Poached Meringue with Elderflower Custard & Gooseberry Coulis

I have spoken about my Summer love affair with the beautiful Elderflower and you know my other true love is home made custard...Custard is a wonderful vehicle for delicate flavours, hot it is scrumptious on a Winters day and it is equally wonderful cold in Summer months. For a recent supper event I decided to organise a ménage à trois with the aforementioned elderflower, custard and gooseberry. You can easily make this without the elderflowers as you'll have a delicious vanilla custard. This really fun dessert originated in France where it is called Îles flotantes literally floating islands. I dare you not to have a smile on your face when you see the beautiful meringue clouds floating in a sea of rich custard -let your inner child come out to play.

Poached Meringue with Elderflower Custard & Gooseberry Coulis

What you need:      -serves 6

For the custard-
  • 6-8 fresh heads of elderflower blossom
  • 500ml full fat Glenisk Organic milk
  • 1 vanilla pod -split length ways with seeds scraped out
  • 80g caster sugar
  • 4 free range egg yolks 

For the meringues-
  • 3 egg whites
  • 150g caster sugar

For the goosegog coulis-
  • 200g gooseberries
  • 2-3tbsp caster sugar 
For the spun sugar (optional)
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 75ml water
Elderflower Blossom  Season Late May -Mid July

What you need to do:

For the custard-
  • Shake the elderflower heads to knock off any insects and trim off the largest part of the green stalky bits
  • Put the elderflowers and the milk into a container and leave in the fridge for a few hours or preferably overnight if you've time
Glenisk Milk Soaking The Flavours

  • Put the milk, elderflowers and vanilla seeds plus pod in a saucepan on a medium heat and scald the milk by bringing it to a 'shiver' -you'll see bubbles start to form at the edges
  • Meanwhile whisk the sugar and the egg yolks together
  • Strain the milk through a sieve into a jug
  • Get a whisk and start slowly pouring the milk into the egg yolks -whisking all the time
  • When you've combined it all put the eggy mixture into a saucepan on a low-medium heat or set up a bain-marie
  • Keep stirring, employ your patience and a watchful eye -you need to wait until the mixture coats the back of a spoon -this can take 10 to 15mins...longer if you have a larger quantity
  • When the mixture has reached the correct temperature (70-80'C or 158'F-176'F) and is coating the spoon allow to cool and then place in the fridge for at least 4 hours

For the coulis-
  • Simmer your gooseberries with 1 tbsp caster sugar until they start to collapse -you can use frozen of course
  • Once collapsed pass through a sieve to get a smooth mixture
  • While still warm add more caster sugar to taste -remember to retain some of the distinct sourness that says 'I am gooseberry'
  • Set aside to cool 
For the meringue-
  • Wipe a clean bowl with half a lemon to remove any grease
  • Whisk your egg whites with electric beaters 
  • When they have started to form stiff peaks -gradually add the caster sugar 1 tbsp at a time and combine on a slower setting
  • Continue until all sugar is combined and you have a bowl of silky porcelain white meringue -eat some from a spoon...I always do
  • When you're ready to begin serving put a wide pan of water on a medium heat
  • Take a dessert spoon of meringue mixture and using another dessert spoon fold it into the water -simmer for 3-4 mins turning after 2-3 -drain on some kitchen paper
  • In a bowl place a ladle or two full of cold custard, pop two meringues on top and add your coulis
Spinning  Sugar

 For the spun sugar-
  • To spin sugar put the caster sugar in a pot with the water place on a high heat
  • Even though you will be tempted do not stir!
  • The sugar will start to bubble as the water gets driven out
  • Keep an eye on the pot and allow the mixture to reach a caramel colour
  • Put saucepan into a bowl of cold water to cool 
  • Have a sheet of greaseproof paper ready, dip a spoon or fork into your caramel mixture
  • Holding above the paper do a zig zag shape or whatever you like
  • You can make all the elements of this dessert ahead of time -except perhaps the spun sugar as it will take moisture from the air and dissolve
  • Bon appetit mes amis 
Tips for you-
  • Whenever you are foraging make sure to pick natures harvest away from the roadside