Sunday, 9 June 2013

A great British BBQ....

So it’s Sunday and we're having a family barbecue. We obviously wouldn't be barbecuing one of the family,.. that would be weird. Nope…. instead a load of meat. Brilliant !

It was actually a surprise welcome home party for a close family friend who has been in hospital for a long time. There is something about throwing the word surprise into an equation that makes people completely unable to act normally. You find
yourself totally fabricating your weekend plans to throw your unsuspecting guest off the scent. "Oh yeah I'm just popping over to… erm… France...yeah France for the day to get some…. erm...cheese. Yep, that’s it, to buy lots of lovely cheese." When really a simple "I have no plans" would suffice.

I love BBQ's, despite the fact you can never depend on the weather. Once you get over that and just dress appropriately (mac, jumper, gloves etc) they are always great fun. Something about the smell of the charcoal makes it seem so much more exciting than just an average lunch. Even the thought of the mandatory burnt banger can't dampen my excitement.

I wouldn't be cooking, not with both my brothers there. Although I had prepared all the food, and made the salads. No one ever really noticed salads anyway, and if they did you probably shouldn't have invited them in the first place.  I was under strict instructions from the Mother not to buy too much food. I think it might have been the scale of last week’s pie that was making her nervous. Understandably she had lost all faith in my portion control.

Not one to let the boys steal all the limelight I decided to make something good for dessert. I think meringues are perfect for the summer. Topped with lightly whipped vanilla cream and seasonal fruit they always look much more impressive than they have been to make. You can also cook them a few days In advance and just assemble on the day. Which means you have more time to eat hotdogs and drink Pimms, which I think we can all agree is never a bad thing.

The BBQ went well, it wasn't exactly hot but no rain was a win in my book. I might just mention though I probably wouldn't have burnt the sausages if they'd let me have a go....

N.B. if you have a stand mixer use it for this recipe, if not electric hand mixers are fine. Do not attempt this by hand. Unless you are a sadist, then by all means knock yourself out. Also make sure all your equipment is squeaky clean too, or the whites won't whisk up for agggeeeesss and you might miss the BBQ.

Summer fruit meringue cake
Serves 10-12

12 large egg whites (I buy a carton of those liquid egg white unless I am making something else that can use the yolks, they are by two chicks, Waitrose see them)
600g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp cornflower
600ml pot double cream
2-3 tbsp icing sugar
2 tsp vanilla bean paste
Lots of fruit, I used cherries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, apricots
6 tbsp cherry jam
3 tbsp cherry juice

1.  Put the egg white in the bowl of your mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in a really large bowl. Beat until stiff peaks. If you hold the bowl above your head it won't fall out. Mind you if it does not only will you have not mixed it enough. You'll probably be pretty annoyed and covered in meringue too. So maybe don't do that. Add the sugar in 3 additions. Beating back to stiff peaks between each batch.  Fold in the vanilla, cornflower and vinegar.

2. Heat oven to 140/120C fan/gas 1. Get three sheets of parchment, drawn round the base of a cake tin or a round plate about 20cm in diameter. Then turn over so the pencil is on the bottom. Use a bit of the meringue mix to stick each parchment to a flat tray. Divide the mix between the three circles. Spread two so they have a flat top and leave the last one nice and swirly. It looks good on the top. Bake each one on a different shelf, shuffling them around while they cool so they cook evenly. After an hour and a half turn the oven off, open the door slightly and leave to cool completely in the oven.

3. Whip the cream, sugar and vanilla until just holding its shape. Gently heat the cherry jam and juice until you have a drizzling consistence.

4. Assemble on a cake stand, sandwich the layers with cream and fruit. Then finish with cream and loads of fruit on top. Drizzle with the cherry sauce and serve immediately.

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