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Autumn in the Alps is truly a “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”, as Keats so perfectly described (thanks GCSE English Literature for that one). I’m probably guilty of thinking each season is my favourite when it arrives but with Autumn comes such a wealth of foraging opportunities that it’s got to be one of the best times of the year for food. All around the trees are shedding apples and plums in such vast quantities that it’s an impossible task to try and gather them before they all turn to mush. And the hedgerows are so temptingly full of ripe blackberries that any walk with my daughter Ivy has to be extended by at least half an hour to allow plenty of scrumping time.
I absolutely loathe seeing food go to waste, so feel duty bound to find recipes that will use up some of these wonderful freebies (I know – poor me!) and one of my favourite puddings from last season does the job brilliantly. I adapted the dish from Lorraine Pascale’s lovely recipe for a spiced blackberry, pear and apple pavlova. My main addition was putting chestnut puree in the whipped cream to introduce nuttiness, along with some candied hazelnuts on top to decorate and add crunch. The other tweak I made was to reduce the poaching liquid to a thick glossy syrup– it seemed such a shame to discard it. It coats the fruit beautifully and enhances the flavour from the spices and red wine which I think helps to balance out the sweetness of the meringues.
Reducing the wine fills the chalet with the wonderful smell of vin chaud, making it feel incredibly cosy and welcoming.
Make the meringues first as you can then get on with the filling while they are dehydrating in the oven. If you have made meringues before you might think this method seems a bit back to front but I promise you it works like a charm!
I find the cooking time for these meringues can really vary depending on your oven so do keep an eye on them. You really don’t want too much colour – very pale golden colour is fine, but that is it. If you find them colouring too quickly then turn the heat down – it is better for them to cook longer and slower than for the sugar to have a burnt taste.
Once cooked, turn off the oven and leave the meringue inside until completely cool.
Fill each meringue with a dessert spoonful of the chestnut cream and then top with the fruit. Drizzle a little syrup so it runs enticingly down the sides of the meringue and then sprinkle over a few of the hazelnuts.
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