This may seem like a strange notion when i’m living in a country where temperatures hit at least 30 for at least half the year, but I really miss the Great British Summertime. Back home in the UK they are experiencing a heatwave, my Facebook and twitter feeds are full of pictures of people having barbecues, picnics, sunbathing and after work drinks in beer gardens. When the heat hits at home we make the most of it.
Yes, the sea is right outside my door, but I miss paddling pools. Waiting for hours for it to fill with the hose pipe, desperate to cool off, then having to chuck in kettle fulls of boiling water because it’s just too icy cold to get in. I remember summers in the garden when me and brother would splash around in the paddling pool, until our skin wrinkled and our arms covered in goose bumps, then we’d run down the garden, cut grass and dry earth sticking to our feet, straight into the green house. Much to my Mum’s eternal horror, we liked to use this as our ‘sauna’ to warm up after the freezing water. Days out at the beach it would be a big event. A picnic would be packed, there would be sandwiches, hard boiled eggs and crisps. Holes would be dug in the sand, sandcastles would become epic, visionary constructions. Whole sand towns would go up, with tiny paper flags stuck into the tops. We’d drive home, the car slightly damp and our feet covered in sand, buckets of shells smelling of sea water in the back.
I can’t even start thinking about barbecues, summer fetes, bunting and beer gardens. Juicy burgers, slightly charred around the edges, chicken kebabs, straight from the butcher. A tall glass of cider with ice. Sitting out in the garden with the citronella candle burning, wrapping up in cardigans and scarfs as the evening wears on and it gets chilly but it’s just too nice to go inside. Probably moaning about hot it will be too hot to sleep, even though we’d spent the rest of the year complaining about the wind, and the rain, and the cold.
The UK itself seems to be doing everything in it’s power to make me homesick for the British summer. Not only was there a sunny Wimbledon, but it was won by a Brit. The ultimate, near unheard of Wimbledon goal and it happens when i’m out of the country. I feel like I’ve missed out on lashings of Strawberries and Creams, jugs of Pimms and patriotic celebrations. Then there’s the excitement and anticipation of the Royal Baby. I find myself checking twitter on a regular basis, waiting for news of a birth. Missing out on the commemorative newspapers, street parties, bunting, national pride.
This recipe is partly selfish. It’s indulging my need for strawberries and cream. Frozen, crisp strawberries, gooey meringue, crunchy around the edges, softly melting cream. It’s a frozen longing for all things home. However, this recipe is for all of you back home too. Something to help you enjoy that rare creature, a proper British summer. If you’re too hot to turn the oven on, use a pack of shop bought meringues, I won’t judge you. It’s cool, quick and very, very easy. Bring it out after one of those British barbecues on a platter heaving with more fresh strawberries.
Eton Mess Parfait
(adapted from Nigel Slater)
for the meringues
4 egg whites
115g caster sugar
for the parfait
250ml double or whipping cream
200g fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced into small pieces
If you are making your own meringue, preheat the oven to 100 degrees.
Start by whipping your egg whites, until they just start to hold their shape. Add in your sugar, a spoonful at a time, whipping it in. You’re aiming for a thick, glossy texture that stands fairly stiff in the bowl. It doesn’t have too be too firm. Spoon it all onto a lined baking sheet. I cooked mine in a thick layer across the whole sheet.
Put into the oven for about half an hour, until the tops start to turn golden and feel slightly crisp to the touch. You’re aiming for a gooey centre, but a crisp, crunchy outer layer. Turn off the heat and leave it in the oven to cool down. This helps prevent soggy meringue.
Meanwhile, wash, hull and chop your strawberries.
Using an electric whisk (or a handheld one if you’ve got arms of steel!) whip up your cream until it’s stiff.
Once your meringue is cool, break it up into little pieces into a large bowl. If you’ve decided to use shop bought meringue, break them up.
Add in your strawberries and cream and stir everything together.
Line a lunchbox sized tupperware with grease proof paper. Spoon your mixture into the tub and smooth it down. Put on an air-tight lid and pop in the freezer for about four hours.
Take it out about 10 minutes before you’re ready to serve, the sides will start to melt ever so slightly. Serve with fresh strawberries and sunshine.