Floating islands with rhubarb compote

Rachel Humphrey, head chef at Le Gavroche, makes a delicious dessert of crisp meringues floating on crème anglaise with a vivid sauce
Floating islands with rhubarb compote
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 4
  • Cook Time: 50 minutes
  • Prep Time: 40 minutes plus infusing and cooling time
  • Effort: hard


For the rhubarb compote

  • 500 sweet white wine, (e.g. Sauternes)
  • 150 caster sugar
  • 2 vanilla pods, halved lengthways
  • 8 sticks rhubarb, trimmed and sliced into 4cm chunks

For the crème anglaise

  • 500 ml milk
  • 1 vanilla pod, halved lengthways
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 120 g caster sugar

For the meringues

  • 6 egg whites
  • 340 g caster sugar
  • 300 g caster sugar, for caramel and liquid poaching


1. For the rhubarb: bring the wine to the boil with the sugar and vanilla pods, add the rhubarb and partially cover with a lid. Bring to the boil and simmer until the rhubarb is soft but still holds its shapes - 3-5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the rhubarb. Remove from the heat, leave to cool, then drain in a colander, saving the juice for a refreshing cordial drink.

2. For the crème anglaise: bring the milk to the boil with the vanilla pod. Remove the pan from the heat, cover and leave to infuse for 10 minutes.

3. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until thick and creamy. Bring the milk back to the boil and pour on to the yolk mixture, whisking continuously. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring continuously with a spatula, until the custard thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon. Set aside to cool.

4. For the meringues: beat the egg whites with a whisk until frothy, then add 340g caster sugar. Continue to whisk until firm and glossy.

5. Bring a large saucepan of water with 2 tbsp of the remaining caster sugar to the boil. Using a big kitchen spoon dipped in cold water, scoop out a big island of meringue and plunge the spoon into simmering sweetened water. The island should come off the spoon and poach in this liquid. Carry on doing this until all the eggs whites are used, not forgetting to flip the islands over after 3-4 minutes to cook on both sides.

6. Once cooked, gently take the islands out of the liquid with a slotted spoon. Place on a rack to cool and drain.

7. Heat the remaining sugar in a heavy pan until liquid and golden. When the meringues are cold, pour the freshly made caramel over the top.

8. To serve, place a large spoonful compote in each bowl, followed by some crème anglaise, and finally the caramel-coated floating islands.

9. Cooks tip: try serving this dish in glass ice cream bowls so you can see the layers.

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