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Beryl Lee has lived in Otago most of her life.
She remembers childhood Sunday afternoon teas where there would always be something buttered, (loaf, crackers or sandwiches), something plain, a chocolate cake, and meringues. In those days meringues were just filled with cream but she likes to add a modern twist using rhubarb and rosewater or other flavours.
Rhubarb and rosewater meringues
Makes 24 good-sized meringues or 36 smaller ones.
4 egg whites at room temperature
250g sugar, warmed slightly
Rhubarb and rosewater filling:
3 stalks rhubarb
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp rosewater
a few drops of red food colouring (optional)
rose petals to serve (optional)
Put sugar in a bowl in the oven to warm to about hand heat.
Cover two oven trays with baking paper.
Beat egg whites until thick. Continue beating, adding the sugar a tablespoon at a time until all is whisked in and the mix is thick and glossy and holds its shape.
Drop dessert spoonfuls of the meringue on to a lined tray and bake for 1 to 1 hours at 150degC until dry but not browned. Allow to cool in the oven with the door ajar.
To make the filling:
Cut rhubarb into 2-3cm lengths. Put in a pot with the sugar and water and simmer gently until soft. Cool and strain to remove excess liquid. Stir the rosewater gently into the rhubarb, keeping it as whole as possible.
Whip cream until thick and gently stir in the rhubarb.
Sandwich meringues with a thick layer of cream between.
To serve, decorate with fresh or dried rose petals.
• Spare egg yolks can be used in savoury or sweet custards, or pie fillings. With a little water over them to keep them moist, they will last in the fridge for a few days.
• When dropping the meringue on to a tray, some people like to push the tops down so they don't burn, but if they are cooked at 150degC they should dry rather than brown.
• If you are making meringues for adults you might like to add a few drops of red food colouring after the sugar is incorporated to give them a pink tinge, but it may not be a good idea to expose children to the colouring additives.
• Cooked meringues will keep for some time in an airtight tin.
• When meringues are freshly sandwiched with cream they are crisp and brittle. Mrs Lee likes to leave them overnight to soften before serving.
• Alternative fillings are lemon curd and cream, lime and saffron curd with cream, or chunky hazelnut and coffee-flavoured cream.
• Rosewater is available from the international sections of good supermarkets or delis.
Thanks to Afife Harris and Speckled Hen Free Range Eggs of the Otago Farmers Market.