This is a pudding redolent of summer and incredibly easy to make. You can buy your meringues ready-made or whip up your own with any spare egg whites hanging around (from making hollandaise sauce or mayonnaise or custard, say). There are all sorts of meringue recipes out there and I’m not claiming my version below is ‘the one’: it’s simply what I’ve just found among the scrawled scraps of paper that constitute my recipe collection. Equally, don’t feel wedded to strawberries if you prefer raspberries; use some Chambord or Crème de cassis instead of port, or no booze at all; add a dash of vanilla to your whipped cream if you like and wheel out a raspberry coulis too if you feel like showing off.
1-2 tbsp port
300ml double or whipping cream
For the meringues
2 egg whites
¼ tsp white wine vinegar
120g caster sugar
To make meringues
Preheat the oven to 130C / 110 fan.
Whisk the egg whites until they are beginning to form soft peaks; add the vinegar and continue to whisk. Add the sugar a spoonful at a time and continue whisking until the mixture is stiff and glossy.
Line a baking sheet with non-stick parchment paper. Pipe or spoon the meringue mixture in large dollops, evenly spaced. Bake for 2 hours. Remove and allow to cool. They will keep for ages in an airtight container.
To make the actual Eton mess
Hull and halve the strawberries. Mash with a fork a bit so that each half is slightly crushed and some juice accumulates around them. Stir in the port (or other booze) if using. Softly whip the cream and keep chilled. This much can be done well in advance; it’s advisable to delay the actual assembly of the components until the hour before you eat, so that the meringues don’t just dissolve into the mixture.
Break up the meringues into bite-sized chunks and fold into the strawberry mush along with the whipped cream. Try not to mix it all up too vigorously – the three elements should ideally be distinguishable, although I have clearly failed to achieve that in the pictures above. Serve in one large bowl or in individual dishes.