If this was one of those cheap, over-the-top adverts on one of the teleshopping channels, it would go something like this (imagine a dramatic Barry White type voice-over):
“Still worried and undecided about your festive dessert for Christmas or New Year?”
“Wanting to impress your guests, but don’t have much time to spend on it?”
“Look no further”
And zoom in on of this Gascon Mess!
Gascon Mess is an indulgent take on Eton Mess, a classic British summer dessert of crushed meringues, cream and raspberries.
This seasonal one rings the changes with prunes, cognac, orange and hazelnut.
It not only looks and tastes the part, it’s also ridiculously easy to put together. Well, apart from the meringue on this occasion that is.
The hazelnut meringue recipe I have made umpteen times left me with soggy frisbees this time. Epic Fail. So I used last minute shop-bought meringues on this occasion, and folded ground hazelnuts through the cream instead.
Just goes to show not everything goes perfectly smooth in my kitchen all the time every time either!
Wishing you the best of British if you’re making your own meringues, which, to be fair, would truly lift this to yet another level.
The rest is simple: plump Agen prunes soaked in cognac, orange juice and warming spices, cream whipped with cognac, orange zest and a little hazelnut. Then roughly crush meringues into large chunks and present the lot in a large balloon glass for full impact.
Scale the recipe up or down as needed. And make sure you provide long handled spoons, so your guests can scrape up every last bit of heavenly delight.
Gascon Mess (serves 4 – GF LC V RSF)
This is based on a recipe from Pascal Aussignac on Great British Chefs, one of my favourite sites for recipe inspiration.
100 ml boiling water
100 ml cognac, brandy or Armagnac plus 2 tbsp
Zest and juice of 1 orange
Zest of another half orange
250 gr Agen prunes (mine were already soaked in cognac, as that’s all Ocado delivered at Christmas time, so my resulting Gascon Mess was, well, uhm, extra boozy…)
1 cinnamon stick
8 cardamom pods
2 star anise
2 tbsp Natvia sugar replacement or other refined sugar alternative, or 75 gr caster sugar
4 portions of meringue, shop-bought or homemade (a handful pp if homemade or cut from a larger meringue, 1 nest pp if individual shop-bought ones)
250 ml whipping cream
60 gr hazelnuts, ground in a food processor or thoroughly bashed in a sealed plastic bag with a rolling pin (or cognac bottle to stay in the “spirit” of things. Boom boom)
Add the boiling water, orange juice, 100 ml cognac and 2/3 of the sugar (replacement) to a sauce pan and heat on the hob over medium heat until simmering and the sugar has dissolved.
Add the spices and 1/3 of the orange zest. Simmer for 5 mins or so.
Add the prunes, take off the heat and allow to cool. Cover and allow to marinate in the fridge overnight.
Whip the cream with the remaining sugar (replacement), then add the hazelnuts (reserving 2 tbsp for garnish), 2 tbsp cognac and 1/3 of the orange zest. Chill until needed.
When ready to serve, drain the prunes through a sieve, reserving the liquid. Discard the spices. Halve or quarter the prunes, depending on size.
Add 2-3 tbsp of the prune liquid to each glass. Add a blob of whipped cream and a few chunks of meringue.
Add a few pieces of prune, then repeat: a blob of cream, a chunk or 2 of meringue, a few pieces of prune until generously portioned in each glass.
Sprinkle some of the remaining crushed hazelnut and remaining orange zest over each glass. Serve straight away or the meringue will get soft.
Ready-bought cognac or brandy soaked Agen prunes, ready-made meringue nests, shop-bought thick brandy cream (readily available in the UK around Christmas time, there are even orange or tangerine versions, if you want to add the orange touch), ground almonds, shop bought chocolate sauce.
Mix some ground almonds through the brandy cream, pour a little chocolate sauce in the bottom of a large glass, then layer up the rest as per the recipe, finishing with a sprinkling of ground almonds and a drizzle of chocolate sauce.
Or plate up as I did with the leftovers below.
Place a meringue nest or left over meringue chunks on a plate, top with leftover orange and hazelnut cream and prunes, repeat. Sprinkle over ground hazelnuts. Drizzle a little salted butter chocolate sauce over top, if you have it. Yum.