I know that I have previously waxed lyrical about seasonal, local produce and I still stand by my opinion on this matter; However as I walked into my local convenience store yesterday I was again tempted by a display of beautiful, bright red, imported strawberries. The fruits looked so full of early summer sun and bursting with freshness that I could not leave the store without a punnet in my shopping bag.
When I got back to my kitchen and unpacked my shopping, I was immediately overtaken by the urge to make something special with these ruby beauties. At first I though of making a strawberry coolie to pour over a couple of scoops of ice-cream, but then realised that this will not do justice to these amazing fruits. They deserved nothing less than to be the star of the show, the centre of attention and to inspire awe in those enjoying their splendour. For me, there are few desserts as simultaneously pretty and delicious as an Eton Mess and I knew that this will be my inspiration for what I was going to make.
Firstly I made a giant meringue disk, spreading the glossy white mixture onto a wax-paper lined baking sheet. Not wanting the egg yolks to go to waste, I used them to make a creamy, vanilla flecked crème anglaise to pour over the dessert instead of the usual whipped cream. Once the first two components of the dish were cooked, cooled and sufficiently rested, I got started on preparing the strawberries. Leaving them whole and with the leafy tops still intact, I dipped them into dark melted chocolate to turn them into a true indulgence.
After we finished our dinner of steamed asparagus tips and yoghurt marinated chicken bites, I took out my most colourful bowls to serve the final course. Making a last minute addition, I scooped some vanilla ice-cream into each bowl, broke the meringue over the top of it, poured over the custard and finally placed the strawberries on-top. It did not really resemble the dessert that had been its inspiration, but after the first taste we all agreed that it tasted just as good and named it "Elle's Mess"