Summer fruits – I just can’t stop gorging on them. Peaches, nectarines, strawbs, gooseberries – and in particular, cherries. I have become a total Pac-Man, gobbling fruit like I’m chasing those ghosts round the arcade game.
My mates S and C tipped up the other weekend with a kilo of cherries from the tree that they rent in Sussex – my kind of present! It’s such a cool idea – they pay an annual rental fee to the orchard who look after the tree for them all year round, and then they get to have a lovely day out harvesting the entire cherry crop. They get about three kilos of fruit and then go mad feasting on fresh cherries and turning the rest into compote and chutney. They even own a gadget for stoning cherries that looks a little like a garlic press – the ultimate bit of kit for a cherry tree owner.
I was inspired to make this meringue dessert to showcase the cherries – but if you can’t get hold of decent ones, any soft fruits (eg peaches or raspberries) would be equally delicious. The meringue is nicely chewy and tastes of toasty caramel thanks to the use of golden caster sugar and vanilla extract. The toasted nuts in the meringue and sprinkled on top aren’t essential, but boy do they taste GOOD.
I tweaked an idea from Ruby Tandoh who recently did a meringue recipe for the Guardian. The meringue technique comes from her, the rest from me.
Cherry pudding-in-your-face heaven:
Serves 6 – 8
You will need:
350g fresh cherries, stones removed (or any other soft summer fruits)
100g almonds, roughly chopped
The whites of 3 free range eggs
150g golden caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
300ml tub organic double cream (optional: you could add 3 tbsps full fat Greek yoghurt to make it slightly tangy and fresh)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp runny honey, agave nectar or caster sugar
Whack the oven up to 160C. Cover a baking sheet in grease proof paper for the meringue. In a separate baking tray, roast the chopped almonds for about 15 minutes. Let them cool down when they’re done.
To make the meringue, get a really clean grease free bowl – ideally a metal one. Using electric beaters (or a hand whisk if you have arms like Geoff Capes) whisk the egg whites and vanilla extract until foamy, then add the caster sugar in four separate stages, letting the sugar fully dissolve into the egg mix each time, until you have a glossy meringue that holds firm, shiny peaks. It’ll take about 10 minutes. Gently fold in two thirds of the chopped almonds to the mixture.
Place large blobs of meringue mixture in a circle shape on your grease proof paper, then bake in the oven for about an hour until firm to the touch (but not rock hard). The meringue will be a lovely golden pale brown colour when you take it out.
Let the meringue cool down completely before you remove it from the paper (I use a fish slice to manoeuvre it off). Place on a serving plate, then gently mix the agave nectar/honey/sugar and vanilla extract into the double cream – don’t make it too stiff. (You could also use whipping cream). Blob the cream onto meringue, sprinkle with the remaining almonds, then stud the glorious mixture with your fruit. Eat immediately – won’t keep for much longer than an hour before it goes soggy. Like that’s going to be a problem!