Mother, entrepreneur and all-round food lover Juliet Kennedy from @Greenspoon is driven by her quest to find the finest local artisan produce. In this issue, Juliet and her mother explore Meringues and the everlasting bond cooking brings.
An ethereal and seemingly impossible combination of egg whites, sugar and air creates these beautiful puffed up clouds of deliciousness. Thanks mostly to the reinvention of the meringue by Ottolenghi, we now have the great, oversized beauties that sit in shop windows and are home to various toppings depending on your mood.
Today the meringue is as acceptable as the ubiquitous Australian pavlova; essentially a large pillow of meringue presented as a vehicle for lightly whipped cream and seasonal fruit. And one of the first people I know to embrace the return of the meringue was my mother. As a result, meringues have been a staple pudding in our household for many years. Easy to make – but not that easy to perfect – and vehicle for to chocolate or butterscotch sauce, cream, fruits or – at a push – as a topping on a lemon meringue pie.
I feel like this high versatile concoction is a staple part of my repertoire, given that hours in the kitchen have been dedicated to creating meringues of all shapes and sizes. My Mum has perfected the art of producing a raft of cloudy concoctions at the drop of a hat, ready for cream or custard, fruit or chocolate, and always an easy pudding. Working together in the kitchen is always my favourite activity – we’re both in our happy place, and we’re able to have those conversations I expect one day to have with my teenage children – the ones where you don’t necessarily want to look each other in the eye, and because you’re busy with checking the egg whites, you needn’t. And that’s the thing about the mother-daughter relationship; some conversations can be had across the table, and others should be done with the gentle whirr of a food processor in the background so that tricky bits can be skipped or avoided altogether.
When making meringues, don’t get distracted. Don’t – as I sometimes do – walk away to put the children in the bath for just ‘two minutes’, or start scrolling through Instagram. Dedicate yourself wholeheartedly to the job in hand, and stand over that beater like your life depends on it. You want the egg whites to be foaming when you add the warmed sugar, and then when you stop the beater you want them to be smooth and silky, and able to hold their own (shape). But not overbeaten, otherwise you’ll end up with slightly pockmarked meringues that might taste perfectly acceptable but won’t look their best. I’d recommend those get crumbled up into a simple Eton Mess (layer meringue with cream and berries as a delicious pudding).
Ensure that when you separate the yolk from the white there is no fat from the yolk within the whites. Bring the egg whites to room temperature before using them (separating them at fridge temperature is easier), and use older eggs if you can. Use a machine if you can.
As always, use the very best ingredients you can find – and that starts with the eggs. Ours are sourced from a small clutch of chickens that rake around the gardens at Emakoko Lodge on the edge of Nairobi National Park. Always fresh and delicious, they have great flavour and no nasties.
- 4 egg whites, separated with great care (should be around 150g)
- 250g caster sugar
- Bio Whipped cream
- Fairleigh’s Jaggery brown sugar
- Epicurious Hedgehog Cocoa Powder
- Sushila’s Chai Spice
- Preheat the oven to 180. Weigh out the sugar and place in the oven on a baking tray with baking paper. Wipe your mixing bowl and whisk with half a cut lemon. Separate the eggs, put the whites in the mixing bowl and start whisking. The sugar should be warm (about 8 mins) but not caramelizing.
- Once out, reduce the oven to 100 deg C. When the eggs are foamy, start adding the sugar very slowly – spoonful by spoonful – allowing a minute between each addition.
- Once all the sugar is added, whisk the eggs for around 5 minutes until they are silky, smooth, white and are able to stand up on their own. Try not to overbeat them.
- Take a baking tray and line with silicone baking paper or parchment. Using two large spoons, gently take spoonfuls of the meringue mixture (no banging the bowl otherwise you risk knocking the air out!) and spoon onto the baking tray. Get creative with the peaks and troughs in your meringue surface.
- Before putting into the oven, sieve over some Sushila’s chai spice, cocoa powder or sprinkle on little balls of jaggery brown sugar.
- Place the meringues carefully in the oven for 90 minutes – 2 hours to dry them out, not cook them.
- Serve with berries, lightly whipped cream and a cup of coffee or tea. Or place in a mini kikapu lined with tissue paper, tie it up with ribbon and present as a home-made gift for your mum!