A while ago, in a different location, I was complaining about separating eggs. Not the process; I enjoy that, it’s one of the few relatively fiddly kitchen tasks that I do well. (Fiddly kitchen tasks I do not do well include most kinds of cake decoration and slicing pies, and in fact most presentation tasks. This is not going to be a photo-heavy food blog.) No, what I really dislike about separating eggs is the waste. The yolks that inevitably end up going crusty in my fridge, and the whites that end up sitting in ziplocs in the freezer where I inevitably forget them. So I have strategies for dealing with this – serving egg-yolk pasta before a chocolate cake smothered in swiss meringue buttercream, that sort of thing. However, all too often the wrong number of yolks or whites are required and something ends up in the compost bin.
Consequently, the fastest way to get me to bake or cook something is to have it use separated eggs and whites. It’s useful, it’s frugal, it means I get to do the fun bit of separating eggs without watching anything slither stickily down the drain. This recipe – while perhaps not best described as frugal – is a favourite with me and with my mother (in fact hers, which are significantly better than mine, are justifiably famous). It comes from a 1992 Cuisine Entertaining Special (“25 Themes for Entertaining! Over 100 of the Best Recipes from Cuisine!”) and from its various menus, and although the Baked Fish Fillets with Coriander do on reflection sound delicious, I’ve never seen my mother cook anything else from it. That’s alright, though – she’s got her money’s worth out of these. (This makes it sound a bit as if my mother’s the only cook in the family, but nothing could be further from the truth – Dad cooks as often as Mum does and always has. But Mum is the undisputed pudding champion.)
My mother’s rallying cry when she serves these meringues, made with eggs from my parents’ chooks, is “there’s nothing wrong with it – it’s really just eggs! They’re good for you!” I think we should all believe her because these meringues are pretty convincing.
They’re Just Eggs Hazelnut Meringues with Chocolate Sauce
4 egg whites
2-3 drops white vinegar
250g sugar – about 1 1/4 cups
70g hazelnuts – about 1/4 cup
Preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F). Toast the hazelnuts in a pan and then chop finely (you can do this with a knife but a blender or food processor will make your life significantly more pleasant, if you don’t mind washing it afterwards of course. You can get ground hazelnuts but toasting them scares me – I am bound to burn them – so I never have done, you should try it and let me know how it goes.)
Beat the egg whites with the vinegar until stiff peaks form. Beat in the sugar bit by bit until the peaks are glossy (ideally you should be able to rub a bit of the mixture between your fingers and it should not be grainy). Very carefully fold in the nuts, trying not to deflate the mixture.
Drop the mixture in tablespoons onto a greased or baking papered tray (or onto a fabbo silicon mat like my flatmate has). Very precious cooks can apparently shape their meringues by “pushing the mixture through an oiled cooking cutter”. I wouldn’t know because I have never in my life even considered this, but I am guessing you could possibly also pipe them. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes.
150 g dark chocolate – the usual instruction for this is “use the best you can afford”. I love Whittaker’s Dark Ghana (62% or 72% according to your own tastes). This would be three-fifths of the block, so you’ve even got a bit left over to bribe your flatmates with!
300 mL milk – 1 1/4 cups – whole is probs your best bet
4 egg yolks
2 tablespoons sugar
Melt the chocolate and the milk together in a heavy-bottomed pan. This will take awhile and be boring but I promise faithfully that the second you go upstairs to get anything it will burn, and burnt chocolate makes everyone sad, so don’t do that.
Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks with the sugar. When the chocolate milk is almost to boiling point, pour it onto the yolk mixture. (I do not have a thermometer, I just go with “when it’s hot and before it boils”, I think that is OK. Also, if I never read the instruction in a cookbook “just before it boils” it will be too soon. Is there a whole group of clairvoyant cooks out there or something? Cause I’m just saying. Unless you’ve cooked a recipe a lot, “just before it boils” is a pretty scary instruction for things containing dairy or sugar.) If you’re worried about cooking your yolks, a good way to do this is to scoop a small quantity, like a third of a cup, of the milk and whisk that in, and then pour over the rest of the milk while whisking.
Return to the pan and stir the sauce constantly til it thickens. Ideally this should be served directly, but we’ve found that the sauce reheats OK in the microwave if you have to.
Fresh strawberries – these are an optional extra, but hey, they’re $4 for two punnets at New World right now. Serve fresh-sliced or, my favourite thing with strawberries, sliced and tossed with balsamic vinegar and fresh cracked black pepper. This is a heavenly strawberry experience.
Sandwich two meringues together with whipped cream and strawberries. Cuisine recommends sifting icing sugar over this but frankly I think that’s ridiculous. Why would you do that? No. Serve with chocolate sauce drizzled over or on the side of the plate, or provide the chocolate sauce in a jug on the side for people to pour their own. If you’re lucky you’ll have some sauce left over and that’s good on strawberries or fruit salad or on your Weet-Bix in the morning. Yes I’ve done that. No I don’t regret it. Nor will you.
I hope you enjoy these. They’re just eggs really. Practically good for you … or you could just make an omelette.