrap that summer dessert plate clean.

eton mess

Eton Mess with Strawberries, Raspberries and Mint

Light and creamy and fruity, what a dessert! If you have no energy to make meringues, use 2 or 3 shop bought ones instead. Although these meringues were stupidly easy to make and they give you enough time to go and do something else while they bake.
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time40 minutes
Course: Baking, Dessert, sweet
Cuisine: British
Keyword: cream, meringue, raspberries, strawberries
Servings: 2
Author: Adapted from Felicity Cloake’s recipe

Ingredients

For the meringues

  • 1 egg white
  • Pinch of salt
  • 50 g sugar
  • 1 tsp cornflour

For the Eton mess

  • 150 g strawberries + 3 extra for garnish hulled
  • 15 g sugar
  • 150 ml double cream
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 10 raspberries
  • Fresh mint for garnish

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 140°C/120°C fan/280°F. Line a baking tray with baking parchment.
  • Put the egg white and pinch of salt in a large clean mixing bowl and whip with electric beaters until the egg whites until they are firm peaks.
  • Add 1 tbsp of the 50g sugar and whisk it into the egg whites. Once incorporated, slowly add the rest of the sugar as you whisk until thick and glossy.
  • Sift in the tsp cornflour then fold to combine. Spoon some heaped tablespoons of meringue onto the baking tray, and create an indent in the centre of each so it cooks quicker. Slide the tray into the oven and bake for 40 minutes until firm, crisp and lightly golden. Set aside to cool.
  • Chop the 150g strawberries into quarters or halves depending on size. Stir in the 15g sugar and leave to macerate for 20 minutes.
  • Once the strawberries are sweet and juicy, add 3 or 4 raspberries and mash them all all together to create a chunky compote.
  • Pour the cream into a mixing bowl, add the sugar and vanilla. Whip until the cream is light and thick and standing in soft peaks. Crush the meringues into mallowy chunks.
  • Set aside 3 or 4 tablespoons of whipped cream. Fold the compote and most of the meringue chunks through the rest of the cream, then dollop spoonfuls on to a serving plate. Garnish with the reserved cream, meringue chunks, leftover raspberries and the 3 strawberries, halved. Top with some pretty leaves of mint. Grab a spoon and tuck in.

2 responses to “The Perfect Eton Mess with Strawberries and Raspberries”

  1. Sheree Avatar

    Delicious!

  2. Awakening Wonders Avatar

    Strawberries, raspberries, mint and meringues – luscious with every bite!

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