Surrender to this sinful meringue pudding.
Quite simply the ne plus ultra in the world of French meringue confections. I use a potato-ricer, which can be purchased from good kitchen shops, to achieve the worm-like look for the classic Mont Blanc.
Le Mont Blanc (serves 4)
For the meringue
- 4 egg whites
- 225g caster sugar
- A little softened butter
- 1tbspn plain flour
For the chestnut purée
- 275g cooked chestnuts, puréed until perfectly smooth
- 250g tin of sweetened chestnut paste (crème de marrons)
- 1tbspn icing sugar
- 1tspn vanilla extract
For the whipped cream
- 300ml well-chilled double cream
- 1tbspn caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 140ºC/275ºF/gas mark 1. Using a scrupulously clean mixing bowl, whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt until soft, but able to hold a peak. Beat in half the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, until glossy and stiff. Now, fold in the rest of the sugar, using a large spatula with authoritative scoops—the air must be contained, but the sugar does need to be thoroughly mixed in.
Lightly grease a flat baking tray with the butter and sift a spoonful of flour over it. Shake it around a bit to disperse the flour in an even coating and then tap off the excess (the kitchen sink is the most contained area and affords the least mess). I have always found this coating to be the most effective non-stick method, but feel free to use the more modern parchment paper if you wish.
Spoon out the meringue mixture into nest shapes and bake in the oven for about 1¼–1½ hours—the point at which the meringue reaches the palest coffee hue is how I like it.
Leave to cool for a few minutes before removing them from the baking tray, then place on a wire rack to cool.
Fully process together all the ingredients for the chestnut purée until smooth, then
set aside. Whip the cream and sugar until thick. To assemble, place each meringue nest on a plate, fill it with whipped cream to a generous, dome-like height and squiddle—a fair description, here, I think—just the correct amount of chestnut purée through the metal potato-ricer over each serving, masking the cream but not the meringue nest.
Chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Mark Hix finds the best way to roast a lamb is outdoors.