Thu, 23 May, 2019
Eton mess with a Greek twist: fruit, cream and broken filo pastry. Lightly whipped cream, strawberries or blueberries macerated in sugar and shards of smashed sugared filo pastry make the dream summer dessert.
Who doesn’t love Eton mess? For the unfortunates who never heard of it, it’s a thrashed Pavlova: meringue, cream and fruit mixed together and served in individual pots. I have long wanted to make a variation of the dessert but was a bit lost for inspiration: sponge biscuits? you’ll get trifle. Waffles? That’ll be just waffles then. Choux pastry? Naah.
And then this, like many of my (arguably) brilliant ideas, came to me some time early morning when I was woken up by the birds screeching, which is a serious downside of summer mornings.
In case you incredibly didn’t guess, it’s a play on Eton mess: Eton – Athens; bashed filo shards instead of broken meringues. I’m a sucker for a bad pun so I was actually lying in bed thinking of a place that would sound like Eton but carry a different cuisine connotation, suited to fruit and fresh cream. Athens ticked the most boxes, Seaton rhyming better but devoid of local specialities, the tram notwithstanding.
The first attempt at the filo shards ended in overbuttered and overcaramelised filo cement – unusable, though I scoffed the lot on its own over a couple of days.
At the second attempt I was much more sparing with the butter and the puffy layered sheets looked more brittle and shardable. I had to overcome the urge to devour that lot too – sugared filo is unbelievably addictive – but luckily my output ensured leftover pastry for laters.
Seriously, this was so good that I’d be happy never to taste the Eton version ever again. I made about ten portions, served it to six of us and the two poor sods who had to go without a second helping (me included) were stroppy and acted hard done by for the rest of the night. Blueberry version is better, or so I was told. But maybe they just wanted to make me feel better about not getting to eat the strawberry one.
athens messServings: 6Time: 25 minutes plus macerating strawberries
- 6 sheets filo
- 50g (4 tbsp.) butter
- 3 tbsp. sugar
- 400g (about a pound) strawberries
- 1 tsp icing sugar
- 1 tsp lemon zest (½ lemon)
- 400g (about a pound) blueberries
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 500ml (2 cups) double cream
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
1. To make the filo shards, melt the butter and prepare the sugar in a bowl. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Line a large baking sheet with parchment.
2. Working quickly so the pastry doesn’t dry out, spread the first sheet on a board, brush with butter and sprinkle with sugar. Layer with the next sheet and press it on with your palms. Brush with butter, sprinkle with sugar and continue in the same way with the remaining sheets. Make sure you have some butter and sugar left for the top layer. Cut the stacked sheets in half for the ease of handling and transfer onto the baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, until golden, crunchy and puffed up in places. Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight box until needed.
3. For the strawberry version, hull the strawberries and reserve about 8 nicest berries. Slice the rest of them thinly, toss with the icing sugar and lemon zest, and leave to macerate for at least an hour.
4. For the blueberry version, preheat the oven to 230C/450F/gas 8. Roasted blueberries can be made well in advance; they’ll keep in the fridge for a week and can be used in all kinds of other dishes and desserts.
5. Spread half the blueberries in a shallow oven dish and sprinkle with the teaspoon of sugar. Bake them for 10 minutes, shaking the dish so they roll about, halfway through the time. Remove from the oven, drizzle with a little lemon juice and leave to cool.
6. Whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla extract.
7. To assemble the mess, place a generous couple of spoonfuls of the macerated strawberries/roasted blueberries at the bottom of the serving bowls or cups.
Break the filo pastry into rough shards (it will be messy!) and stir into the whipped cream, one portion at a time. Scoop it with two spoons and place in the bowls. Add more shards or cream, as desired.
8. Top with the fresh berries and serve immediately.