Preparation time: ~25 minutes
Calories: ~250 per serving
Adapted from a recipe for “oeufs à la neige” by Gary Rhodes
May is a rather fun month because there are no fewer than three bank holidays here in France. Yesterday happened to be one such bank holiday and before I dive into the food I’m going to tell you about what we did. We must have been pretty tired on the Monday evening because all we did was order in a pretty vile pizza, watch some TV and then promptly fall asleep. Going to sleep this early did, as a result, mean that we awoke bright and early yesterday morning – but wait… how early is “bright and early”? Are you thinking 6 or 7? Well that would be a good time indeed, but no. 5? Nope, keep going… in fact, I woke up at about 3.30, at which point I had a slice of cold pizza (mmm!) and a cup of coffee and I pondered what we could possibly do, since my wife, too, was awake.
“How about driving to Montmartre and seeing the sun rise?” I suggested.
“Sounds good to me!” wifey replied.
After a bit of Google-checking to see when the sun was due to rise we set off. I can tell you – driving on the périphérique, the ring-road around Paris, is often slow and stressful with large tailbacks. Not the case at 5am where there were only a few cars to join me in my travels! 25 minutes after setting off, we’d arrived and parked up at the foot of the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur.
I have to admit – sun-rises in Paris frequently aren’t what one would hope for – especially on bad weather days. In this day’s case, we were in for overcast skies all day. When the weather is like this the light over the city changes from a cool blue to a warm grey as dawn breaks. It’s not the most exciting light, but equally, not without its charm as the sun rises to the east, visible over the roofs of countless offices, apartments and stations.
Montmartre is a curious place – you can be there at 5.30 in the morning and it will be a very calm place. The only noises you’ll hear are birds and the occasional clatter as the wind blows over a plastic cup or can, left behind from the previous evening’s socialising (the steps in front of the basilique are hugely popular among youths and tourists who like to sit here until very late, looking out over Paris). Looking down at Paris it still seems very sleepy, and from the top of Montmartre you can’t really see anything that might be going on below.
And then it happens – the official hour of sun-rise strikes, thousands of street lights ping off all over the city and all of a sudden it seems like everything got a whole load more noisier. The funicular railway starts up, delivering tourists from the bottom of the hill and all around is the sound of shutters being opened and trash cans being emptied. At this point we decide that we’ve had our time here. The lights are off and the greyness is setting in so it’s off to find a bakery and home before the traffic gets too terrible.
I hope you enjoyed getting a little glimpse of dawn in Paris – the photos were mostly taken facing south so you don’t get to see the sun coming up so much. In the photo above, the Eiffel Tower is actually to the right, just out of the shot. As always, you can download a full-size version of the photos on my downloads page if you want a copy for wallpaper purposes and so forth.
On to today’s recipe – did you know you can poach a meringue? I didn’t – I recently came into possession of a rather nice cookbook by Gary Rhodes – a well-known English chef. For anyone looking to find really inspirational British cuisine I strongly recommend his books. He made a delicious looking dish involving poached meringues, baked rhubarb and brioche. I wanted a rather more light dessert, and indeed – it was already filling enough just as I served it, so I omitted the brioche and added orange flower water as well to rhubarb while baking, for a delicate background flavour.
The rhubarb was, as always, very tart – offset perfectly with the sweet meringue. A very tasty dessert which can be customised a lot – different toppings, different fruits. I’m already planning my next version of this beauty – I hope you enjoy it yourselves!
Poached Meringue and Rhubarb baked with Orange Flower Water
For the Meringues
- 2 Egg Whites
- 90g Caster Sugar
- 250ml Milk
- 250ml Water
For the Rhubarb
- 3-4 Stalks of Rhubarb
- 2 tbsps Caster Sugar
- 2 tbsps Water
- 2 tbsps Orange Flower Water
- Icing Sugar, for dusting
You’ll also need
- An Electric Whisk
- Start off by preheating the oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites in a large bowl using your electric whisk until you achieve soft peaks. Whisk in the caster sugar for the meringues, a couple of spoons at a time, until you get a firm, thick consistency.
- Place the milk and water in a pan together on the stove. Bring the liquid to a slow simmer, and then lower the heat so the liquid stays just below simmering. Using two dessert spoons, form rough oval shapes from the whisked egg whites before pushing the meringue off the spoon, into the hot liquid. Allow to poach for ~6 minutes, before turning over in the liquid and poaching the other side, again for about 6 minutes. Only cook about 5 or 6 meringues at a time to avoid crowding the pan. The ingredients listed will make ~ 10-12 meringues, depending on size.
- While the meringues are poaching, wash and trim the rhubarb. Peel it if the skin is very tough, and cut each stalk into about 3 or 4 pieces. Keep the pieces to a roughly equal length. Transfer the rhubarb to a roasting dish and pour over the water and orange flower water. Finally, sprinkle on the sugar and place into the preheated oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, until the rhubarb is very tender but still has its structure.
- Arrange the rhubarb on a plate and top with 3 or 4 poached meringues per person. Dust with icing sugar and serve with a light custard or cream if desired, and enjoy! Save the liquid from the pan and use it to make a light custard if desired.