“Half memoir, half travel, A Yank Back to England...is an absolutely wonderful book, not only about going home again but also about love and family and tradition and the passage of the years.”
—Michael Dirda, Pulitzer Prize-winning literary critic (Washington
To see the entire quote, click here.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cool, creamy, crunchy: Glorious Eton Mess

When the weather heats up, my thoughts turn to languid summers and strawberries and cream and... Eton Mess! The dish was invented by the boys attending Eton College-that bastion of privilege in the lovely village of the same name-and usually served up on parents day or at prize-giving ceremonies.

Why, you may ask, is a former secondary modern school kid waxing lyrically about such an upper class treat? Well, the answer is simple: It is delicious. And with the Prodigal addition of chocolate this wonderful confection becomes extra special. Plus, it's so easy to throw together!

Here's what you need for 6-8 servings.

A pound and a half or more of strawberries, nice and ripe, two cups of whipping cream, a tablespoon of sugar, and a drop of vanilla.

Twelve small meringues, or more if you like lots of crunch. If you have the patience, you can, of course, make them yourself, but I prefer to buy them.

One third cup of Kirsch, white rum, or flavorful spirit (optional)

Two ounces of good quality, semi-sweet chocolate, grated or shaved.

Here's what you do.

Put the cleansed and hulled berries in a bowl, halved or sliced or quartered depending on size of the fruits. Now add the booze if you so desire. As we have a child and I don't want the police on my doorstep I don't, and it works very well without. At this point, resist the desire to add sugar to the bowl. If you do, the strawberries will weep and turn your dessert a gooey pink, and you don't want that. Instead, add a tablespoon of sugar to the cream and beat it to soft peaks. Add a little vanilla if you so desire, especially if you abstain on the Kirsch.

Crush/chop the meringues into rough chunks then add to the strawberries and whipped cream, then "mess" everything gently together. And there you have it: Eton Mess. More of an assembly job than a real recipe.

Serve in tall sundae glasses and top each portion with generous sprinkles of chocolate shavings. The addition of the chocolate is mine but it really works a treat.

Even if you're not strolling the playing fields of Eton with the sun glazing the Thames a shimmering gold, it will certainly feel like it when you taste this wonderful concoction. Evocative of summer and lazy afternoons, Eton Mess is destined to become a family favourite.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A dandy hot spot

We found this wonderful old photo of The Pantiles in Royal Tunbridge Wells, once the retreat of choice of the English upper-crust under the tutelage of Dandy Richard "Beau" Nash, the Tim Gunn of his day. The photo was obviously taken when the floor was actually still tiles (hence the name), which it isn't anymore, sadly. There are considerably less tourists and locals in this photo than were there when we visited! A charming place.