- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Effort: medium
For the meringue:
- 1.25 litres full-fat milk
- 2 vanilla pods, split lengthways
- 8 medium egg whites
- 275 g caster sugar
For the vanilla custard:
- 8 medium egg yolks
- 75 g caster sugar
For the caramel:
- 150 g caster sugar
1. For the meringue: Pour the milk into a large shallow pan, about 30 cm in diameter and 7.5 cm deep, and bring to simmering point. Scrape the vanilla seeds into the milk with the point of a sharp knife and whisk to disperse them; add the split vanilla pods, too. Bring to the boil and reduce the heat to a slow simmer for 5 minutes to infuse the milk with the vanilla.
2. Whisk the egg whites and sugar with an electric beater on full power for at least 10 minutes, until the mixture forms shiny, firm peaks. With a large spoon, carefully scoop out 4 or 6 large chunks of meringue. Poach in the gently simmering milk for 5 minutes on each side, taking great care not to damage the delicate meringue when turning it over. If the milk begins to boil and rise out of the pan, turn down the heat and gently push the meringue sideways so the build-up of heat and steam can escape. Carefully lift the poached meringue on to a baking tray and set aside. Strain the milk into a saucepan.
3. For the custard: In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the caster sugar, then gradually whisk in the reserved hot milk. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over a medium heat for 45 minutes, until the custard begins to thicken. Stir constantly to distribute the heat and lift the spoon every 1015 seconds to check if the sauce is thickening (when it is ready it will coat the back of the spoon).
4. Strain immediately into a large bowl and continue stirring for 2 minutes to stop any further cooking, otherwise the custard could scramble (if this happens, dont panic; pour it immediately into a blender or food processor and blend for 3040 seconds so it regains its consistency). Leave to cool, then chill.
5. For the caramel: Put 50ml water in a small, heavy-based saucepan and scatter the sugar over it in an even layer. Let the sugar absorb the water for a few minutes, then place the pan on a medium heat and leave, without stirring, until the sugar has dissolved and formed a syrup. Simmer until it turns to a golden brown caramel. When cooked, place the bottom of the saucepan immediately in cold water to stop the caramel cooking any further.
6. To serve, pour the custard into large serving bowls and, with a fish slice, carefully place the poached meringues on top of the vanilla custard to create your floating dessert islands. Pour a fine coating of caramel over the poached meringues. Wait a few seconds until the caramel sets before serving.
Raymond Blanc has donated this recipe to support the leading conservation organisation WWF for this years Earth Hour.
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