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Named, of course, after Eton College, this variation on the traditional strawberries and cream is what, to me, eptomises the taste of the English summer.

A simple mix of broken meringue, whipped cream and strawberries, it is a great standby that tastes amazing. Serve it with a long glass of Pimm's and eat it in the meagre English sunshine.

For a pastry chef, as well as for real people, it's a great way of using up broken meringues that were meant for something more fancy. If you're nervous about your meringue-making skills it's useful too, because it doesn't matter if you mess them up, as you're going to be smashing them to pieces anyway.

Because of this, it did seem to turn up on my lunch specials whenever pavlova was on. That said, in many ways I prefer the simple indulgence of the sweet, crisp and chewy meringue pieces, the rich cream, and the sharp and aromatic fruit. I'd occasionally feel a little guilty as I chucked a few broken pieces of meringue into a bowl with the softly whipped cream and the chopped fruit, occasionally macerated in a little kirsch, but that guilt was quickly banished by a little taste of the resulting 'mess'.

The orgins of this dish are linked with the upper class pursuits of the English public school at Eton. Every 4th June, a 'prize-giving' is traditionally held at the college. This dish was, and is, served to the rich kiddies to eat at picnics on the playing fields during the day.

Other versions of this can be made with fruits such as raspberries (particularly useful if you've already got them in for pavlova!). While the point of this is to use broken meringue, don't think you can get away with old, stale ones. I like it with a day old meringue, with a generous mix of chewy bits along with the light and crispy pieces.

Ingredients

For haphazard, throw-together recipes like this, it seems a bit strange to give exact quantities. It's best to do it by eye. However, in the interest of completeness, I'll give my best shot. Just remember: these are for guidance only. Use your skill and judgement.

  • 450g / 1lb strawberries or other fruit (see below)
  • 350ml / 10oz double / heavy cream
  • Meringue (how does one measure meringues?)

Softly whip the cream, until it can just hold peaks. Hull the strawberries and cut into quarters. Break the meringues into bite sized pieces. Fold these together and serve in individual bowls.

Variations

The traditional recipe is just the strawberries, cream and meringue, but there are a few variations that you might like to experiment with. Try substituting, or combining other fruits with the strawberries. Raspberries are good, as are blackberries. Good ripe peaches can be an interesting contrast. You may like to puree some of the fruit, and mix the resulting coulis through the cream, giving a marbled effect. The fruit can be soaked in a little liqueur, but that doesn't do too much for me in this dish. I like it clean and simple.

So, for your bit of old English tradition, give this laughably simple yet delicious dish a try.

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