TRAVELLING chef Philippa Davis spent a weekend in Wales just before Christmas, cooking for a family on a farm in Pembrokeshire, which was the start of a new love affair for this energetic and inspirational Dorset woman.
“Every home should have a dairy herd,” she says …
If I was Father Christmas I would generally go for the glass of sherry over the milk, I am sure the reindeer are perfectly capable of doing their own navigating by now and it would be just too bad PR for the police to pull over FC on drink driving charges. But when dropping off the presents on a dairy farm in Wales however I would definitely go for the milk – fresh from the udders of the herd it would make a most nourishing drink.
Although I was as busy as one of Santa’s elves in the pre Christmas rush, preparing the food for the parties I did have time to take a quick spin around the country lanes, up onto what’s known as Angels Mount and down into the sheep-spattered valleys. My excellent guide amusingly told me all the local gossip (I think there must be something in the Welsh water) and historical facts about the area. We were very near where the stones from Stonehenge originated. I could have listened to them for hours although this could also be because I have fallen in love with the lyrical Welsh accent.
The weekend was a joint celebration of the family’s Christmas together and a milestone birthday. The traditional Christmas dinner was like a session at the gym, carrying a 9 kilo turkey plus stuffing in and out of the oven and then once cooked parading it into the dining room on a spectacular silver tray filled with hot water – I tell you I now have arms like the Incredible Hulk! What was impressive was the fact that they requested four puddings! Sticky toffee pudding, a triple chocolate cheese cake, a sloe gin and quince trifle and a raspberry meringue roulade. Mind you if you can’t eat four puddings at Christmas when can you?
Since all these puddings can be enjoyed at any time of the year – and in dank and cold January we all need cheering up, here is Philippa’s postcard recipe for
Serves 8 – 10
You can make the meringue a few days before and add the cream and fruit just before serving. There are quite a few methods to make meringues but having tried a lot of them this is my favourite and it works for roulades, individuals and pavlova. It definitely is easiest to make if you are have a standing electric mixer though you can use a hand-held electric whisk and a lot of patience.
4 egg whites
Caster sugar – double the volume of egg whites
400ml double cream
1 tbs icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 sprigs of redcurrants to garnish.
Pre heat the oven to 110°C. Place one oven rack on a low shelf and one on a high shelf. On the highest shelf put an empty baking sheet or roasting dish (this just helps the meringue stay white.) You will need a flat baking tray lined with baking parchment roughly 30 cm x 25cm.
Get two glasses the same size. Pour the egg white into one of the glasses then measure the same volume of sugar in the other. Pour the sugar into the bowl of the electric mixer (making sure it is grease-free). Measure another volume of sugar the same as the egg whites and keep to one side. Pour the eggs whites into the electric mixer (with the first half of sugar) and whisk until thick (about 6 minutes).
In three stages over the next ten minutes add the glass of caster sugar, continuously whisking on the fastest speed. By the end the mix should be thick enough to hold the bowl over your head (or someone else’s) and for the meringue mix to stay in the bowl. Ladle the mix out onto the lined baking sheet into a rectangular shape.
Bake in the oven for about 1½ – 2 hours until firm (but it should still be soft in the middle). You can check by having a gentle prod in one of the corners.
Whip the cream with the icing sugar and vanilla till soft peak stage.
Flip the cooled meringue onto a clean tea towel.
Lather the meringue with the whipped cream, scatter on the raspberries then roll up (using the tea towel to help) into a roulade. Serve with extra raspberries and redcurrants on top.