Early yesterday morning NAH disappeared off for one of his regular trips up North, therefore I'm combatting the low feeling that always prevails, finding lots of things to do and keeping the cats close for company. So it was lovely to be spontaneously invited to Sunday lunch by A & R our immediate next door neighbours when they learnt of NAH's imminent departure.
Having lived next door to each other for 9 years, we've reached the point where visiting each other is more like going to part of our extended family and we'll happily chat away whilst whoever's hosting goes about their daily chores. However, yesterday's nice weather meant we could just sit outside and catch up, especially with 2 daughters just back from University. Their youngest's very proud of his cooking prowess, though I'm unclear how much he actually did, bearing in mind the amount of teasing he was getting from his sisters. Whatever, lunch was superb and we finished up with one of the family's favourite puds, Eton Mess. You're right, it does look a mess but the result is absolutely delicious. Sadly, assembling the pud had been started before I arrived, so my gift of allotment strawberries wasn't included, but I'm sure they'll come in handy later!
For the Mess to serve 6 you'll need:
1lb (450g) summer soft fruit (must be strawberries at least - yesterday's also had cherries)
Sugar to taste (will depend on ripeness and type of fruit used)
1 pint (570ml) double cream
12 meringue nests
Puree half the strawberries and set aside.
Whip the double cream until thickened.
Destone any fruit that needs it and chop all the non-pureed fruit into smaller pieces.
Pulverise the meringues into smaller pieces using a food processor.
Assemble all the ingredients in a bowl, mix well and taste for sweetness
Add sugar to taste if needed.
Serve immediately and enjoy!
A friend emailed to ask which varieties I grow following my Strawberry Delight post earlier in the month and I thought you might be interested too. I have Christine and Mae (early fruiting varieties - May to June) in one bed, plus Hapil, Honoeye and Aromel (the last one's an 'everbearer' or perpetual fruiter, the others crop from June to late July) on the other side of the plot. I've completely ignored the advice re spacing and just allow the runners to intermingle with each other and whip out any that don't look happy. I cut the dead leaves back in February/March and 'tickle in' some well rotted manure around the roots. I mulch with next door's discarded guinea pig/hamster bedding in May - they use straw/wood shavings, but it includes pet poo and I let it rot down a little in a separate compost bin over the winter, so it's not nitrogen demanding when applied to the strawbs. So far I've ignored the advice re replacing plants every 3 years and everything is still cropping well (from May/June through to October usually owing to the varieties selected!) - I suspect that's the result of the manuring and also having a clay soil.
Click here for the 'pukka' advice re strawberry growing if you don't want to follow my method!