Before we even get in to this concoction, I should just go ahead and tell you that I’m not sure it qualifies as “Eton Mess.” So I hope there aren’t any British readers out there who have gotten their pants (that’s what they’re called in Britain, right?) all in a wad if I have overextended the definition of an Eton Mess.
My understanding of Eton Mess is that it’s a dessert consisting essentially of meringue cookies, whipped cream, and fresh strawberries all mixed together. I wish I could tell you some cute story about trying my first Eton Mess on a lovely holiday in the English countryside, but the truth is that the only time I’ve ever been to Britain was for a few days in 2003 during a post-studying-abroad backpacking trip around Europe, and wow! the pound made things budget-blowingly expensive for a college student. I was traveling with an equally-poor friend, and our M.O. to save money while in London was to gorge ourselves at the free breakfast offered at our hostel so that it would see us through past lunch, and then buy a pre-made sandwich at a petrol station for dinner. And those sandwiches were pretty darn good! You might argue that we were hungry enough from skipping lunch that anything would have tasted decent, but this Google books result from An American Guide to Britishness by Alana Muir backs me up. In fact, eating pre-packaged sandwiches from England was how I discovered what arugula is. It was on every sandwich we bought, and I couldn’t figure out what that delicious new flavor was until I finally found a sandwich with the ingredients listed, realized “rocket” was the one thing I wasn’t familiar with, and made it to an internet café to look up what the heck “rocket” was. This was pre-smart-phone era, obviously.
So, this Mango Eton Mess was my first time both making and eating Eton Mess. I had only even heard about Eton Mess because my mom made it once last year for a dinner party and told me about it. I checked out some recipes for it online, and since most of them called for macerating the strawberries to increase their juiciness, I pureed one of the mangoes and added some lime juice to it to create that liquid factor.
Mangoes are kind of a pain to peel, but they are delicious, so it is totally worth it. I like to first hold the mango stem-end down and then slice off the fleshy cheeks around the pit. I just aim for where I think the pit will end and slice gently. If your knife hits the pit, you’ll be able to tell, and you can just jiggle your knife a little away from it. After that, if I’m making small dice, I slice each cheek in half crossways, and then just run a knife around the contours of the skin to remove as much fruit as possible. If you want bigger chunks, you can also just score the mango half after removing the pit, and then remove the skin the same way. I also run my knife along the sides of what is left attached to the pit, and get as much mango off of that as I can. And then—I’m not ashamed to admit it—I treat the pit like it’s corn on the cob and gnaw off everything that I couldn’t get with the knife. Because I. Love. Mangoes. That much.
I didn’t want plain or vanilla flavor for the whipped cream; I was looking to complement the mango flavor but not overwhelm it, but I didn’t think that vanilla was the addition I was looking for. I flavored the whipped cream with another squeeze of lime and a hint of ginger for a little spice. I used ginger juice, which might sound fancy and complicated, but it’s not. If you microplane fresh ginger, you wind up with a little pile of ginger pulp, which you can easily squeeze juice from. I bet you could also use the smallest holes of a box grater if you don’t have a microplane.
For the cookies, all of the recipes I looked up called for plain meringues, I suppose because they are more for texture than anything else. That sounded a little bland though, so I added chopped, toasted macadamia nuts to my meringues. It was a nice contrast to the tartness of the mango and lime, and it was still light-tasting. I imagine this dessert would be easy to do with other fruits and flavorings. And I think we could still call it Eton Mess.
Note: The meringue cookies are adapted from Claire Robinson’s Nutty Meringue Cookies from the Food Network.
Also, as I mentioned in my last post, the type of mango is key: use the Ataulfo / Champagne variety. I would not recommend making the mango purée with a Tommy Atkins mango because it would be way too fibrous.
Mango Eton Mess
For the meringues:
- 2 large egg whites, at room temperature (I leave them on the counter overnight in a small cup sealed tightly with Saran wrap. If you’re worried about salmonella maybe don’t do that.)
- 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup chopped and toasted macadamia nuts
- Preheat the oven to 225º and line a large baking pan with parchment paper.
- Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar and salt on medium speed until foamy.
- Increase the speed to high and beat until soft peaks form.
- Slowly add the sugar and continue beating on high until stiff peaks form. This will take about 3 minutes.
- Fold in the nuts with a rubber spatula.
- Form 16 cookies by dropping heaping tablespoons onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Leave about 2 inches between each cookie.
- Bake until the meringues are dried through, about 1 1/2 hours. They will peel easily from the parchment when they’re done.
- Let cool completely. Can be stored in an air-tight container for up to a week after being cooled.
For the mango part:
- 2 Champagne mangoes (also called Ataulfo mangoes), divided
- 1-2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
- Peel and coarsely chop one of the mangoes. (See the post above for more detailed instructions on peeling the mango.) Purée it in a small food processor with the 1 Tbsp. of the lime juice until completely smooth. Taste. Add more lime juice if you want. It will depend on the sweetness and size of your mango. No need to strain if your mango was good-quality.
- Peel the other mango and chop it into 1/3″ dice. Stir it into the purée and refrigerate until ready to use.
For the whipped cream:
- 1″ section of fresh ginger, peeled
- 1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
- 3/4 cup well-chilled whipping cream
- 2 Tbsp. powdered sugar
- Finely grate the ginger on a microplane. Take the clump of grated ginger and squeeze its juice into a small bowl.
- Measure out a scant 1/4 teaspoon of the ginger juice. Add it and the lime juice to the whipping cream.
- Beat the whipping cream until soft peaks form. Add the powdered sugar and beat until nice and thick.
For the assembly:
- If you want it to be pretty, use 4 nice glasses and, in each, layer a couple of tablespoons of the mango mixture, a dollop of the whipped cream, and 2 crumbled meringue cookies, then repeat each layer.
- If you want to embrace the Mess of Eton Mess: For each serving, stir together about 1/4 cup of the mango mixture, 1/4 of the whipped cream, and 4 crumbled meringue cookies.
- Eat it right away so the meringue cookies don’t lose their crunchiness.