Unless you have been living in the outer regions of a far, far away land, you probably know that there was a “royal wedding” last Friday. If you have been paying the slightest bit of attention to the news then you probably also know it was the wedding of Prince William (son of Charles and Diana) and Catherine (formerly known as Kate). You may even have watched it or caught the highlights later on.
In the UK, where it had been declared a national holiday, many people (2 million according to circulated figures) set up street parties and celebrated as a local community. After all, whether you are a royalist or not, these days are a great excuse for communities to come together and have a bit of fun.
There was no chance of a street party where I lived – the lane outside my house is narrow, bumpy, and also incredibly steep! I also share it with just one other house. So it would have been pretty small. Instead I had family and friends over for a celebration “chez moi”. We had bacon sandwiches and coffee at the start of the coverage and as the service progressed we graduated on to champagne and cake. Later on in the day we attended a hog roast hosted by our local pub.
Spending the day with family and friends made the experience all that more special. We all gasped in delight at the site of her dress and gushed with happiness at the romance of their balcony kiss. We also whole-heartedly agreed that those daughters of Andrew and Fergie needed an enormous amount of help in the styling department! What where they thinking with those hats?
I wish there were more days like this. A chance to chill and celebrate at the same time. Can’t beat that.
DIY Eton Mess with Rhubarb Compote
First of all, what is Eton Mess? It’s a traditional English dessert that combines meringue, whipped cream and fruit (normally strawberries) in mushy mess. It is often served at Eton College’s annual cricket match against Winchester College. It originates back to the 19th century. (And yes Eton is where Princes William and Harry attended school.)
The DIY (do-it-yourself) idea came to me after reading a cooking piece by Jamie Oliver. He suggested that instead of putting the Eton Mess together yourself, simply lay out the ingredients and let your guests assemble it.
This impressed me because my one fault with the concoction is that often the meringue losses its firmness if assembled too far in advance. This way you are guaranteed some crunchy meringue without having to leave it all to the last-minute. If you are having a party and not sure when exactly everyone will be eating the desert it is particularly useful to use this approach.
Serves 6 to 8
6 large eggs
300g caster sugar
A pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 150c/300f/gas mark 2.
Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
Put your egg whites in a bowl and whisk on medium until the whites form firm peaks.
With the mixer still going gradually add the sugar and the pinch of salt. Whisk on the highest setting for 5-7 mins until sugar is dissolved and mixture appears glossy.
For a basic meringue shape spoon the mixture on to the baking tray. You can lightly tap them with the bottom of your spoon to get some wispy bits coming up. Put in the oven for an hour until they are crispy on outside and chewy inside.
Rhubarb Compote with rosewater
3-5 tbsp sugar
650g rhubarb chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1-2 tsp rosewater (optional)
Boil the water and sugar in a saucepan and then add the rhubarb. Turn the heat down to a simmer for 5-10 minutes, depending on how tender you want the rhubarb. When ready, remove from the heat. Add the rose water and set aside to cool.
500ml double cream
Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks when the whisk is removed.
To Serve: put the meringues, rhubarb compote and whipped cream in separate bowls in the middle of your table. Get your guests to do the rest!