There are some foods that are a part of your psyche. They’re foods you’ve grown up with and often dishes that get you feeling a little nostalgic. For me, one of these dishes is meringue. It’s such a simple dish, quite literally as it can be made with just two ingredients. But somehow, the mix of egg whites and sugar creates wondrous little discs with crispy shells and soft, chewy insides. Adding a generous amount of cream, or in this case mascarpone, and lots of fresh fruit serves to create a dish that’s designed to make people want seconds. It also conjures up memories of Christmas day and eating mouthfuls and mouthfuls of these sugary nests till you were left feeling like rather a glutton. But then, if by any chance there were any left over that didn’t stop you eating them again for breakfast on Boxing Day. Although, on second thought that just might be me. That said, you should get yourselves into the kitchen and give these a go.
Chewy Meringues with Mascarpone and Berries
2 egg whites
1/2 cup castor sugar
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla
1/2 punnet strawberries, cut into pieces
1/2 punnet blueberries
Preheat oven to 150ºC and line a baking tray with baking paper. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form, then add sugar, a little at a time, still beating. Beat in vanilla. Divide mixture into four and place four circular mounds of meringue on a baking tray and bake for 45 mins. Turn oven off, leave door slightly ajar and allow meringues to cool completely in oven.
Once meringues have cooled, divide mascarpone between the meringues and dollop on top. Scatter with berries and edible flowers. If you can’t find edible flowers, dried rose petals also look lovely.
Summer is almost upon us and that means it’s time for barbeques, salads and long days at the beach. I should know, because as I write this post I am looking rather red from spending rather too much time in the sun. Tut tut. Because the days are warm, we want food that is fresh and light, and while desserts are usually decadent affairs, that does not mean we have to miss out. I know that must be a sigh of relief for all you sugar fiends out there – myself included.
One of my favourite summer desserts is panna cotta, which essentially translates to ‘cooked cream’. I remember first eating his dessert while on holidays with my family in Italy in a tiny little town just outside Florence. It was at a small traditional restaurant and the panna cotta was heavenly – it was smooth and creamy but oh so light and melted on your tongue. We had spent the day sightseeing in the heat, so to end the day eating this chilled creamy vanilla goodness topped with fresh berries was perfect.
The variation I have made here is a coconut infused cream – make sure you toast the shredded coconut yourself first and try to give it the full hour for the flavours to envelop the cream mixture as it really makes a difference to the end result. I wanted to make this dessert scream summer so I’ve given it a tropical hit with the caramelized mango and passion fruit jelly – with just a hint of pure sugary sweetness from the white chocolate mousse. The flavours work sublimely together it really makes you feel like you’re on holidays in some far away exotic location. While each of the elements is a little time consuming as there is quite a bit of chilling required, they are not all that hard, so please don’t be put off.
Give this a go for your next barbie, or when you want to impress your friends at a dinner party and let me know how you go!
Coconut Panna Cotta with Passionfruit Jelly, Caramelised Mango and White Chocolate Mousse
Coconut Panna Cotta
140 gm shredded coconut
400 ml milk
400ml pouring cream
Thinly peeled rind of 1 lime
110 gm (1/2 cup) raw caster sugar
4 titanium-strength gelatine leaves, softened in cold water for 3-5 minutes
150 ml coconut cream
Preheat oven to 180C. Spread coconut over an oven tray and toast until golden (4-5 minutes). Transfer to a large saucepan, add milk, cream and rind, and bring to the boil over medium-high heat, then remove from heat and stand to infuse (1 hour).
Bring coconut mixture back to the simmer over medium-high heat, add sugar and stir to dissolve. Squeeze excess water from gelatine, add to coconut mixture, stir to dissolve, then strain into a bowl through a coarse sieve (press on solids to extract all liquid; discard solids). Stir in coconut cream, then pour into six 1 cup-capacity jelly moulds or one 1 litre cake tin and refrigerate until set (overnight).
To serve, dip the moulds in hot water, then gently pull edges of jelly away from sides with your fingertip (this helps break the vacuum and release the jelly). Place a plate on top, invert mould and plate, then remove mould.
375 ml (1½ cups) passionfruit juice
150 ml freshly squeezed orange juice
200 gm white sugar
6½ gelatine leaves, softened in cold water
Combine juices, sugar and 1 cup water in a saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves, then pass through a muslin-lined sieve. Warm ½ cup juice mixture in a saucepan over medium heat, squeeze excess water from gelatine, add to pan and stir until gelatine dissolves, then add remaining juice mixture. Cool slightly and pour into six 1 cup-capacity glasses and refrigerate for 4 hours or until set. Once set, cut jelly into small cubes.
Note: To make passionfruit juice, blend passionfruit pulp in a food processor to crack seeds, then strain through a fine sieve. Twelve passionfruit yield about 1 cup of juice.
White Chocolate Mousse
3 egg whites
200g good quality white chocolate
½ cup caster sugar
1 egg yolk
Melt the white chocolate over a bain-marie until smooth. Remove from heat.
Whisk egg white in the bowl of an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar to egg whites. Keep beating until sugar has dissolved and the egg whites are stiff.
Gently fold through white chocolate mixture and egg yolk until the mixture has incorporated.
Place bowl in fridge and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
2 mangoes, flesh sliced into thin pieces
½ cup brown sugar
25 g butter
Heat a medium sized frypan over a medium heat. Place the sugar into the plan and leave to heat for about 30 seconds, then add the butter in small knobs around the pan. Mix the butter and sugar together until it forms a caramel paste. Add in the mango and coat it in the sugar mix. Take the mango off the heat and place on a plate after about 30 seconds.
3 passion fruit
Toasted coconut flakes
Handful mint leaves
Arrange the de-molded panna cottas onto plates. Place a few pieces of the caramelized mango around the panna cottas. Scatter some jelly cubes over the mango. Using a piping bag, pipe little mounds of the mousse into the gaps between the mango and jelly. Place toasted coconut flakes into the white chocolate mounds – use the mousse as a glue to stick the coconut into. Garnish each of the six plates with mint leaves and the pulp of half a passion fruit. Serve immediately.