But how does it taste? Consider this: the sweet-tartness of strawberries surrounded by lush, cool whipped cream and punctuated by crunchy-chewy bits of crumpled meringue. The perfect marriage of taste and texture, especially if you've found a source for ruby red local berries.
Many Eton Mess recipes call for homemade meringues and you can certainly go there it you want. But I was very happy with a store bought version, specifically a tub of Trader Joe's Vanilla Meringues. It's also traditional to use strawberries but it's worth experimenting with other fruits such as raspberries, blueberries, passionfruit, currants, blackberries...
1 quart of strawberries, hulled and sliced into thick chunks
A few tablespoons of sugar
1 pint whipping cream
12-15 Trader Joe's Vanilla Meringues, or any other smallish (2") meringuesmacerate for at least one hour, up to eight hours.
Whip the cream until it starts to thicken. You don't want to whip it until it is stiff--it should hold soft peaks when the whisk is lifted from the bowl.
Reserve about 1 cup of berries for the garnish and fold the remaining berries (with all their delicious juice) into the whipped cream with a few light strokes. Crumple the meringues into the bowl, making sure to have some chunks and some fine powder.
Serve in bowls or pretty stemmed glasses, garnishing the top with the reserved berries for a lovely bright red splash.
Let the Brits show you how its done:
Marco Pierre White, about 2 minutes in
(Images: Dana Velden)