Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Eton Mess

My bookclub is reading Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. It is a story about two Oxford undergraduates – the everyday Charles Ryder and the aristocratic Lord Sebastian Flyte. The latter attended Eton College, and the book makes many references to his experiences and friends there.

Eton is an independent, all boys schools founded by King Henry VI in 1440. As a teenager, I visited Eton with my family after touring nearby Windsor Castle. I can’t remember much about my experience there except the incredible sense of history I felt upon seeing the classrooms where future monarchs and Prime Ministers sat as young boys.

This week’s treat is a mixture of strawberries, cream and meringue traditionally served at Eton during the picnic that follows the annual prize giving ceremony on June 4 (the birthday of King George III (1760-1820), who was closely associated with the college). Eton mess is a popular summer dessert in England, but is virtually unknown in North America.
Look for another Brideshead Revisited-inspired dessert later this month.

Serves 10

1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
2 tablespoons of granulated sugar
splash of port (optional)
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon of rose water (optional)
2 tablespoons powdered sugar (optional)
20 Treat a Week meringue cookies (or store bought)

1. Puree half the strawberries in a blender or food processor and mix with granulated sugar. If using port, add it to the remaining strawberries and set aside.
2. Whip heavy cream until it forms soft peaks. Add powdered sugar and rose water and continue whipping until stiffer peaks form.
3. Mix together 3/4 of the puree and 3/4 of the strawberry pieces. Fold in 3/4 of the whipped cream.
4. Serve the mixture in small bowls or wide-mouthed glasses (martini glasses are ideal). In each bowl place 2 meringues broken into large pieces. Cover with a scoop of the mixture, and top with a dollop of whipped cream, a bit of puree and a couple of strawberry pieces.
5. Serve immediately. If you wait too long the meringues will melt – there is no serious downside to this except you won’t be able to enjoy the crunchy texture. Another way to serve this is in a big glass bowl – layer meringues and the strawberry mixture. Cover the top with whipped cream, puree and scattered strawberry quarters.


cheesewithaspoon said...

I love this -- so summery! I might try making it this weekend; the strawberries are lovely here right now.

I also recommend _Decline and Fall_, quite different from Brideshead Revisited but just as good.

Anonymous said...


You’re a star. Will make.

You should compare BR to Great Gatsby. Many similarities.