A tropical mess

Sometimes when a birthday comes around at work, the person who’s having the birthday requests I make their ‘work’ cake, rather than buying one from the local cake shop. I’m usually more than happy to oblige, especially as it often gives me the chance to bake something new, and have work pay for the ingredients. I like to think of this as a definite win-win.

We recently had three birthdays fall within a couple of weeks of each other, and each of the guys wanted something different:

H: lemon tart, or a pavlova
J: something with mango and passionfruit
S: roast lamb

Needless to say, S was never going to get a dessert with roast lamb (!), but trying to come up with something that fit the  requirements of the other two was going to require a bit of thinking. I asked for suggestions on Twitter and Suzanne and Donna both suggested a variation of Eton Mess, which is traditionally meringue, cream, berries and coulis.

I decided upon meringue, lemon curd, passionfruit jelly, fresh mango and passionfruit seeds. The end results was a great balance of textures and flavours – soft, crunchy, sweet, sour and tart. It was also perfect for feeding a large number of people.

All up, this recipe made about 25 small serves (as pictured below in the plastic wine glass) and there was enough left over for four large serves. We also constructed these individually, but feel free to put it into a big bowl and let everyone help themselves.

Unless you’re cooking for a crowd, I’d suggest halving the quantities. In addition to the recipes below, you’ll need some fresh mango cut up into chunks for serving. I used two mangoes for this recipe.

Passionfruit Jelly

Ingredients
250ml of passionfruit juice (20-25 passionfruit)
15g gelatine leaves (gold)
150g caster sugar
150ml water, plus extra to soak the gelatine leaves in

Method

  1. Scoop out the passionfruit pulp into a sieve sitting over a bowl to catch all the juice. You may need to help extract the juice by pressing the pulp into the sieve, or wrapping the pulp in muslin and squeezing it out  – you will need 250ml of juice. Put the remaining pulp and seeds aside for serving.
  2. Place the caster sugar and 150ml water in a pan over low heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Simmer for five minutes and then sit aside to cool down.
  3. Place the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water for five minutes to soften.
  4. When the sugar/water mixture has cooled down enough to be considered ‘warm’, squeeze the excess water from the gelatine and add to the mixture. Stir thoroughly to dissolve the gelatine and then stir in passionfruit juice.
  5. Pour into mould of your choice and refrigerate overnight. I poured it into a large baking tray lined with glad wrap as I would be cutting it into cubes later.

Meringue

Ingredients
10 egg whites (from large eggs, approximately 400g)
700g sugar

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 120 degrees celsius.
  2. As this was quite a large recipe, I made the meringues in two batches. Place five egg whites (approximately 200g) into a bowl and start whisking.
  3. Slowly add in 100g of the caster sugar and continue beating.
  4. After 2-3 minutes, slowly add another 250g of caster sugar and continue beating until you end up with a glossy meringue with stiff peaks.
  5. I used two big spoons to form large-ish rounds on a baking tray (eight to a tray) and ended up with a tray and a half of meringues.
  6. Place them into the oven for 40 minutes, or until the outside is hard. Note: If you put two trays in at once, either swap them over halfway through, or give the bottom tray an extra 10 minutes or so in the oven as the top of the meringues will still probably be soft after 40 minutes.
  7. The meringues should come out crisp on the outside, but a little gently prodding will indicate that they are still soft inside.
  8. Repeat with the remaining five egg whites and 350g caster sugar.

Lemon Curd (from the Bourke Street Bakery cookbook)

Ingredients
10 eggs
200g caster sugar
250ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
300ml pouring cream

Method

  1. You will need a pot of water and a stainless steel bowl for this recipe. Ensure that the bowl fits nicely over the top of the pot and can have water bubbling away underneath without actually touching the bottom of the bowl.
  2. Fill the pot with water (to an appropriate level) and place it on the stove so that the water heats up to simmering point while you complete the next few steps.
  3. Place the eggs, sugar and lemon juice in the stainless steel bowl and whisk them together for 2-4 mins, or until the sugar dissolves.
  4. Add in the cream and mix well.
  5. Place the bowl over the saucepan of simmering water and use a whisk to stir continuously until the mixture becomes smooth and thick.
  6. The curd should transform as it cooks, starting off very thin with froth on top that will then become thick with bubbles. According to the recipe, these bubbles will disappear altogether about five minutes before cooking is complete.
  7. That said, the recipe in the book suggests 10 minutes is enough to get it thick. I stirred it for 20 minutes before I noticed it started to thicken up at all. I stopped stirring after 20 minutes as I didn’t want the curd to be too thick for this particular dish – I didn’t think a thick curd would really work with the rest of the ingredients.
  8. When the mixture is thick, remove it from the heat and stir it for another minute to cool it a little.
  9. Place gladwrap directly onto the top of the curd and refrigerate for at least eight hours or overnight.

To serve

Crumble the meringue and place it in the bottom of the bowl/cup. Top with lemon curd, passionfruit jelly pieces, mango, passionfruit seeds/pulp and mix together.

Enjoy!

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