Festive mess with mulled wine berries

The aroma of mulled wine is so evocative of Christmas. When I was thinking of ideas for a festive pud recently, it occurred to me that mulled wine would be the perfect way to transform an otherwise rather summery dessert into something a little more Christmassy.

Eton mess does really have summer written all over it, doesn’t it? Usually a mixture of strawberries, cream and pieces of meringue, it  has traditionally been served at Eton College’s annual cricket game against Harrow since the 19th century.

In this version I have used a mixture of frozen ‘winter berries’ from the supermarket – in this case blackberries, blackcurrants, cherries and grapes – and cooked them gently in a thick mulled wine syrup before combining with the cream and homemade meringue, flavoured with a little ginger. Take it from me, it tastes and smells divine. I was a little worried it might be a bit ‘grown up’ for my two daughters but they both chomped their way through it gleefully, and the oldest even had seconds.

Festive mess with mulled wine berries

For the meringue:

3 egg whites
pinch of salt
175g caster sugar
1tsp corn flour
1tsp ground ginger
½tsp vanilla extract

NB This recipe makes about double the amount of meringue you’ll need for the dish, but I’m sure you’ll find another way to use up the leftover!

For the mulled red wine berries:

150ml red wine
½ stick cinnamon
5 cloves
zest of 1 orange
100g caster sugar
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
300g frozen mixed winter berries

250g whipping cream
2tbsp icing sugar

First of all, make the meringue. If you don’t have an Aga, preheat the oven to 150ºC / gas mark 2.

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites and salt until stiff. Gradually whisk in the caster sugar a teaspoonful at a time, and finally whisk in the corn flour, ground ginger and vanilla. Lay a sheet of silicone paper on a baking tray and spread the meringue mixture out onto the sheet to create a large rectangle.

If you have an Aga, put the baking tray on the floor of the roasting oven for three to four minutes, until the meringue is ever so slightly coloured. Then move down to the floor of the simmering oven for about an hour until the meringue is firm on the outside but gooey in the middle.

If you’re using a conventional oven, bake for an hour and then turn the oven off. Open the door halfway and allow the meringue to cool to remove to room temperature before removing.

Now it’s time to move on to the mulled wine syrup.

Pour the wine into a saucepan and place over a medium heat. Add the cinnamon, cloves, orange, sugar and nutmeg and stir well. Allow to simmer for around 10 to 15 minutes until the wine has reduced a little and has more of a sticky syrup consistency. The smell in your kitchen by now will be amazing!

Next add in the frozen fruit, stirring gently, and cook on a low heat until the fruit has defrosted and cooked down a little. But don’t cook so long it turns into a mush; it’s good to have some texture and bite in the fruit. Once the fruit is cooked, leave to one side to cool.

In a large bowl, whip the cream until it forms soft peaks and gently stir in the icing sugar.

When the mulled wine berries have cooled, stir these into the whipped cream (reserving a little of the syrup), along with broken pieces of meringue. Serve immediately and finish off with a little drizzle of the mulled wine syrup. Enjoy your delicious bowlful of festive cheer!

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