Mars Bar Cake

Mars Bar Cake

Don’t skip by this, thinking that it’s only for children. It’s most definitely not. Of course, children love it, but so does every grown-up I’ve ever given it too. This is another recipe that I’ve been making for years, although this one without much tweaking, since I’ve never felt the need to mess about with it. Although, having said that, I do have a hankering to try it with Snickers bars, just to see what happens. But that’s a recipe for another day. Obviously this is a treat, both tasty – it really is more than the sum of its simple parts – and a little bit naughty – you probably shouldn’t eat this every day, although it, to me at least, is highly addictive. Now, a couple of bossy instructions. The chocolate layer on top wants to be thick, hence the 300g in the recipe. You could probably get away with 200g, just, but as the old saying goes, if you’re going to get wet, you may as well go swimming. And, with all of that butter and everything else, a little extra chocolate will hardly hurt. Which leads me onto my second directive: use butter, proper butter, and not margarine or sunflower spread or anything else. However, when buying your chocolate, do bear in mind that, given the other ingredients, it would be a little redundant to go all out for the finest available. Use your favourite confectionary milk chocolate, and perhaps save the very best stuff for something a little more high-brow. That is not, however, permission to use anything labelled ‘cooking chocolate’, or worse still, ‘chocolate flavoured cake topping’.

3 Mars bars (about 60g each)

75g butter

2 tablespoons golden syrup

100g puffed rice cereal, e.g. Rice Krispies

300g milk chocolate

Chop the Mars bars into smallish pieces, and cut up the butter. Dump the Mars bars and butter into a large pan with the golden syrup, and melt over a low heat, stirring often. I usually do this in a large, deep cast-iron casserole, but any large pan would do. You do have to keep an eye on it though, and keep stirring, not being tempted to turn up the heat to try and hurry things along, or the mixture may burn. It will take a while, but if you are more patient and can stand to stir for a little longer to minimise the risk of burning (which I haven’t yet managed, so don’t worry too much), you can melt everything together in a large bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water. Note that the three layers within the Mars bar, the butter and the golden syrup all melt at different speeds, so while everything is slowly melting, the contents of your pan may look a little disgusting and lumpy for a while. Stick with it, and keep stirring. Eventually, you’ll end up with a thick, glossy chocolate sauce.

Stir the rice cereal into the chocolate. You may need slightly more, but you should be able to coat 100g well enough, using a wooden spoon and a little elbow grease, with neither excess chocolate left in the bottom nor uncoated Krispies spoiling the sticky, shiny look of the finished bars. Tip into a 20cm square tin, lined with cling film or baking parchment, (just to make it easier to remove) and press down firmly to give an even-ish layer and a flat-ish top. Stick in the fridge to set until firm, perhaps about an hour.

When the base is set, break the milk chocolate into pieces and gently melt, stirring occasionally, in a suitable bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. When the chocolate is melted, pour over the base and spread to the edges with a silicone spatula. Return to the fridge and allow the chocolate to fully set, before removing from the tin and slicing into 16 chunky bars. I would add that these will keep for a couple of days in the fridge, although I doubt they’ll last that long, but do benefit from a little while at room temperature so they are not completely solid when you bite into them.

Mars Bar Cake

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Salted caramel chocolate torte-pie

Salted caramel chocolate torte

Ok, so we’ll deal with the obvious first. A torte-pie? The torte part is in deference to the original recipe on which this is based, James Martin’s Salted Caramel Chocolate Torte, and the pie part is because, well, I made it into a pie. Of sorts. Two reasons really. The original torte just has a biscuit crumb base, and I thought extending it up the sides would be a nice touch, and since the filling is so rich, adding a little extra crumbly, buttery base to contrast this works well. Plus it saves lining a springform tin and then having to gingerly peel parchment paper from the sides of the torte and praying for a neat edge. Secondly, I really wanted to use my fluted tart tin, since I don’t as often as I feel I would like to, and anything that comes out of it looks somehow prettier for the scalloped edges.

So, this salted caramel chocolate torte-pie is a rich chocolate ganache, covering a layer of salted caramel, in a buttery biscuit base. Indulgent, rich, and, although actually it’s fairly straightforward to make, a bit of a showstopper. The caramel used is ready made, which, aside from a bit of melting, makes this practically a no-bake recipe. Specifically, I used a tin of carnation caramel condensed milk, which is readily available (at least in UK supermarkets) and seems to be a terrifically inspired response to the frankly terrifying notion of boiling a whole, unopened tin of standard condensed milk for several hours, and praying it doesn’t explode. Any thick, creamy, dulce de leche type caramel sauce will do the job.

Salted caramel chocolate torte

Adapted from James Martin’s Just Desserts – I’m sure it must be in a book, and I’ve got it in a Good Food Magazine somewhere, but it’s also on the Just Desserts Free iPhone app.

375g digestive biscuits

75g unsalted butter

397g tin Carnation Caramel / 400g thick caramel sauce

1 teaspoon sea salt

300g good 70% dark chocolate

600ml double cream

25g icing sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat. Process the digestive biscuits into crumbs, or crush them in a plastic bag using a rolling pin. With the motor running, pour the melted butter down the funnel of the processor and continue to process until the butter is evenly mixed in and the consistency is like damp sand. If you’re not using machinery, tip the biscuit crumbs into the pan with the butter and stir well to combine thoroughly. Press the mixture into the bottom and sides of a deep, fluted tart tin – mine is about 22cm across the base, and 4cm deep. Stick it in the freezer, or the fridge would do at a push, for 15 minutes.

Open the tin of caramel, and scoop out 2 tablespoons into a small bowl. Stir the teaspoon of salt into the remaining caramel. Carefully spread it across the chilled biscuit base, leaving a 1-2cm border around the edge. Chill in the fridge for 20 minutes while you make the chocolate filling.

Break the chocolate into chunks, and gently melt it in a large bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally. Add a tablespoon of the double cream to the 2 tablespoons of caramel you saved earlier on, and stir well to mix. Put this little bowl into the fridge. Once the chocolate has melted, turn off the heat but leave the bowl where it is. Add about a quarter of the remaining cream, and stir until completely combined. Repeat this, adding another quarter of the cream and stirring well to combine each time, until you have added all of the cream. You will have a thick smooth and shiny chocolate sauce. Sieve (and don’t be tempted not to bother) the icing sugar into the chocolate, add the vanilla, and stir well once again to combine. Lift the bowl off of the pan and let the sauce cool for about 10 minutes.

Pour the sauce into the base, first going around the edges to seal in the caramel layer, then pouring in the rest slowly and gently shake the tin to give a smooth, even surface. Put back into the fridge and chill for at least 5 hours, preferably over night, until the chocolate is firm. When you’re ready to serve, carefully remove the tin and transfer the pie to a serving plate. Spoon the reserved cream-caramel mixture into a little freezer bad, and snip off the tiniest corner, and drizzle lines of the caramel over the pie. You could serve this with a little extra sea salt and/or single cream, but I don’t think it needs either.

Serves quite a few – I would normally suggest 8 – 10 for a pie this size, but this will easily stretch further, maybe up to 14+, after a meal since it is quite rich – but leftovers do seem to keep well in the fridge for at least a day or two.

Salted caramel chocolate torte


Chocolate fridge cake three ways

Chocolate fridges cakes

I have been making a version of these easy, no-bake chocolate ‘cakes’ for a long time, sometimes Rocky Road (which to my mind is specifically marshmallows, glace cherries, digestive biscuits and occasionally extras, but never substitutions), sometimes a different version more akin to the traditional British ‘tiffin’ with crushed biscuits and dried fruit. When I saw these three variations in the September Sainsbury’s magazine I knew I wanted to try them all, and a recent bring-a-plate style feast at a friend’s wedding provided the perfect opportunity. These are ideal party food – made in advance, transportable (although I did use a cool bag, just in case) and most importantly delicious. These also seemed like slightly more grown-up versions of the traditional fridge cake, what with their macadamias, pistachios, amaretti and crystallised ginger. The marshmallow ones went first, of course.

The butter and honey added to the chocolate stops it from setting hard like just chocolate alone would, and the honey helps give a glossy finish. The honey flavour is not particularly pronounced, although it is perhaps slightly noticeable in the white chocolate ones. If you don’t like honey or were perhaps, perish the thought, making these for children, you could substitute the same amount of golden syrup, which is what I have used in previous incarnations of these. Indeed, if you were making these for children, I would perhaps go with the first variation, leaving out the macadamias and adding a couple of handfuls of cornflakes to replace the crunch, and maybe altering the amounts of dark and milk chocolate, although still including both – either half and half or 300g milk and 100g dark.

Each recipe, set in its 20cm square cake tin, will slice into 16 good size portions, or as part of a party feast, 25 smaller, but by no means too small, ones, and perfectly proportioned if you were serving more than one version, since everyone will want to try them all.

Chocolate fridge cakes

Recipes adapted from September 2011 Sainsbury’s Magazine

Marshmallow and macadamia chocolate fridge cake

300g dark chocolate

100g milk chocolate

100g unsalted butter

2 tablespoons clear honey

100g digestive biscuits (about 6)

100g mini marshmallows

100g macadamia nuts

Break the chocolate into squares, cut the butter into cubes and place both, with the honey, in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Stir everything occasionally until melted, smooth and glossy, being careful not to overheat. Meanwhile, chop the biscuits into small pieces, and roughly chop the macadamias, so some are halves and some are smaller pieces. Take the melted chocolate mixture off of the heat as soon as everything is melted, and add the chopped biscuits, nuts and marshmallows. I tend to try and scoop the biscuits and nuts from the chopping board, leaving behind most of the crumbs so that the finished bars aren’t too grainy. Stir everything gently to combine, making sure that everything is well coated in the chocolate mixture.

Line a 20cm square cake tin with cling film, pushing it into the corners and making it as smooth as you can. I am aware this is more easily said than done, but if I can manage it, you can. Tip the cake mix into the lined tin, pushing it into the corners and levelling the top (which of course will never be smooth, but I mean ensuring the overall cake is a similar thickness all over) with a spatula. Leave it to cool, cover the tin and chill for at least a couple of hours, longer won’t hurt, until set. (If you’re anything like me, you’ll know when it’s set from opening the fridge door every twenty minutes to check.) Once set, remove the fridge cake from it’s tin, carefully peel off the cling film, and cut into slices. Mine kept well in the fridge for a couple of days.

Almond and ginger chocolate fridge cake

300g dark chocolate

100g milk chocolate

100g unsalted butter

2 tablespoons clear honey

100g amaretti biscuits (the crunchy sort, not the soft ones)

100g crystallised stem ginger

100g almonds

First of all, toast the almonds by tipping them into a dry frying pan over a medium heat, and, watching vigilantly since they will go from raw to black the second you turn your back, cook, tossing them around frequently, until they start to turn golden. Remove from the heat and tip them out of the frying pan onto a waiting plate to stop them from cooking further. Then continue as for the first recipe, melting the chocolates, butter and honey slowly in a bowl over barely simmering water. While this is doing, chop the biscuits, toasted almonds and the crystallised ginger into pieces, the ginger into smaller pieces than the nuts and amaretti. Stir everything together, tip into the lined tin and cool, chill to set, remove and slice as before.

Pistachio and cherry white chocolate fridge cake

600g white chocolate

2 tbsp clear honey

100g shortbread fingers 

100g glace cherries

100g shelled pistachios

The method here is similar again, so do read the first for more details, although this one contains no butter. Gently melt the chocolate with the honey, and while that’s doing, chop the biscuits, cherries and nuts. Stir everything together, and tip into the lined tin. Cool, chill in the fridge until set, and slice into bars.


Sticky caramel pecan Danish pastries

Now, it wouldn’t be strictly correct to say that these were the result of a happy accident, but they were neither what I intended to make, nor did they turn out exactly how I expected them to. But that’s good, as were these – really good. The other half of the Danish pastry recipe I had made for my tarte tatin was calling to me from the depths of the freezer. I knew I wanted to use it up, and soon, and I had a vague idea that I wanted to make cinnamon rolls, of sorts, those spirals of pastry with a buttery cinnamon filling that go so well with an afternoon latte. So with this in mind, I first flicked through the ‘yeast’ section of Nigella Lawson’s How To Be a Domestic Goddess, from whence the original Danish pastry came, and these are heavily influenced by the Schnecken therein, combined with a few ideas from a quick Google of Cinnamon Roll. Finally, I had an idea in my head of what I wanted to end up with, including some pecan nuts for crunch.

You’ll notice there’s no cinnamon in either the name of these, or the recipe below. I absent mindedly forgot to include it when I first made these, intending to include it in the sugar and nut filling, and now I don’t want to change these, to take anything away from their, to my mind, sticky, buttery perfection. I was expecting a runnier caramel topping, but the result here was a rather pleasing hard caramel. Not teeth-shatteringly so, but crunchy nonetheless, and sticky too, which works really well with the soft, almost melting pastry beneath.

1/2 portion of this Danish pastry, thawed if previously frozen

For the caramel

125g unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 tablespoons demerara sugar

7 tablespoons golden syrup

50g pecans

For the filling

25g butter

50g caster sugar

50g demerara sugar

50g pecans

Preheat the oven to 180C / 160C fan. First make what is going to become the sticky caramel topping. Beat the butter, preferably with the aid of machinery, until soft, light and airy. Beat in the sugar and golden syrup. Roughly chop the pecans into large pieces. Divide the butter mixture between the cups of a 12 hole muffin tin, and drop a couple of pecan pieces onto the top of the mixture in each.

Next, make the filling for the pastries. Melt the 25g butter and leave to one side. Blitz the pecans into a sandy rubble, and mix together with the two types of sugar.

On a well floured surface (and see the introduction to the Danish pastry post), roll out the dough into a rectangle around 50cm by 30cm, with the long edge facing you. Brush the surface of the pastry with the melted butter, and then sprinkle over the nutty-sugar filling, going right up to the edges. Now you want to roll up the pastry, rolling up the long edge, away from you, pressing down firmly enough so you end up with a not squashed but tightly rolled sausage. Slice this into 12 pieces, and pop a piece, cut side up, into each cup of the muffin tin, pushing it down a little into the butter and nuts. Put to one side for around 20 minutes or so, to let the rolls rise a little. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until golden. Meanwhile, line a baking tray, larger than the muffin tin, with foil or baking parchment.

Once the pastries are out of the oven, place the upside-down, parchment or foil lined tray over the muffin tin. Using oven gloves and a balance of caution and bravery, turn the whole thing upside-down, so that the muffin tin is now at the top of the pile, bottom up. Carefully lift off the muffin tin, leaving the rolls, now with their caramel-nut tops, on the lined tray. Spoon any nuts or caramel left in the muffin tin back over the rolls. Let them cool slightly, if you can manage it.

Makes 12.


Tarte tatin

I’ve already touched a little on this tarte tatin in my post on Danish pastry, which is used as the base of this otherwise traditional French apple and caramel tarte. If you don’t know, the story goes that this tarte was invented by accident, starting off as apples cooking for an apple pie being overdone, and rescued by putting the pastry base on top of the apples in the pan, baking in the oven and being turned out onto a plate. You want to use firm eating apples here, rather than cooking apples which will disintegrate into a puree as you cook them. I used Granny Smith, which I think work well here as its slightly acidic taste counters the sweet, buttery caramel somewhat.

This recipe is adapted from Nigella Lawson’s How To Be a Domestic Goddess,  and the adapting, really, was just making this a little easier, for me, resulting in a slightly more ramshackle, homespun looking tarte. That is to say, the recipe calls for halved and cored apples, arranged fairly neatly, hump side down in the pan, and thus gleaming, hump side up in the plated tarte. I like to use my all in one apple-corer-and-wedger (and I’m not one, really, for single-application kitchen gadgets, but this is one labour-saver I’ll make an exception for) which divides each fruit into eight perfect segments and removes the core at the same time, so I ended up with apple slices, rather than halves. A quick internet search will show you that the popular way of presenting a tarte tatin made with sliced apples involves arranged the apple slices neatly in a spiral or concentric circles. This seems like far too much effort for the same end result, taste wise, and also, despite slightly enjoying the element of danger inherent in upturning the hot tatin, scalding caramel and all, onto a serving plate, arranging the slices individually in bubbling sugar is where I draw the line.

You will need a suitable dish in which to cook the tatin, one that you can use to make caramel and cook the apples on the hob, and then, once enrobed with pastry, use in the oven, of somewhere between 22 and 28 cm in diameter. I use a flame-safe shallow casserole, which is approximately 25cm across, or you could use a similarly proportioned frying pan with a handle that can go in the oven. You could, naturally, use a tarte tatin dish if you possess one.

Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s How To Be a Domestic Goddess

100g unsalted butter

150g caster sugar

Enough apples to cover the base of your pan in a single layer once sliced how you want them – as a guide, I used 6 medium-sized Granny Smiths

a half portion of this Danish pastry recipe, thawed if previously frozen

Preheat the oven to 200C and put a baking sheet in to heat up with the oven. On the hob, melt the butter in whatever dish you are using, and then add the sugar. When it starts foaming, carefully add the apples, pushing them around with a spatula to try and get them in a more or less single layer. Cook on a high heat until the butter-sugar sauce is a golden caramel colour, and the apples have softened. Take the pan off of the heat and leave the stand for 10 minutes.

While the apples are standing, roll out the pastry on a floured surface (and see the introduction of the Danish pastry post), quite thinly, into a circle large enough to fit the top of the dish with an overhang of a couple of centimetres. Transfer it to the dish, laying it on top of the apples and carefully tucking the edges down the sides of the apples. Place the dish onto the baking sheet in the oven and cook for 20-30 minutes, definitely checking at 20, until the pastry is golden brown and the caramel is bubbling.

Take the dish out of the oven, and do this next bit with care and definitely oven gloves: place a large plate on top of the dish, and turn the whole thing the other way up. Carefully put it down, and then remove the dish, leaving your tarte right way up on the plate. Place any apple pieces stuck to the dish back into the tarte, and serve with vanilla ice cream.

Serves 6.


Nigella’s processor danish pastry

 

Welcome to the first of at least three rambling posts on the joy of Danish pastry. This first is the introduction, providing you with the instructions for making the pastry itself, which you can subsequently turn into all manner of delicious things. You might not need me to tell you that Danish pastries are good, although admittedly they are one of my weaknesses and so I’m somewhat biased (case in point – long weekends in Paris ignoring the no doubt wonderful restaurants on offer and gorging myself on only bread, pastries and patisserie), but I had never intended to make them. So this is the story of how I made my first batch of Danish pastry, followed soon by the story of how I made my first delicious but probably not a bona-fide Danish Danish.

So, I had friends coming over for dinner. Friends For Dinner is where many of my more extravagant adventures in Rupert’s kitchen begin, by which I do not mean fantastic, multiple-course fancy meals (dinner is always relaxed and informal) but that cooking for a larger number than two simply means I can make something with a whole pack of butter in and not reckon on eating half of it myself.  Anyhow, I digress. I got it into my head that I wanted to make a tarte tatin. I started with my usual go-to for baking something new, Nigella’s ‘How To Be A Domestic Goddess’ and found the recipe. Unusually (or perhaps not, it’s my first) this tarte used Danish pastry as its base, and an easy, processor-made pastry at that. The best part – the recipe makes twice as much as you need for the tarte, and the other half can be frozen for a later date. So this is how I ended up making my first batch of Danish pastry. Perhaps I thought Danish would be challenging, I’d never considered trying it before, but this method is easy, and, perhaps to reassure purists (in the sense that I suppose Danish has been around longer than processors), not only does this come via Nigella, but she cites her own sources as Beatrice Ojakangas via Dorie Greenspan’s Baking with Julia. How’s that for provenance?

It’s easy to make, but be warned, when I refer in the recipe to the resulting gooey mess, gooey mess it is – it’s really sticky, perhaps not the easiest to work with (please don’t let that put you off, it’s so worth it), and you’ll need a lot of flour to roll it out with, whilst at the same time trying not to incorporate the extra flour into the dough. For proof, and to stop you thinking it’s not working, see the photographic evidence (and apologies for the quality of this particular picture) – if you have a sticky, lumpy mess and it looks like it’s all gone wrong, it’s perfect. Well done. Below is the recipe for the pastry, and coming shortly will be the tarte tatin, followed by the most amazing sticky-caramel-pecan Danish pastries. Yum.

From Nigella Lawson’s How To Be a Domestic Goddess

60ml warm water

125ml milk, at room temperature

1 large egg, at room temperature

350g strong white bread flour

1 sachet (7g) easy-blend dried yeast

1 teaspoon salt

25g caster sugar

250g unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2cm slices

Beat together the water, milk and egg in a jug. Put the flour, yeast, salt and sugar into the processor and briefly pulse just to mix it up. Drop in the butter, and process briefly to chop up the butter. Don’t overdo it, you’re aiming for visible, 1cm chunks of butter rather than completely cutting the butter into the flour as with normal pastry. Tip the lot into a large bowl and pour over the milky egg mixture. Fold the ingredients together, but not too much – just until the flour is incorporated well. At this point, you should have the gooey mess, with accompanying lumps of butter, discussed and pictured above. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave it in the fridge overnight.

The next day, your gooey mess is ready to become pastry. Let it get to roo temperature, generously flour a surface (and see introduction) and roll it out to a 50cm square. Fold it into thirds. Nigella says like folding a business letter, and I can’t think of a better example, so let’s go with that. Lift the right hand edge and fold the first third, followed by the left hand edge, so you have a three layer rectangle, still 50cm long but now only a third the width. Roll back out to a 50cm square, and repeat the whole process three times. After this, cut it in half, wrap both pieces in clingfilm and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes, and up to 4 days if you like. If you aren’t using both pieces right away, wrap the second in two layers of clingfilm, place it in a freezer bag, and freeze for a later date. You’ll need to defrost it thoroughly before using.


Strawberry and almond pavlova

I’m sure that as I add more recipes for puddings to this blog, I’ll describe many of them as my favourite, but truly, The Pav is right up there. The killer combination of meringue, lightly whipped cream and fresh fruit screams summer, although, this would equally brighten a table on the coldest of winter days. Of course, to be The Perfect Pav, each element has to be right (but don’t worry, it’s not difficult – mainly whisking followed by a bit of an assembly job). The meringue should have a crisp shell, with a squidgy, marshmallow-like interior, topped with silky, softly whipped cream and crowned with glorious fruit.

Here, the traditional combination is meddled with slightly. I’ve added some vanilla and sugar to my cream, and the strawberries are macerated (that is to say, left to sit) with a little sugar and balsamic vinegar (stay with me), which not only brings out their flavour (and by all means skip this step if you have really good, ripe strawberries, but consider it mandatory for flavourless supermarket imports) but makes their red redder. Finally, I’ve added some toasted almonds for a bit of crunch.

Making the meringue is the most time consuming bit, simply because you need to cook it, or rather dry it out, in a relatively low and then cooling, switched off oven to achieve the desired texture. I don’t worry too much about its appearance, simply because without fail, my meringue always sinks a little and cracks, sometimes quite drastically. When it comes to the assembly stage, I use the cream as a sort of delicious mortar to stick it back together again, and then pile more cream over the top to cover everything up. By the time you’ve added fruit, it will look magnificent, and even if it’s a little wonky, it still beats a solid, dusty, albeit perfectly swirled, shop-bought meringue shell. I’ve specified, with characteristic lack of restraint, 600ml double cream. You probably don’t need this much, but will need more than 300ml, the next commonly available sized container down, so if you’re opening a tub…

4 egg whites, at room temperature

250g caster sugar plus 1 tablespoon

2 teaspoons cornflour

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

600ml double cream, and see above

2 tablespoons icing sugar

400g punnet strawberries

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

50g flaked almonds

Preheat the oven to 180C / 160C fan, and cut a piece of baking parchment to fit the baking tray you’re going to use to cook the meringue on. With an electric whisk, or a freestanding mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until you just have firm peaks. Still whisking, add the 250g caster sugar, a (large) spoonful at a time, making sure it’s fully incorporated before adding the next. As you add the sugar, the whites will become stiff and glossy. Once all of the sugar is incorporated, add the cornflour, white wine vinegar and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla and give the mixture a final quick whisk to incorporate these final ingredients.

With a teaspoon, dab a little meringue in each corner of your baking tray and use it to glue the baking parchment into place. Pile the meringue onto the baking tray in an approximate circle, perhaps around 25cm across if you were to measure (and if it helps, you could draw a circle onto the underside of the baking parchment), and smooth the top and sides with a spatula. Place it into the oven and straight away reduce the temperature to 150C / 130C fan and cook for an hour. After an hour, switch off the oven (don’t open the door) and leave the meringue inside to get completely cold.

About an hour before you want to serve, hull and chop the strawberries – the smallest in half, the bigger ones smaller – and place in a bowl. Spoon over the tablespoon of caster and balsamic, give it a quick stir, and leave in the fridge to get juicy, red and delicious. Next, toast the almonds. Heat a frying pan over a medium flame, and without adding any oil, tip the almonds into the pan. Keep the almonds moving until they start to turn golden and smell toasted and delicious (and don’t leave them alone, they’ll turn from toasted to burnt in mere seconds), and tip onto a waiting plate to stop them toasting any further.

You can whip the cream and top the meringue with it now, or when you’re just about ready to serve. In either case, whisk until firm, but still creamy rather than dry, adding the icing sugar and final teaspoon of vanilla as you do so. Once you’re ready to assemble, place the meringue onto a plate and pile on the cream. Spoon over the strawberries, and their delicious juices, and finally sprinkle with the toasted almonds. You could easily serve 8 with this, and generously so.