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Blackberries & Bay, Brown Sugar Meringues

I'm back in England and have just caught the cusp of Autumn. One of the saddest things about life in Sardinia is the lack of this, my favourite season. Autumn never happened last year. We had instead a sort of extended summer; the tourists faded away and the sea stayed as warm as bathwater. After the furnace of August when the heat was so unbearable it made even the tiniest task seem arduous it was a welcome change, but it could never compensate for an English autumn.

The olive trees did not change colour, there were no falling leaves, no hedgerows bursting with blackberries. No crisp mornings and crisper apples.

I've missed this weather, this season, its cooking, its colours and its fruit. Blackberries plump and purple. And I've missed proper English pudding. Now I'm home the first things I reach for are a thick, yellow, Guernsey cream and brown sugar. Good cream is hard to find in Italy, and brown sugar is rare. White sugar is perfect for everyday sweetness but I crave the toffee flavour of brown - in baking especially.

This pudding seems perfect for this time of year - warm and earthy with the bay, a cool hit of cream, and the toasted-toffee notes of the meringue.

Brown Sugar Meringues

These cafe-au-lait coloured meringues go very well with poached autumn fruit, or chestnut puree and cream, or coffee-flavoured cream. Most things, in fact.

Makes 14 small nests or 2 pavlovas

4 egg whites

100g light muscavado sugar

100 white sugar

Pinch salt

Beat the egg whites and the salt until they form stiff peaks. Add the mixed sugars in a spoonful at a time, beating well after each addition. Continue to beat until stiff and glossy. Spoon the mixture onto a flat baking tray lined with baking paper and spread into desired shapes, whether pavlova or individual nests.

Bake in a 110'c oven for 2 hours. Lift and tap the bottom to check if cooked through. Serve with spoon of thick Guernsey Cream and the blackberries below.

Blackberries Poached with Bay

200g blackberries

3 strips lemon zest

1 fresh bay leaf or 2 dried

80g sugar

splash water

Put everything into a pan and bring to a simmer. Poach gently until the blackberries are soft and cooked through. If you like, strain and reduce the juice. Taste for seasoning and add a squeeze of fresh lemon to liven it up a little.

Serve cool with the meringues and cream.


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