I have been watching them closely this spring. In winter, they were little more than dead looking twigs standing upright in the ground. A few weeks into spring I notice little green shoots sprouting along the canes, slowly unfurling into a familiar green leaf. The delicate white blossoms weren’t far behind, then little berries begin to form. Before I know it I am sending the kids down the garden path to harvest fresh raspberries for an afternoon snack.
Berries are a wonderful addition to any garden; even in a small space they can yield an impressive harvest. I have been adding (and subtracting) from my berry patch for some years.The berry plants that provide the best return for the effort and space include raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and my favoured thorn-less blackberries. With luck their fruiting periods are spread out over the season, with raspberries the current pick of the bunch.
Seeing as the festive month is upon us, today I have created a recipe worthy of the Christmas table, using freshly plucked raspberries and the current profusion of eggs from our girls. Plus hazelnuts stored from winter add a pleasing texture to the meringue and a complimentary flavour to the raspberries.
When making meringue, week-old egg whites work best. Most store-bought eggs will be within this range. However, if you also have backyard chooks, set aside eggs to “age” for a week in the pantry for baking day.
Labneh – essentially thickened yogurt yoghurt – has a lovely tartness that balances out the sweetness of the meringue. It does take some time to drain and thicken, so if making this on a whim, cream cheese is a quicker option.
2/3 cup (100g) hazelnuts
3 free-range egg whites, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup (100g) fine raw sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups (500g) natural yoghurt (or use 250g cream cheese)
1-2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons Fresh As Raspberry Powder
About 1/4 cup fresh raspberries
- Line a baking tray with baking paper. Preheat oven to 140C degree Celsius.
- Toast the hazelnuts in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the skins crack. Tip into a tea towel and rub off the skins. Set aside to cool while preparing the meringue.
- Using an electric beater or stand mixer whisk egg whites and salt until stiff peaks form. Mix through the vinegar to stabilise, then slowly add the sugar one tablespoon at a time, mixing thoroughly between each addition. Add the vanilla and continue beating the meringue for five minutes until glossy.
- Process the toasted hazelnuts in a food processor until finely ground. Add to the meringue in batches, using a large spoon to gently fold into the mixture. Be careful not to over-mix.
- Dollop tablespoon-sized mounds on to the lined tray, leaving 2cm between each meringue, as they will spread a little as they cook. Place in the oven on the middle rack and bake for one hour then turn off the oven and leave to cool completely inside the oven. These can be made several days in advance and stored in an airtight container.
- To prepare the labneh scoop the yoghurt into a cheesecloth-lined (or use clean tea towel) sieve set over a bowl. Twist the cloth to secure and place a heavy bowl or can of food on top to add weight and press out the liquid whey. Place the sieve and bowl into the fridge for 5-6 hours until the labneh is the thickness of cream cheese. Tip into a bowl and add the raspberry powder and honey to taste, then mash in the raspberries.
- When ready to serve spread the labneh on to a meringue then sandwich with another. Repeat, and serve immediately.
*Recipe first published 6th December 2017 on Stuff.co.nz.