As the wife-to-be of a news commissioner, my small household is often saturated with the goings on of the day. Radio 4 in the bedroom and bathroom, BBC news and Channel 4 and Sky flicked through all evening, half a dozen newspapers on the mat at any given moment and a veritable hoard of them stuffed beside the toilet and under the sofa. As much as I try to shut it out for my own mental health and encroaching book deadlines, I couldn’t fail to notice that it’s all going rather awry at the moment.
A few years ago I attended a General Strike anti-austerity protest in London, and made, for the occasion, a placard daubed in Jackson-Pollock-esque splatters of magenta, lilac and cream, scrawled with ‘THIS IS AN ETON MESS’ across the front. My food has always been steeped in the political, given that my blog was born from food bank boxes and the sheer hopelessness of poverty in a time of austerity, and tonight was no exception. As overpromoted mop-headed weasels and 18th century haunted coat racks blustered and lounged around the House Of Commons this evening, I was in the kitchen, making this, my own Bruised Eton Mess. A friend remarked wryly that it’s the only good thing to come out of a long day in politics, and having just polished off my second bowlful, I roundly – and emphasis on the roundly – concur. I didn’t have any strawberries, so used blueberries and blackberries instead; a fitting tribute to the injured party, I feel.
Serves 4, from 76p each
First turn your oven on to 120C and line a baking tray or baking sheet with greaseproof or parchment paper.
Separate your eggs and reserve the yolks – pop them in the fridge to use in the next few days. (I’m going to make a rich French Toast with mine for Small Boy’s breakfast in the morning, for his first day back to school.) Pop the whites into a mixing bowl or stand mixer, and whisk briskly until opaque and fluffy. Add the sugar a tablespoon at a time, continuing to whisk until it forms soft peaks. Pour the whole meringue mixture onto the baking sheet, and bake for 1 hour if you like it soft and slightly sticky, or 1 hour and 20 minutes if you prefer it solid and floaty light.
Meanwhile, tip the blueberries and blackberries into a bowl and mash briefly to bash them up a bit and release some of their dark, rich juices. Sprinkle with a little sugar and set to one side until needed.
Clean your mixing bowl and whisk and dry thoroughly. Pour in the double cream and add the sugar – this recipe is certainly a good one for releasing the frustrations of the day – and whisk to stiff peaks. If it won’t take, and sometimes it just doesn’t, you can cheat it with a few pinches of xanthan gum – I first came across it when writing my vegan book, and you can find it in the gluten free section or baking section of the supermarket. A little goes a long way, and it’s a pretty good superhero ingredient for rescuing flat meringues, thickening sauces and dressings, and stiffening cream in a hurry. Chill the cream in the fridge until needed.
When the meringue is baked, remove it from the oven and set to one side. Spoon the cream into a serving bowl, and dollop the berries and their juices on top. Smash up the meringue – or pull it apart gently if you’ve opted for a softer consistency – and add it to the top. Stir once, briefly, to loosely combine, and serve.
All text copyright Jack Monroe.
It would be remiss of me not to mention that my next book (the fifth! the fully vegan one!) is now available to order here.