Rosa’s Musings: The Warrior Cook and Questch Plum Eton Mess
A cook, when I dine, seems to me a divine being, who from the depths of his kitchen rules the human race. One considers him as a minister of heaven, because his kitchen is a temple, in which his ovens are the altar.–Marc Antoine Désaugiers
by Rosa Mayland
Even though being betrayed by your camera or computer, denied access to your blog platform, or lacking all inspiration is bad enough, having your cooker die on you is probably one of the worst things that any food blogger and pastry lover can experience, as it leaves you feeling completely lost and powerless. Without this essential home appliance (my personal favorite together with my KA), your major working tool, you are absolutely nothing! Well, that’s exactly what happened to me not long ago and it was one terrible and stressful nightmare, especially wince we were quasi-penniless and could not afford to buy a replacement straight away.
It all started the day my basic and not so posh, yet beloved, 14-year old Bosch oven decided that it was getting tired of the relentless (over)use I made of it and the merciless treatment it was getting, so it took revenge on me by gradually falling to pieces until it finally fell “dead” on a sunny afternoon in August. What a Machiavellian rascal!
Firstly, the left oven door spring broke, then shortly after the right-side spring crumbled into tiny pieces, and as a result I had to keep the door shut by placing a stool in front of it. Of course, the next catastrophe inevitably had to take place during an absent-minded moment when I was deep in my thoughts and picked up that very seat in order to fetch something in a difficult-to-reach cupboard. This unfortunate action was followed by a terrifying sound of shattering glass which violently woke me up from my daydreaming and sent shivers down my spine. The floor was literally covered with fragments of glass and my kitchen just looked like there had been an explosion. What a sight!
Anyway, thankfully it was only the double glazing. The main window was still intact and this signified I could carry on baking more or less unperturbedly. So, I put the damaged and wobbly door back in place and continued to prepare cakes, breads as well as gratins the “redneck way” (no offense to Southerners meant). Totally hardcore I know, but I’m a tough cookie who has a few tricks up her sleeve. This rock’n'roll cook is not afraid of facing problems and improvising when needed! Unfortunately, this make-do solution was not to last and I had to call it quits two months later on the occasion of my customary Monday baking session.
The moment I realised my faithful “buddy” had kicked the bucket, a wave of sheer terror came over me and I started panicking. I was desperate and at a total loss. How was I going to survive that crisis and stay sane while waiting for a substitute? I had to be strong and courageous, because it was impossible for us to gather enough money to immediately purchase another machine. What an insanely frustrating, extremely limiting, and highly challenging situation for a girl who spends her life cooking and baking.
In the meantime I was forced to tame the mad baker in me and concoct delicious treats without using convection heat. For two endless weeks, my only ally was my vitroceramic hob. Quite taunting, nonetheless I dealt with it positively considering the circumstances and didn’t lose my precious marbles.
However, I am a resourceful foodie and came up with a few delightfully summery and marvelously delightful puddings requiring little effort and sweat: an upside-down pan cake with Reine Claude plums, milk rice with fruit compote, and a multitude of cookie trifles/verrines. Considering that we were in the midst of a heatwave, those mouthwatering and refreshing delicacies proved to suit the outside temperatures. For a short while, I even forgot that I had no oven…
Among all of the goodies I produced, one in particular stood out and pleased us greatly. It was a humble “Quetsch Plum Eton Mess” I created to celebrate the arrival of my dernier cri multifunction Siemens cooker. My revamped and modernised version (no strawberries and flavored with a hint of ground long pepper) of this classic British dessert (traditionally served at Eton College’s annual cricket game against rival Winchester College) was so good we greedily finished the 4 pots in a single go and went to bed happily full as well as boosted with confidence, since a new and exciting new “era” of baking was about to start in the morning with my new oven.
Questch Plum Eton Mess
Serves 4/makes 4 verrines
Click here for Imperial/American/metric recipe converter.170g ricotta cheese 180g sour cream 35g icing sugar 2 pinches of ground long pepper 240g thick plum compote (ideally made with Italian or questch plums) 4 +1 meringues de la Gruyère (or any other store-bought meringues) 2 Tbs chopped pistachios, for the topping
- Put the ricotta, cream, icing sugar and ground long pepper in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat until soft peaks form.
- Spoon 1 Tbs of the compote into the base of each verrine, spread with about 2 Tbs of the ricotta mixture, then coarsely crumble 1/3 of a meringue over the top (1 meringue per verrine).
- Repeat layering with remaining ingredients.
- Top the finished verrines with 1/4 of the 5th meringue and sprinkle with 1/4 of the chopped pistachios.
- Serve immediately.
Make sure that the plum compote is not too liquidy (make with plums and sugar only, no added water).
You can bake your own Swiss meringues if you wish (see recipe). Mine were store-bought because my oven was out of order at the time I made this dessert.
The sour cream can be replaced by double cream and the long pepper by any other spice of your choice (vanilla, cinnamon, allspice, Tonka, etc.).
Serve as dessert with a glass of sparkling white wine (Champagne, Moscatto, Clairette de Die, Prosecco, etc.) or a cup of coffee.