The Chef vs. The Nutritionist: Eton Mess10/27/2007 08:50:00 PM
Eton mess is a dessert traditionally served at Eton College (duh!), which comprises whipped cream, strawberries and crushed meringues. Yum yum. It tastes like English summer in a glass. Being a traditional dessert, many chefs and authors have their own version of the basic recipe. Jamie, for instance, steeps his strawberries in balsamic vinegar, all'italia. Nigella uses trendy (and expensive) pomegranate juice to coax the rubied juiciness from the berries. And good old Delia does a super-trad version: just meringues, cream, sugar, and strawberries. (Natch!)
I made a Jamie-style Eton mess tonight for dessert. It's been a blisteringly hot day, and I wanted to finish our meal with something that was sweetly cool and refreshing, but still comforting. My mother was eating with us, and obviously, a large cup of whipped cream, full of tasty tasty saturated fat, does not a healthy dessert make. I happened to have both double cream and no-fat Greek yogurt in my fridge, so I made a couple of cream-based glasses, as well as a yogurt-based one for my cholesterol-conscious mother. She loves fruit with yogurt, so I thought that my healthified Eton mess would make a nice treat for her.
Now, I'm not saying that replacing the cream with yogurt was an original idea - I'm quite sure I've read it in magazines before, and just recently the lovely AnnaUK made her own yogurt-based Eton Mess - but it is a good one, and well worth sharing. The only thing to watch out for is that you don't get a yogurt that has been thickened with gelatine - many commercial low fat yogurts contain it. According to my doctor, the gelatine, being an animal product, is bad for your cholesterol levels.
Onto the meringues. These can be bought or homemade, but seeing as I'm on a budget, and that I have enough egg whites in my freezer to feed The Rock for a year, I made my own. I used a Donna Hay recipe (her Modern Classics 2 book is a great source for all your basic sweet recipes) for the meringues, and used more of that golden unrefined icing sugar rather than regular castor sugar. They'll need a few good hours after baking to cool in the oven and crisp up.
The verdict? Both versions were delicious. I don't think you really can go wrong with strawberries and cream, and I loved Jamie's method of steeping the strawberries in balsamic vinegar. I snuck a spoonful of my mum's healthy version, 'just to test', and whilst rather different from the mild-tasting original, it was still very nice. I was happy to find a good low fat yogurt - it was creamy and deliciously tangy, and made a nice contrast against the sweet meringues. As a bonus, both the traditional and low-fat versions looked exactly the same, so it didn't look like she was getting a sad, "diet", deprived version compared to the indulgent original. Always important.