I made meringues for the first time.
I made them on a rainy, damp day. The egg whites didn’t get as fluffy as I hoped, and in their raw form, they looked more like melted marshmallow. I was already discouraged, but I thought to bake them anyway. I spooned the liquid, pearl-white, thick mixture into my muffin tins so that it would stay in place. I turned on the oven at the suggested temperature. I waited. And to my big surprise, I saw them growing rapidly inside their beds. They grew and formed mushroom tops that became increasingly golden and firm. I removed them from the oven with a mixture of fear and hope. I thought they were too pretty to be true, and that given how it all began, they would collapse as soon as they were out.
But they didn’t. They stayed up and crispy. I waited for them to cool. I tried to pick one from its mould, but the bottom remained attached to the edges of the tin. I turned the meringue upside down in my hand and looked underneath the crispy top, which had a strange, jellyfish-like look. Its centre was soft and chewy, almost like cotton candy. Half a meringue, one-fourth a macaroon, the rest a marshmallow. Something without much of a definition, an identity, something that didn’t really fit into any category, and yet, something good enough to be used, to be eaten and enjoyed.
The whole point of making meringues was not about the meringues at all, actually. I wanted to make Eton Mess, the oh-so-very-British Summer dessert featuring strawberries, meringues and cream, using some rhubarb I put my earthy hands on some days before in place of strawberries. The rest came along easily.
Coconut Rhubarb Mess
1 tsp vanilla essence
Preheat the oven to 180C. Place the all the ingredients into a baking pan, stir to coat evenly, and bake for 20 minutes, or until the rhubarb is soft. Remove and let cool.
a pinch of salt
Reduce the temperature to 150C. Place the egg whites and salt in a large, glass bowl and start beating at medium speed. When they start to get fluffy, add the sugar 1 tbsp at a time. Whisk until stiff peaks form, or until all the sugar is dissolved (don’t do like me). Line a baking sheet with parchment, and ease the meringue on using a spoon. Leave a gap between meringues so that they can grow. Bake for 1 hour and a half for a cripsy result, or 1 hour and 15 minutes for a softer centre. Turn off the oven and open it, letting the meringues cool inside. Let cool completely before breaking into rough pieces. Set aside.
3 tablespoons icing sugar
Place the cans of coconut milk in the fridge at leat 2 hours before use. Without shaking the cans, remove the lids and scoop the cream at the top into a medium bowl. Add the sugar and beat until fluffy and light. Place back into the fridge until ready to use.
1 tbsp dried rose petals
Assemble your mess by spooning some rhubarb at the bottom of four medium cups. Add the crumbled meringue, then a spoonful of coconut cream, top with some coconut chips and a pinch of petals; repeat in the same order one more time. Serve.