How did this dish get its name? Ah, now that’s a uniquely humorous story. In fact, there are variations but the most popular one is that a student was carrying a huge strawberry Pavlova, tripped and the dessert crashed to the floor. In an attempt to salvage it, the student and his friends scooped out the “mess” and spooned them into bowls.
It’s probably a myth, that story. I mean, who would have the stomach to eat cream and wet strawberries that had been scooped off the floor, right? It’s funny though and somehow illustrative of how college boys behave.
How does one make Eton mess? By making a strawberry syrup and folding it with whipped cream and crushed meringue to get a marbled look.
Some cooks prefer to simply puree the strawberries with sugar in a food processor. I like the syrup the way Tom Norrington Davies did it inGreat British Food— by heating the strawberries and sugar together until the strawberries render juices, the sugar melts and a sticky syrup is formed. I also prefer not to puree the strawberries; Ilike them in chunks for added texture.
When crushing the meringue, the pieces don’t have to be uniform. In fact, the texture of the Eton mess is better when you have small and not-too-small pieces of meringue. So, never mind about obsessing with cutting the meringue into uniform pieces.
When combining the strawberries, whipped cream and meringue, do not mix them together. Rather, fold them gently so that you don’t get a homogenous mixture. After all, what makes Eton mess so gorgeous is marbling. And you want that marbling to be visible so serve your Eton mess in glasses.
- 300 grams fresh strawberries - trimmed and halved or quartered (reserve the best ones for garnish)
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 cup crushed meringue - measure after crushing them
- 1 cup whipping cream - well chilled
- Place the strawberries in a microwaveable bowl.
- Add the sugar and stir.
- Heat in the microwave on HIGH for one and a half minutes. Stir.
- Return to the microwave and heat on HIGH for another one and a half minutes.
- Cool to room temperature then chill the strawberry syrup for at least two hours.
- In a chilled bowl, whip the cream until double in volume.
- Take your meringue. Crush them with your hand. Not into smithereens but into fairly large chunks.
- Dump the crushed meringue into the bowl of whipped cream. Fold gently.
- Pour in the chilled strawberry syrup. Fold — DO NOT OVERMIX — to create a marbled look.
- Spoon your Eton Mess into dessert glasses.
- Top with the reserved whole strawberries.