Eton Mess with Rhubarb Compote

Eton Mess with Rhubarb Compote

I’m not a dessert person. I would rather have two starters and a main at a restaurant than eat something sweet and heavy at the end of a meal. With one caveat. Eton Mess. It is my all time favourite dessert and if it appears on the menu, it’s enough to make me change my non-desserty ways.

I don’t have it very often. Perhaps that’s why it’s up there. It’s a rare treat.

It’s the beginning of field grown rhubarb season. Rhubarb is one of my favourite vegetable fruits. I love it’s tartness. When I was growing up, when it appeared in the market, it would be bought up and taken home wrapped in a blanket of yesterday's newspaper.

Long, firm ruby red stems would strew the table beside bags of flour, slabs of butter and bowls of caster sugar, ready to make pies which would be cooked on dinner plates.

I would help to chop the stems into pieces to go into the pan to cook down. I would take a thumb sized piece and put it to my mouth, taking a little nibble to see if I could handle it without sugar. Invariably, the piece went straight into a bowl of sugar before I was able to eat it. These days, I don’t need quite so much sugar. Just enough to take the edge off the tartness.

When I made this recipe, I couldn’t wait long enough for the compote to cool before slathering it over the meringues and cream and the cream turned into a little bath at the bottom of the glass. It made no difference to the flavour. You might have more patience!


400ml double cream, whisked to soft peaks

6 meringue nests

For the compote

500g rhubarb

100g unrefined sugar

5 cardamom pods

1 thumb sized piece of ginger, minced


Place all the ingredients for the compote in a pan and bring to a simmer. Cook for 5-8 minutes until the rhubarb has cooked down. I like to cook my compote down to a mush. You can also remove from the heat, while the rhubarb still has its shape.

Divide the meringues and cream between six glasses or bowls. Place a dollop of the compote on top and swirl through.

Eat quickly, before the meringues go soft.