Eton Mess is an all-time classic British dessert, and the recipe must be included in any list of strawberry recipes. Traditionally the dish was served at Eton College but how it came to have the name is not clear. One story is a Labrador dog sat on a picnic basket in the back of a car and squashed a strawberry and meringue dessert. One thought was the "mess" was a rather delicious dessert and the name stuck.
Even if this is not true, it is a sweet story.
The dessert is quick and easy to make and makes great use of ripe strawberries at the height of summer when they are plentiful. Frozen or tinned strawberries simple do not work as it is the freshness and scent of summer ripened fruits which make this dessert so special.
The traditional Eton Mess is made with strawberries, but it is possible to use other fruits, Rhubarb Mess is a great example, raspberries also work well but be careful not to squash them too much. To ring the changes you can also change the cream , to a flavoured one.
- Place the whipping cream in a large mixing bowl, add the sugar and whip with an electric whisk until the cream is light and fluffy. Do not over whip - the success of the dish requires softly whipped cream. The peaks should stand up with the tips gently falling over for the correct consistency.
- Break the meringue into large bite-size chunks and gently stir into the cream. Don't worry if some of the meringue crumbles just add this too; it will melt into the cream (yum).
- Place half of the strawberries into another large mixing bowl and press gently with the back of a fork to break up the strawberries slightly and release some of the juice. Do not be too heavy handed with the squashing; you do not want a puree. Stir the strawberries gently into the cream.
- Halve, then quarter the remaining strawberries.
- Place the cream mixture into an 18 cm (7") trifle or glass serving dish. Top with the strawberry pieces. Chill for 30 minutes in the refrigerator the sprinkle with the icing (confectioners) sugar before serving.
- Alternately serve in individual sized dessert bowls or glasses. There is little need to serve anything else alongside; it is delicious as it is.
- Eat Eton Mess on the day it is made as if stored the meringues start to soften very quickly.