Sunday bake off: Making magnificent meringues

As a born-and-bred New Zealander, I naturally feel a sense of ownership and fondness towards the Pavlova. Equally, as someone who has adopted the UK as their home for the last 7 years, I love a good Eton mess. My experiences with baking meringue, both in it’s huge pavlova form and mini-mounds of crunchy goodness, have always been somewhat hit-and-miss.  My mother is the queen of Pav baking. My sister creates decadent mounds piled high on a cake stand with whipped cream and fruit that looks like it’s leapt straight off one of the pages of an Ottolenghi cookbook. My attempts? Either magnificent or pathetic.  Either, ‘Oh look it’s perfect!’ or (more likely), ‘Oh crap, it’s a disaster’.

This week for a last supper with a friend, who is all visa-approved off to New York after 20 years in London, I decided to give meringue making another crack and try and work out if there is a tried-and-true method. My friend’s also originally from NZ, so in a nod to both his childhood and his adult years in London, something somewhere between Eton Mess and Pavlova seemed appropriate.

Making magnificent meringues

Inspired by Leigh’s post on Rosewater and Pistachio meringues, I considered giving my old-favourite Ottolenghi’s recipe a go. But I found myself turning towards the very gorgeous Love Bake Nourish by Amber Rose (yet another expat New Zealander). A gift from my sister, it’s become my go-to baking cookbook these days. I’ve tried out several recipes and they’ve all been a success. I’m a huge fan of using maple syrup, raw sugar, spelt flour and unusual ingredients, and this book is full of nourishing recipes using interesting and natural ingredients. (Her lovely instagram is worth a follow too for daily prettiness and inspiration.)

Love Bake Nourish

Maple syrup meringues (adapted from Love Bake Nourish by Amber Rose)

Serves 6 to 8, depending on size. Or three people who REALLY love meringue.

2 teaspoons cornflour
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
6 large free-range eggs whites (I used medium sized eggs as that was all I could get nearby)
Pinch of salt
200g unrefined golden caster sugar (I used raw granulated sugar)
2 tablespoons of maple syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (I’d run out but didn’t worry about it)

IMG_2800

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Or thereabouts if you’re temperatures have worn off the oven like mine. Line baking sheets with baking paper. I only needed one baking sheet but you might need two depending on how big you’d like your meringues.

Eggs yolks

2. Save your yolks for breakfast/dinner tomorrow. Mix the cornflour and vinegar well in a little bowl until well combined and lump free.

3. I used my kitchen aid mixer for this step which is a blessing when it comes to making meringues. I have made them successfully with a hand mixer too.  Whisk the eggs whites with the salt until stiff peaks form.

4. Add the sugar a tablespoon at a time, alternating with really small amounts of the vinegar mix.

Whipping up a storm

5. Keep going until it’s all combined. The meringue should be really thick and glossy. At this stage it looked just how I remembered my mum’s best pavlova mixtures.

6. Add the fold syrup, folding through with a metal spoon. Pile high in mounds on the baking tray. You should get about 6-8.

7. Put in the oven and immediately turn the oven down to 100 degrees C. Bake for about 1.5 to 2 hours, then turn the oven off and let the meringues cool in the oven.

Meringues

TA-DA! Amber Rose’ recipe then goes on to make caramelised pears to serve atop the meringues. I’m not a fan of pears (does anyone else think they are gritty?) so topped mine with fresh strawberries, raspberries, chopped roasted hazelnuts and whipped cream. DELISH. Chewy, a little crunchy and a bit fluffy. Sadly, we’d a had a few too many wines by the time I dished them up so there are no photos.

The secret to making the perfect meringue? I think it’s down to a little patience, a lot of whipping and very fresh free-range eggs. The right temperature oven (mine is always a guesstimate as the temps have been cleaned off!) plays a big part, and the time to leave them to cool in the oven. It’s a good idea to make them the night before and turn off the oven before you go to bed. If you take them out before they’ve cooled, you run the risk of collapsing and cracking meringues. And I think the maple syrup really gives extra chewiness and flavour.

Have you ever tried making meringues or pavlova? What’s your secret?

x C

Friday bits & pieces…

Hello Foxglove

I adore Foxgloves. The colour, the tall and majestic way they hold themselves, their ability to pop up where you least expect it and their name. Can’t you just imagine the sneaky foxes putting their paws in the flowers at dusk? Apparently the name comes from the flowers looking the fingers of gloves. I have three growing in the garden this year, including a huge one with about a dozen stems of flower. I resisted picking any for as long as possible but then I just had to bring one stem indoors. It’s now living prettily in a milk bottle on the mantlepiece. (Did you know Foxgloves are completely toxic?) I’ve been playing along with Little Green Shed’s Nature in the Home series on instagram and I have to admit it’s been bringing me an endless amount of pleasure.

A few bits and pieces that will brighten up your Friday:

  • I’ve been coveting this ring for about a year now. Sigh.
  • I was so inspired by Hannah’s post on ways to mark the Summer Solstice, I texted my friend on the spot to see how we can celebrate.
  • We might have to drink Blackberry Thyme Sparklers from my vintage champagne saucers
  • Doesn’t this Elderflower and Gooseberry cake look delicious? Think I’m going to have to give it a whirl on Sunday.
  • I’m putting away the laptop and breaking out the sewing machine for the rest of the day to make something from Tilly’s book. It’s SO good and has inspired to me actually sew (instead of shop) for the first time in I don’t know how long.

Happy weekend. Enjoy the sunshine if you’re in the UK! If you’re back home in NZ, snuggle down with a glass of red (or two) and a good book.

xx C

The perfect birthday treats

Birthday bounty 1

I fully endorse the tradition of buying yourself a birthday present. That way you know you’ll actually get something that you want. It was my birthday last Monday and after no-spend May, it was definitely time to treat myself. After a lovely breakfast at our favourite nearby cafe, I took myself off to the wedding dress exhibition at the V&A. (Gorgeous! Make sure you get there.) Then I hit the shops. After a couple of hours of not finding ANYTHING I actually wanted to spend my pennies on, I found everything at once.

From left to right, Zara embroidered fringed waistcoat& Other Stories leather sandals with tortoiseshell heels, H&M tin, Aesop resurrection hand cream, Aesop camellia nut facial cream, Charlotte Tilbury colour morphing eye shadow pencil for hazel eyes, & Other Stories dress (print version here).

Birthday bounty

I love the shoes so much that I’m going to go back and get them in the pale hue too. I think the annual birthday shop is a tradition that I’m going to have to keep up.

And here are some of the gorgeous gifts that the lovely folks in my life treated me to.

Birthday bounty

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds vinyl, Bill Callahan vinyl, vintage hat box, vintage ceramic rolling pin, My Petite Kitchen by Eleanor Ozich, Sacred Hill gin.  Lovely.

xx C

Monday bits & pieces …

Peonies in my favourite jug

 

Boo. Another weekend’s over. To cheer you up, here’s a jug of tight peony buds that have yet to burst into their full-blown glory like these. Just can’t enough of these beauties at the moment.

Here are some bits & pieces I’m loving today:

  • this UO table. It’s a BEAR. There’s nothing more to say. He’s just splendid.
  • Rifle Company wallpaper. It’s a tough choice between the pineapples or peonies.
  • the botanical print trend has been doing the rounds for a while. But I still really want one of these (there’s 15% off for Betty readers too).
  • this recipe for Vegan Strawberry Swirl Ice-cream. Um, yum! Just need an ice-cream maker now.
  • June 1 would’ve been Marilyn Monroe’s 88th birthday. Here’s 30 pics of her not giving a dam.
  • and speaking of fabulous blondes, Stevie Nicks turned 65 on May 26.

x

An ode to Columbia Road

A piece of my heart belongs to Columbia Road.

Hyacinths at Columbia Road flower market

I’m not sure why I’ve never written a proper post on the East London street made famous by it’s old flower market. Sure, I’ve mentioned it in passing but I’ve never gotten around to a whole post dedicated to what is undoubtedly one of my favourite places in London.  I lived just off Columbia Road for two and a half years and absolutely adored it. A busy, bustling house filled with beautiful and hilarious housemates. Where we always had flowers, the biggest tree we could find at Christmas, and a glass of wine was never far away. Where too many mid-week drinks at the Royal Oak was a frequent occurrence and too much karaoke at the weekend would keep us awake. The ‘Columbia Road girls’ who appeared on a cooking show (the less said about that the better)…

The Royal Oak Columbia Road

My love affair with Columbia Road started on my first weekend in London. My old friend Emma said to me, “I think you’ll really like it” as we walked down Bethnal Green Road. I couldn’t believe such a glorious place existed. As a girl who grew up with a big rose-filled garden in New Zealand and home was always filled with flowers, it was a dream come true to find a flower market in the East End. I grew up learning all the names of the flowers and plants in the garden with my very green-thumbed grandparents. I even won the Flower Show Cup at primary school. (Yes, we had such a thing. It was the highlight of sports’ day – which I did my best to get out of.) It’s fair to say, like my sister, I have inherited the gene for all things green and flowery. I was lucky enough, after a couple of years in different London flats, to find my dream (well, almost) house share just off Columbia Road.

Seasons at Columbia Road

A few happy years later, I now only live a 15-minute walk away and if Sunday is looking quiet, a stroll to Columbia Road is always top of my to-do list. Now we have a little garden I buy as many plants as I can carry back home, usually a bouquet or two and a coffee. The ever-changing seasons are so visible at the markets. Spring = bulbs galore and cherry blossom. Summer brings roses, glorious dahlias and perfect peonies. Autumn = orange blooms for Halloween, and winter brings Christmas trees, bunches of cotton and vibrant red berries.

Columbia Road vintage plates

 

An ode to Columbia Road

I will always love rolling out of bed on a Sunday morning for a coffee, a bunch of flowers and a stroll around the vintage stalls and shops before the heaving crowds descend. The wonderful little shops where I will always find the perfect present. The hilarious long-time stall holders. The cakes at Lily Vanilli. The teacups at Vintage Heaven. The gorgeous mosaics outside the school. If I’m feeling glum, the Mr always knows a trip to Columbia Road will make it better.

Columbia Road School Mosiac

It pays to get there super early to avoid the crowds or, if you’d like a bargain bunch of blooms go about 2pm in winter or 3pm in spring/summer when the stallholders are selling everything they have left cheap. For a look around the shops, get there early, or better yet, go on a Saturday when most of the shops are open and there are no crowds.  The late night evenings in the lead up to Christmas are equally crowd but loads of fun with chestnuts being roasted, carol singers and mulled wine for sale. Perfect for gift shopping. It’s so pretty all lit up at night! And if it snows…magical.

Late night at London's Columbia Road

Columbia Road, you hold a very special place in my heart.

Columbia Road Flower Market is on every Sunday, rain or shine, 8am til 3’ish. You can find out more about Columbia Road and how to get there over here.

Photos by Luke and me

Lately I’ve been…

Spring flowers co-ordinating my outfit with the fallen blossom petals…

loving the Welsh Poppies, Nasturtiums and other blooms in my garden. Foxgloves, I love you…

Eating & baking baking spring birthday cakes and decorating them with nasturtiums and violets from the garden…

trying not to eat all the sourdough bread the Mr has been baking…

cooking up a nut roast pie and baking peach tarts for a friend over for dinner…

Sweet violets

picking teeny-tiny violets from the garden…

Ruby grapefruit & berries

trying to make up for all the cake by eating raspberries and grapefruit…

Lately

trying not to steal the neighbours cat…

then eating more cake…

enjoying the spring sunshine…

and spring storms…

Treasures

tidying up my inherited, vintage and new treasures…

As you can see lately has been all about being at home, baking cakes and hanging out in the garden.

All photos from my instagram @theteapotexplodes xx C

Frock Friday: The palest green dress

I’ve always been of the you-can-never-have-too-much-stuff school of thought. Another black skirt? It’s a workwear essential. More vintage china? It’s so pretty! Must-have beauty products? Totally needed. But after reading Amy’s post on Experience vs. Things on DesignSponge, I decided it really was time to curb the habit. I’ve jumped on the no-buying bandwagon for a month and so far it’s been pretty easy. I haven’t bought anything that I haven’t really needed to, other than a vintage wooden hand mirror, a glass dish and some old bone-handle cutlery from the local charity shop for a grand total of £6. Not too much of a slip up. I’ve created a ‘No-buy list’ over on Trello (which I love) and will review all the things I’ve added since 1 May at the end of the month.  My birthday is the beginning of June, so I’m going to treat myself to something special. The latest addition to my no-buy list is this:

ASOS Green cut-work dress

ASOS Salon Lace Insert Smock Dress. Photo by ASOS

The palest apple green dress with pretty cut-work details over by ASOS Salon. Please don’t sell out before 1 June. I’d definitely ditch the short patterned under dress and wear over a black or cream vintage silk slip. It’d be perfect for wearing to one of those summer weddings we’re going to or equally perfect for frolicking about picking daises in a meadow. Paired with much sensible footwear, of course.

 

xC

P.s. An equally stunning bird-embellished summer dress.