Brown Sugar Meringue Cake with Blackberries and Lemon Cream

Blackberry and Lemon meringue 2

It feels as if autumn may be rapping her chilly fingers on the door.  There was a frost this morning and a proper mist coming up off the river.  Whilst I am not ready to immediately dive headlong into winter stews and duvets of syrup puddings I am certainly happy to wrap up a little and enjoy the cool air and changes in the landscape.  Leaves are turning bronze and starting to flutter down into crunchy piles demanding to be kicked, cobwebs in the hedges are highlighted by the frosty dew and birds are collecting, swooping and considering a winter in the sun.  Relish these September days, before you know it we will be hearing about Hallowe’en and Christmas.

So, this is  belter of a pudding, just the ticket for this time of year whilst there are heaps blackberries around.  It is also very straightforward, you can make the meringue discs days in advance and I  have used a good store bought lemon curd.  Do make your own if you have the time and the energy, I didn’t and was perfectly happy with a shop version on this occasion.  Crunchy and chewy meringue, dusky and toffeeish from the brown sugar, vibrant lemony curd marbled into whipped cream and the deepest dark purple berries.

Most of the year the brambles are a pest in the garden, catching and scratching you endlessly.  At the moment though, I am delighted to see their little berries almost as black and shiny as the jet buttons on a Victorian governess.  Take delight in them as like all other seasonal treats they will be gone in a flash.  You could make this with those big, blowsy blackberries you can buy in the shops but that misses the point of these autumn treasures.  I picked the ones you see here whilst the meringues were cooking.

So have a go at this, it really is as stunning as it is delicious and if you miss the boat with the blackberries try it with some late autumn raspberries.

Blackberry and Lemon meringue 3

Brown Sugar Meringue Cake with Blackberries and Lemon Cream

The first time I marbled the lemon curd directly into the whipped cream and then spread it onto the meringue discs but I found it got a little lost.  I then blobbed the lemon curd onto the cream once this was already spread and then marbled it a little which I prefer as it is more distinct.  Obviously do as you choose.  Likewise use as much lemon curd as you like, I used just over half a jar.

3 egg whites

100g soft brown sugar

50g golden caster sugar

600g double cream

1/2 -3/4 jar good lemon curd

Blackberries, as many as you want

Zest of one lemon (optional)

A little icing sugar to dust

Draw two 20cm circles on baking parchment and put them onto baking sheets.  Preheat the oven to 140c.  Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form and then add both sugars a spoonful at a time whisking well until you have a shiny, stiff mass.  Divide this between the two baking sheets creating two 20cm discs, smoothing the tops.  Bake for one hour swapping the tins half way and then turn off the heat but leave in the oven to cool with the door ajar.  When they are cool peel away the parchment and put one onto your serving plate, whisk the cream until just holding its shape and spread half onto the first meringue disc.  Dollop lemon curd over the cream and marble it slightly with a knife then scatter over some of your blackberries.  Place the second disc on top of this and repeat this time using up the rest of your blackberries.  Grate over a little lemon zest if you want and dust with icing sugar.  Serves 6.

Blackberry and Lemon meringue 5

Strawberry Granita (or sorbet)

Strawberry Granita

For me this granita is summer in a glass.  Unadulterated strawberry flavour, no frills or furbelows, cream* or meringues – just that intense heady fragrance that says Wimbledon, Henley and lunch in the garden.   We have been having a fabulous summer so far, lots of long hot sunny days interspersed with cool swims and trips to the beach.  On occasion we have needed something chilled and delicious to temper the heat and this is just the job.  A matter of minutes to make and then you have the most perfect summer pudding or simple afternoon refresher.

If you have an ice cream machine then a few minutes churning will make this into a smooth tangy sorbet.  I am just as happy with a granita, even easier and the seeds don’t bother me in the icy rubble whereas in a sorbet I employ the sieving step.  Do make this whilst our own fabulous British strawberries are still around.

Strawberry Granita 2

Strawberry Granita

If you leave the granita too long in the freezer without mixing just leave the container out for 15 minutes and then scratch it all up and freeze until you are ready to serve.  I haven’t given you much of a serving suggestion in the pictures but the colour was so vibrant and glorious I wanted to show it off.  Serve this in small glasses either on its own or *you could try it with a big blob of lightly whipped cream on top – see, strawberries and cream.

450g strawberries

150g golden caster sugar

500ml water

Juice of 1 lemon

Whizz all the ingredients in a blender.  If the seeds bother you sieve it then pour into a plastic box with a lid.  Freeze for an hour then remove and stir the slushy mixture around.  Repeat this step several times scratching it all up into gorgeous icy crystals.  Alternatively pour into an ice cream machine and churn for sorbet.  Keep frozen and serve in small glasses.  Serves 6 with seconds.

If, like me, you love a granita then why not try my Iced Tea Granita (July 2013) or Blood Orange Granita (February 2013) as well.

Gooseberry, Strawberry and Elderflower Eton Mess

Gooseberry and strawberry fool 2

My Granny had a kitchen garden, a big old walled space which I thought was heaven.  I adored it and spent hours there as a child wandering between the rows of vegetables, marvelling at the artichokes taller than me, rubbing my fingers on the fennel fronds to release their aniseed scent.  Inspecting the asparagus, picking baskets of peas and snacking on apples and pears when the mood took me.   It has always been a deep held wish to have such a garden and we moved house last year we were lucky enough to find one tucked away.   Overgrown and wild it was but the bones were there nonetheless and I had visions of recreating my Grandmothers remarkable garden.  Ha!  After a mass of reading and learning, a weekend of rotavating and what feels like endless weeding I have planted and planted.  Seeds have been started off on the kitchen windowsill or in the green house or planted direct, seedlings bought where my own efforts have failed and donations of little vegetable plants and dahlias gratefully received.

I am delighted with it all and spend hours trying to keep up with the weeds (impossible) and planting various rows of salad leaves to follow on from the ones we are eating now (I believe that is what you do…).  My battle with the slugs is another story altogether.  It is considerably harder work than I anticipated but supremely rewarding.  The first spear of asparagus, eating the first herby green salad with a variety of leaves all grown by us.  There are three tiny plums on a new plum tree, pea pods, baby beetroots, courgettes and beans on their way.

The first fruit picked so far have been wild strawberries and some gooseberries which immediately went towards the fool in this pudding.   With local strawberries winking at me and last weeks elderflower cordial to hand I decided to combine these flavours, the very essence of summer.  The tang of the gooseberries along with the sweetness of the strawberries and floral hit of elderflower are a winning combination and a bit of scrunched up meringue adds texture.

Gooseberry, Strawberry and Elderflower Eton Mess

Of course you can just make the gooseberry fool to have on its own in which case I would use 4 tablespoons of sugar as you won’t have any added sweetness from the meringue.  Taste the gooseberry puree before you add though and remember the later in the season the sweeter these berries will be.

400g gooseberries, topped and tailed

3 tablespoons golden caster sugar

300ml double cream

2 tablespoons elderflower cordial

1 punnet of strawberries halved or quartered depending on size

Meringue (as per the recipe for World Cup Meringue Cake, November 2013 but don’t bother with 3 layers, 1 will do or indeed individual meringues as you are going to break them up anyway).

Put the gooseberries in a pan with the sugar and 2 tablespoons of water and simmer gently until completely broken down.  Leave to cool and then add 1 tablespoon of elderflower cordial.  Put the cut strawberries into a bowl, add the other tablespoon of elderflower cordial, turn them gently and leave to macerate while you get on.  Whip the cream until it just holds its shape and then fold into the gooseberry puree.  Break up the meringues and then mix them with the gooseberry fool followed by the strawberries.  This would fill six glasses similar to the ones you see here but I just filled four and we had seconds…..

 

 

 

Oaty Mincemeat Squares

Oaty Mincemeat Shortbread 3

I often make something we imaginatively call Jammy Oaty Slice – can you guess what is in it?  Of course you can and I highly recommend it as a delicious tea time offering.  The other day I was looking at a tray of it cooling ready for scoffing and it reminded me of the mincemeat slice that used to adorn the bakers’ shelf at Christmas in Yorkshire.  Heavily dredged with icing sugar, it was completely white from the top and the layers were crisp and even (really!) in the way only a practised hand can accomplish.

So of course I had to have a go at making it myself.  Whilst I love mince pies, my immediate family (i.e. the ones I actually live with) don’t like anything with cooked raisins or dried fruit.   This means that if I make mince pies then I am the only one who will eat them unless we have friends over and when it comes to a Christmas cake…. Well, suffice it to say I ate all of the the last one which graced a tin in our house.  All of it and I made another in January because I had enjoyed it so much…..

These little squares are much safer then.  Rather than a huge cake winking at me from the corner I can safely eat one of these treasures with a cup of tea on a daily basis without having to book into the gym afterwards.   Like two layers of shortbread with mincemeat in between, somehow better than a traditional mince pie if that is not too shocking a statement? The oats add an extra element which is just right and of course go a good way towards balancing out the sugar and butter.  Heading for health food is what I say….

Oaty Mincemeat Shortbread

Oaty Mincemeat Squares

If you want to go for the original Jammy Oaty Slice then just replace the mincemeant with jam, I favour raspberry.  However, please do give them a go this Christmas, they are a million times easier than mince pies if you need to make a batch for a sale and are just delicious.

250g plain flour

125g oats

135g caster sugar

200g cold butter

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon fine salt

450g mincemeat

Icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 180.  Line a tin of approximately 23cmx32cm  with baking parchment.  Whizz together the flour, oats, butter, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Tip half of the mixture into the baking tin and press it to cover the base in an even layer.  Spread the mincemeat over this and then sprinkle the remainder of the mix evenly over the mincemeat and press it down gently.   Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden on top.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely before dusting with icing sugar and cutting into squares.

Oaty Mincemeat Shortbread 2