Thursday, 6 May 2010

A Little Tease.....

.... From my book...
'Lotte's Country Kitchen' out in June.
Published by Absolute Press.


What a truly glorious month May is. Late spring is a truly beautiful time. The air is warming up, the leaves on the bushes and trees are still that lovely bright acid green, and all of my blue and purple herbaceous plants are doing their thing.

OK, better get this on the record. My name is Lotte Duncan and I am an herbaceous plant addict. There I’ve said it. It’s good to get it off my chest.

I can’t help myself. I walk past one in a garden centre and I buy it. I see one in a magazine and it becomes a mission to hunt it down. I have two extra flower beds in my garden because of my addiction. I’m well on my way to a third.

I’ve tried, really tried to get my problem under control. But I can’t. I buy them mail order; I purchase them at farmer’s markets. I virtually mug old ladies who might be stretching their hand towards the one I want.

My name is Lotte Duncan and I’m not clean of my addiction. I never will be. As long as there is a pretty herbaceous plant winking at me and tempting me in their direction, I’ll succumb. I’m weak and I’m feeble and I’m not entirely sure I care…

Pink meringues with clotted cream and strawberries
Makes about 12 meringues

2 large egg whites
110g/4oz caster sugar
a few drops of red food colouring
clotted cream and fresh strawberries, to serve
icing sugar and pink edible glitter, to decorate (optional)

Preheat the oven to 120˚C/fan oven 110˚C/gas mark ½.
AGA 4/3/2 dr Simmering oven,

Line a baking sheet with baking parchment or a non-stick liner.

Place the egg whites in a medium mixing bowl and whisk them until they are very stiff (see Lotte’s tips), not floppy or runny, but really stiff!

Whisk 2 teaspoons of the sugar in and whisk again until the egg whites are really stiff.

Now your meringue is stable enough to fold in the rest of the sugar and a few drops of the colouring, with a large metal spoon. Add enough colouring to make your meringues a candy pink the colour fades a little once they are cooked so be brave with the colouring. Do this gently so you don’t knock any air out – you’ve just spent a long time whisking it in!

Next use a piping bag, fitted with a plain nozzle, to pipe an even number of tablespoon-sized mounds of meringue, spaced well apart, on the baking sheet or you can simply use a tablespoon to plop some down.

Bake the meringues for about 2 hours. After 1½ hours, gently pick each meringue up and turn it on its side, then return them to the oven. This will dry out your meringues nicely. Transfer the cooked meringues to a wire rack to cool completely.

No more than an hour before you are ready to serve the meringues, pair them up and sandwich them together with a spoonful of clotted cream and a couple of sliced strawberries. Dust with a little icing sugar or even some pink edible glitter and eat enthusiastically.

Lotte’s tips
You can use a balloon whisk for making meringues, but life really is a little easier if you have an electric one, because the most important thing about making meringues is to initially whisk the egg whites until they are very stiff indeed before you add any sugar. This is where so many people fall down. They don’t whisk enough to begin with. As soon as you add sugar to whisked egg white it loosens and loses some of its bulk, so you need to make sure they are really stiff before you do.

The meringues can be made well in advance as they will keep for 10-14 days in an airtight container.

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