A Glamorously Divine Re-invention:

Poached Peaches with Lavender Meringues and Cream:







One of my favourite desserts is Eton Mess. This wonderful amalgamation of meringues, cream and strawberries is such an easy, yet divine dessert. The combination of the crunchy, silky meringues mixed with cream and strawberries is one of those combinations that just work so well.


However, as its name implies looks a mess.  Generally I am not one of those people who value presentation over taste. I would rather the dish smell and taste amazing than look like a work of art.


To me taste is everything. I never trust a cook that cares too much for presentation, that’s not to say a dish must look like a bird’s nest, but must not look too handled. Whenever a dish looks too perfect or beautiful I can’t help but be reminded of Julia Child, who once said: “It’s so beautifully arranged on the plate — you know someone’s fingers have been all over it.”



I love the style of cooking that is more honest, homey and I suppose (as people call it) rustic. The type of cooking that reminds you of home,  and those  dishes that first ignited your passion in cooking and will always send electrically-charged  nostalgic feelings to your taste buds at a menti0on.


In saying that, I do however think that sometimes there comes a dish every now and then that does need a bit of attention, just a bit of nurturing – so that those people who eat with their eyes will enjoy it too. Eton Mess happens to be one of those dishes. I do love it (and quite frankly think that it does still look quite delicious even in it’s regurgitated-looking appearance), but think it can look better and quite posh and beautiful with a few simple changes.


I was watching a programme on the Lifestyle channel and a came across a great lavender meringues recipe – not only do they look oh-so– pretty, but have a wonderfully fragrant and interesting taste .



 


Today I decided to poach some peaches. I thought the lovely orange and red hues of the poached fruit would go so wonderfully well with my lavender meringues and would be a perfect way to make Eton  Mess absolutely beautiful and more important  divine!


Recipe:

Poached Peaches and Lavender Cream Meringues:





Poached Peaches:

4–6 peaches

1 ½ glasses of red wine

2 cups of water

½ cup of caster sugar

1 vanilla pod

1 cinnamon stick

1–2 star anise

zest of one lemon


Place the wine, sugar, water, vanilla pod, cinnamon stick, star anise and the zest of one lemon in a pan large enough to hold all the peaches, then gently heat until the sugar has dissolved. Boil liquid for 5 minutes, then reduce to a gentle simmer. Lower the peaches into the pan, cover and simmer gently for 15–20 mins until tender but not overly soft. Using two wooden spoons, turn the fruit 3 or 4 times while cooking and frequently baste with the syrup. Remove the cooked peaches from the pan and set to one side in a large bowl.


Boil the syrup hard until it has reduced by half (this will take about 10 mins). Spoon over the peaches, then set aside to cool. The peaches will keep for up to 2 days, covered and in the

fridge.




Recipe:

Lavender Meringues:

3–4 fresh lavender stems, flowers only

2 Large free-range egg whites

½ cup of Sugar

couple of drops of lemon

couple of drops of red food colouring, mixed with a couple of drops of blue food colouring

250ml double cream

½ tablespoon of Icing sugar


Preheat the oven to 130 degrees. Line a large baking tray with baking paper. Grind the lavender flowers in a mortar and pestle.


In a large bowl, begin to whisk the egg whites,  and a couple of drops of lemon, using an electric whisk. Watch the whites as they begin to change from a yellowy colour to an opaque white. Keep whisking as the eggs begin to increase to twice their volume. This is called the soft peak stage. Stick a whisk in, get a bit of white on the end and then turn the whisk, upside down. The mixture will just flop off at best.


Gradually whisk in the caster sugar, a tablespoonful at a time, until all of the caster sugar has been incorporated into the mixture and the mixture is thick and glossy. Now, Sprinkle one tablespoonful of the ground lavender flowers over the egg white mixture and whisk until combined. Add the food colouring, whisk well. If the mixture is not a pale mauve colour add more food colouring till the desired colour is reached.


Spoon the meringue mixture into a piping bag. Pipe 32 small swirls of the meringue mixture onto the prepared baking tray. Transfer the meringues to the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 100 degrees. Bake the meringues for 1 hour or until crisp, but not coloured. Turn off the oven and leave the meringues inside until the oven is cool. When the meringues have cooled, store them in an airtight tin until needed.


Just before serving the meringues, begin to fill them with cream. Whip the cream and icing sugar.  Place a spoon of the cream on the base of a  meringues, take another meringue and stick it onto the cream-based meringue – as if you’re making a meringue sandwich.


Serve these beautiful and delicious cream-filled meringues with your poached peaches and a few spoons of the poaching syrup.




This is a great dessert to serve for a dinner party because all of it can be made in advance. The only preparation that needs to happen on the evening is filling the meringues with whipped cream. Alternatively, if you haven’t the time: place a poached peach, a couple of lavender meringues in a bowl and add a dollop of whipped cream on top.








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