The venerable British food emporium, Fortnum & Mason, has launched a nationwide competition to create an original dessert to salute the 70th anniversary of Her Majesty’s reign.
Named The Platinum Pudding Competition, the winning dessert will have to follow strict criteria, spelled out in the competition entry form. Brits call all desserts pudding, but not all puddings are dessert. Savoury puddings, such as steak and kidney pudding come to mind. This holiday I made mincemeat tarts, which now contain no meat, just fruits. Thus tarts, puddings and pies change over time. The competition for an original dessert closes on 4 February 2022, so time for UK residents to get thinking and cooking!
This initiative is intended to find the companion to Coronation Chicken, which was devised by Constance Spry, who ran a famous cooking school at the time, with her partner Rosemary Hume. Hume was the cook, but Spry was the better-known front-person, who usually gets the credit. I wrote about it on Gentleman’s Portion back in 2015 and reading the story again, I am reminded of having it on a summer patio in Provence. Happy memories of a dear and now departed friend.
The current judges will be chaired by food writer and Bake Off host Dame Mary Berry; others will include the company’s executive pastry chef, Buckingham Palace’s head chef (who must surely know what The Queen likes) and a plethora of younger chefs and food writers. A daunting panel.
Judging will commence on 7 February, with 30 to 50 entries being selected from all the entries, then winnowed down to five for a final round in March, when the finalists will be invited to a live competition at Fortnum & Mason’s store in Piccadilly. The winning entry will feature at The Big Jubilee Lunch in June and will be presented to The Queen.
As soon as I learned about the competition, announced 10 January, I put my thinking cap on. My first and dominant thought was that it would have to be patriotically coloured red, white and blue. I remember standing on The Mall near Buckingham Palace as The Queen rode by in the Gold State Coach during her Silver Jubilee celebrations in 1977. Apart from the Union Jacks draped from every pole and post, the tens of thousands in the crowd were enthusiastically waving their own miniature flags. My middle daughter dug through an old album and found my photo of the occasion. Now to come up with a recipe which embodies these three dominant colours.
A fruit parfait is a simple mix of fruit compote–a lightly cooked and sweetened fruit sauce–and crème Chantilly–sweetened whipped cream. Sweet, yes, but not too sweet if the sugar is kept in check. The great thing about a parfait is that there are really no rules, so one can make up one’s own, give it a new name and hope it wins. One of the most well-know versions of fruit parfait is Eton Mess, named after the top boys’ school near The Queen’s residence at Windsor Castle. For my own old school reunion a few years ago, the chef at The Albany Club in Toronto, and I, created Oundle Mess, similar but different. Both delicious. Mess is nothing to do with messy. It comes from the Old French mes, for a portion of food.
I’m deep into the business of researching, writing and cooking when I check back on British media. Turns out variations on Eton Mess are on everyone’s mind, followed by versions of sherry trifle, which I wrote about back in 2013. Unless I have a better idea before the competition deadline, I’m going to stick with my plan and just hope my mess is better than everyone else’s. Thanks again to my daughter for helping with the recipe and photography.
A delicious red, white and blue fruit parfait to celebrate Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
- 1 1/2 teaspoon / 7.4 ml pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon / 2.4 ml cream of tartar OR 2 tsp / 9.8 ml white vinegar (adding an acid component)
- 1 1/2 tablespoon / 22 ml cornstarch
- 1 1/2 cups / 354 ml icing sugar
- 6 large egg whites at room temperature
- 1 cup / 236 ml fresh or frozen berries divided half and half (118 ml each) between red berries (strawberry, raspberry, red currant or cranberry) and blue berries (blackberry, blueberry or elderberry)
- 1/4 cup / 59 ml caster sugar, divided equally
- 1 cup / 236 ml whipping cream (for crème Chantilly), cold
- 1 tablespoon / 14 ml icing sugar
- Vanilla essence (a few drops)
- A few fresh red and blue berries, a meringue swirl and a couple of small paper Union Jacks for decoration.
Preparation and cooking
- Preheat the oven to 135°C / 275°F. Prepare a baking sheet with a lining of cooking parchment.
- Make two fruit compotes with the two colours of berries (your choice, as long as one is red and one is blue), wash or rinse them and leave damp. Mix with sugar in a couple of small pans and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes to make a compotes. Remove from heat when the berries soften but before they fall apart. Set aside separately to cool.
- Make sure the eggs are at room temperature and the bowl for the whites is extra clean, grease and moisture free. Mix the corn starch and sugar and set aside. Separate the yolks from the whites. Discard or save the egg yolks. Add a pinch of salt to the egg whites. If you are adding cream of tartar as your acid component, mix it in with the egg whites OR if you are using vinegar, mix it with the vanilla and add later. With your electric mixer on low start whipping the whites. After 2 to 3 minutes, soft peaks should form.
- Increase the speed of the mixer to medium and start slowly adding the sugar and cornstarch mixture. As the mixture starts to form stiff peaks, increase the speed to full and add the vanilla (and vinegar if using). After 4 to 5 mins, the mixture should seem quite glossy and smooth. TIP: Don’t overbeat, or the mixture will collapse. As soon as it is really stiff, stop!
- Spoon the meringue into a piping bag with a large star nozzle and make 1 inch swirls on the lined baking sheet. Leave room between the dollops for expansion.
- Place baking sheet in oven and reduce oven temperature to 120°C / 250°F. Bake for 50 to 60 mins. After 25 or 30 mins check on the meringues and turn the pan around in the oven to even out any inconsistencies of heat. If the meringues look like they are beginning to brown, reduce the heat by a further 10°C / 25°F. When done the meringues should be crispy and dry to the touch on the outside and chewy on the inside, like a marshmallow. Transfer to a rack to cool. TIP: If the meringues have become soft after baking, return them to the oven at 105°C / 225°F for another 10 to 20 mins, watching carefully to ensure they don’t brown. Then turn off the oven and let them cool in place for another hour.
- While the meringues are cooling, whip the cream, adding a few drops of vanilla essence and a teaspoon of sugar to make crème Chantilly. TIP: Make sure the cream is quite cold to ensure the fats in the cream create the best result.
- Gently lift the meringues off the baking sheet with a spatula and cool completely on a wire rack. TIP: Store extra meringues in a tightly sealed container at room temperature for up to a week. When it is time to assemble the pudding, crush some of the cooled meringues into chunks.
- Start with a tall parfait glass: the objective is to build up layers to make a red, white and blue presentation. Put some meringue chunks into the bottom; then a spoonful of cream; then carefully layer in a spoonful or two of blue compote; then another thin layer of cream to separate the colours; more crushed meringue; then a couple of spoonfuls of red berries. Top with the remaining cream and decorate with a perfect meringue and a few perfect red and blue berries. Keep cool until ready to serve.
- When serving to Her Majesty, or any of her loyal subjects, add a couple of small Union Jacks on toothpicks in tribute.
JUBILEE NOTE: Loyal citizen that I am, I am also supporting the Queen’s Green Canopy by “Planting a tree for the Jubilee” at our Yorkshire home, to celebrate the occasion. In the spring when the Norway ‘crimson king’ maple, with deep purple leaves, bursts back to life, I’ll post a photo.
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This is Nigel’s 332nd blog on Gentleman’s Portion. The SEARCH function at the top works really well, if you want to look back and see some of his previous stories.
Categories: Simply food