Eton Mess Gelato

Over the last week, I’ve found myself making food for the future, rather than for the now. This is partly a product of the season: foraged blackberries and elderberries fill my kitchen and freezer, crying out to be turned into soft-set jams, sweet, fragrant liqueurs, and tart vinegars. But it’s also, I think, a nod to how I’ve been feeling recently. And its certainly a step forward from previous weeks: this feels like the stirrings of hope, of planning, of an anticipation of enjoyment, even if present enjoyment is still a little lacking.

Although, that said, I have cautiously been cooking again: old favourites that I know will tempt me: an aromatic cauliflower curry, with parathas that filled the kitchen with a comforting smell of char, and barbecued mackerel, with sinus clearing horseradish, nasturtium flowers from the garden, and some rhubarb that had, frankly, seen better days. Results have been mixed, but I’m chalking up the effort as a success in itself: an act of self-care to make food for me, not just for production. And it has been reassuring for my kitchen to feel and smell like mine again.

As established in last week’s post, I haven’t made this ice cream in the lat week: it’s one that has been waiting in the wings for a little while, but the combination of the sun shining and my impulse to squirrel away and preserve produce means that this began to make sense again. Ice cream is, of course, preservation in its own right, and after some heavy Eton mess recipe testing, I was left with lots of excess ingredients.

I chose gelato here to properly replicate the clean flavour of the cream in Eton mess; I didn’t want to muddy it with eggs or custard. But there is the bonus that gelato is terribly easy to make – so much easier than ice cream, which relies on custards and cooking eggs out, and risks curdling or lumps. No such worries here.

This is not a difficult recipe, but it is a slightly involved one: different elements requiring separate preparation. But this is actually its strength: it’s a good recipe for the anxious cook, as although there are several different processes, they all need cooling before use, so you can take your time. And often, time is all you need.

It goes like this:

Eton mess gelato

Makes: Just over a pint of gelato
Takes: 20 minutes plus cooling
Bakes: 1 hour 45

For the meringues
1 egg white
150g caster sugar
A little lemon juice or vinegar

For the gelato
800ml whole milk
150g unrefined sugar
40g milk powder
1 teaspoon cornflour

For the strawberry sorbet
200g Strawberries
50g sugar

2 tablespoons freeze dried strawberries

1. First make the gelato mix. Heat the milk until it registers 40°C no a thermometer. Add the sugar, milk powder and cornflour and heat gently, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 85°C. Strain the milk, cover, and place in the fridge until cold

2. Preheat the oven to 100°C and line an oven tray with a silpat mat or baking paper. Take a scrupulously clean bowl: wipe around it with a small amount of vinegar or lemon juice.

3. Carefully separate the egg white from its yolk, and pour into the clean bowl. Whisk slowly at first until tiny stabilising bubbles appear. Now you can begin to whisk more vigorously until the whites are opaque and stiff and stand up on their own.

4. Add the caster sugar in three roughly equal additions, each time whisking the whites back up to stiffness. The finished meringue will be bright white, glossy and when the whisk is upended, spikes of meringue will stand proud without flopping over.

5. Spoon or pipe onto the silpat, and bake for 1 hour 45 minutes. Turn the oven off, but don’t open the door. Leave the meringues until completely cool, then peel them from the mat.

6. Make a simple syrup by heating the 50g caster sugar with 50g water in a small pan until it turns clear and boils. Remove from the heat. Whizz the strawberries in a small food processor, and pour in the syrup, whizzing until combined. Leave to cool.

7. Set your ice cream machine going and slowly pour in the milk mixture. Leave to churn according to manufacturer’s instructions. Once churned, scrape into a freezable container. Crumble the meringues and stir through the mixture, along with the dried strawberries. Swirl through the strawberry syrup (you may not need all of it), making sure that some is visible on the surface. Sprinkle slightly larger chunks of meringue and strawberries on the surface and freeze for at least four hours.

Icing on the Cake

We ate this in cones, sprinkled with extra dried strawberries and crumbled meringue.

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