Eton mess

Eton mess

What a peculiar name for a sweet, don’t you think? Translated in Italian this would be “il pasticcio di Eton“. Hardly a recommendation in truth!  So who or what is Eton? I hear the Italian people ask…Well, it’s one of the most famous public schools in the UK.  And by the way,  be aware of a false friend  here. “Public school” doesn’t mean “state school” (= scuola pubblica in Italian). It means “private school”. Eton is in fact, one of the oldest, most traditional, exclusive and expensive boarding schools for boys in England. Many famous people went there, including the current Prime minister David Cameron….But what has a public school got to do with the sweet? Easily answered: apparently it is  traditionally served on 4th June at Eton College’s annual cricket game against the pupils of Harrow School.  And now let me tell you exactly what this “mess” is….: it’s basically a Pavlova gone wrong, in other words a mixture of whipped cream, crushed meringues and strawberries (but there are variations using other soft fruits), all folded together. As to the meaning of its name there are several theories out there, which I won’t go into, as life is too short (go on Wikipedia if you are interested). Whatever its origins it is an easy dessert to put together and rather yummy, particularly if you make your own meringues which, ladies and gentlemen, I DID! In that respect it’s an ideal way to use unwanted egg whites. I don’t know about you but I am often left with egg whites when I cook, and I never know what to do with the blasted things, short of throwing them away, of course. Not anymore! Meringues are a real synch to make. Honestly! Particularly if you follow Delia Smith‘s recipe (which I did). The only problem with this sweet is that you have to assemble it at the last minute or the meringues will disintegrate in the whipped cream.  It really must be eaten shortly after it’s been put together. It doesn’t really keep. Mind you I don’t view that as a problem, do you? 😉


6 oz (175 g) caster sugar

 3 large egg whites

 1 lb (450 g) fresh strawberries, hulled

 1 rounded tablespoon unrefined icing sugar 

 1 pint (570 ml) double or whipping cream 


First, have the caster sugar measured out ready, then place the egg whites in a scrupulously clean bowl and whisk until they form soft peaks that slightly tip over when you lift the whisk. Next, add the caster sugar, about a tablespoon at a time, and continue to whisk until each tablespoon of sugar has been thoroughly whisked in.

Now simply take rounded dessertspoonfuls of the mixture and place them in rows on the lined baking tray. Place the baking tray in the oven on the centre shelf, at 275°F (140°C) and leave the meringues there for 1 hour.

After that, turn the oven off and leave the meringues in the oven to dry out overnight, or until the oven is completely cold.

When you’re ready to make the pudding, chop half the strawberries and place them in a blender together with the icing sugar. Whiz the whole lot to a purée, then pass it through a nylon sieve to remove the seeds.

Now chop the rest of the strawberries and whip up the  cream to the floppy stage. All the above can be done in advance, but when you are ready to serve, break up the meringues into roughly 1 inch (2.5 cm) pieces, place them in a large mixing bowl, add the chopped strawberries, then fold the cream in and around them.

After that, gently fold in all but about 2 tablespoons of the purée to give a marbled effect. Finally, pile the whole lot into a serving dish, spoon the rest of the purée over the surface and serve as soon as possible


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