Monday, 9 May 2011

Black Pepper Meringue with Strawberries and Cream

We all know about the classic black pepper and strawberry combination, the delicious sweet juicy strawberries combined with hot, spicy, coarsely ground black pepper; the conflicting tastes with conflicting sensation; the crunch of the pepper, the soft strawberry, juice running down your chin. The perfect introduction to summer, before it gets really warm and all you want are the delicious red berries plucked straight from plant.

With summer hitting those of us quite unexpectedly and square in the mouth, I decided it was time to celebrate with a glass of champagne with the neighbours (get us; actually, the main reason was their daughter getting into a very good, highly competitive school - you go girl!), followed by a taste of summer. But I wanted a dessert, not something to nibble on. So, I took the classic combination and merged with another classic - strawberries, cream and meringue and, by just adding a teaspoon (or more, to taste) to a simple meringue, you get a smart dessert that assaults the senses and and allows you to revel in the delight of your guests at being so smart to combine the two. And, if you aren't so keen on the punch of the pepper, this gives the taste whilst keeping it sweet.

Now, before I give the recipe, I have to fess up to two things here.

1. I forgot to take it to the neighbours with me. I had every intention and completely forgot. I kept thinking, 'I must go and get the meringue', but alas, they poured another glass of something sparkly and I just forgot. Whoops (if you are reading this J&J, I promise I'll bring it next time).

2. I meant to macerate the strawberries in balsamic vinegar, or add orange zest, but I had one glass too many and just gobbled the lot once I got in, without strawberry consideration. This also accounts for the less than impressive, very un-styled photography (what's my excuse the rest of the time eh?). But actually, I think by leaving the strawberries au naturel you really get the simple pleasure of the strawberry/black pepper combo.  The colours were just stunning, but I didn't do a great job of showing it off.  Well, you'll just have to try it and see for yourself!

As an aside - this is my favouite, simple meringue recipe, without the pepper, and works everytime. Try swirling some pink food colouring, with a toothpick, through the meringue once piled onto the baking sheet, before baking. Doesnt add to the taste but looks fabulous served with berries.

So, here it is - Black Pepper Meringue with Strawberries and Cream

  • 4 Egg whites (save the yolks for deliciously rich scrambled eggs the next morning)
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 1-2 tsp of black pepper to taste (I go more towards 2tsp, sometimes even more).
  • Strawberries
  • Double cream
  • Icing sugar to taste
1. Preheat your oven to 120. If you want to be precise, draw 6-8 circles on baking paper and place on a baking tray, pencil mark down. To be honest, I rarely bother with this as I love the rustic look.

2. Whisk the egg whites on slow speed until they begin to foam. Add the cream of tartar.

3. Increase the speed to medium, and with the mixer on, add the sugar slowly. Increase the speed to medium-high and keep going until you have a think shiny, shaving foam like meringue. It will be at stiff peak (when you pull the whisk away the mixture will stand to attention and not flop over).

4. Your meringue is now done. Add the pepper and give it one last whizz to distribute.

5. Pipe or pile your merangue on the paper, inside the circles you drew if using. If you pile in, make a dent in the middle with the back of a spoon for your cream to nestle in.

6. Bake in the oven for 2 hours. After this time, the meringues should peel away cleaning from the baking paper. If not, give it another 15 minutes and check again.

7. Turn off the oven and leave inside until the meringues are cool.

8. When you are ready to serve, whisk the cream to soft peak, dollop onto your cool meringues and top with strawberries (and caster sugar if you have a sweet tooth. If you have a very sweet tooth, add icing sugar to taste to your cream before whipping).



  1. You're making me hungry! What a great idea to put the black pepper into the meringue, bet it was delicious. I might try and make the meringues with my children, without the black pepper, as they love eating them. They might struggle to wait for the 2 hours though!

  2. Ah-ha, that was my cunning plan :-) let me know how your meringues turn out, if your children manage to wait that is - I barely can and I'm supposed to be an adult! Definitely try the food colouring idea, if you have lots of colours the children will love the outcome :)

  3. Sorry Chutneyandspice - meant to add, thank you for your comment :)