Eaton Mess with strawberries and rhubarb cream

This is such a lovely Springy dish to enjoy as the weather warms up. In Brisbane, we haven't seen rain for 30 days and, let me tell you, I am feeling it! I love the rain although I have enjoyed being able to hit the strawberry farms quite often and make things like this!

A recent trip to the farm actually left me with a bundle of strawberries that needed to be used. I had 4 ageing egg whites in the fridge and a little bunch of rhubarb to try… for the first time ever! This only meant one thing; Eaton Mess for dessert.

I didn't know much about rhubarb, but I chopped off any trace of the poisonous leaves and threw it into the oven to cook away any bitterness. After half an hour, I was surprised at how soft and smooth this stringy fruit had become. I was even more surprised at the bright, berry-like taste. This stalky fruit was perfect mixed into cream and served with crunchy meringue and fresh berries.

What you'll need:
1 bunch of rhubarb (minus the leaves), chopped into 1cm lengths
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

4 egg whites, room temperature
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon cornflour

500g strawberries, hulled and halved
1 tablespoon caster sugar

300ml thickened cream
3 tablespoons icing sugar

What to do:
Preheat the oven to 150C and line two baking trays with non-stick paper. Line another baking tray with aluminium foil.

Combine the rhubarb pieces with the caster sugar and vanilla bean paste. Tip onto the baking tray lined with foil and bake for half an hour. When cooked, the pieces should squish when touched. Once cooked, move the rhubarb from the tray and into a bowl and mash it up. Whip the cream to stiff peaks and fold in the icing sugar and rhubarb.

Beat the egg whites on high until soft peaks form. (See note for more information.) Gradually sprinkle in the sugar and cornflour. Continue to beat for 5-7 minutes or until the meringue is super white and glossy. It should be firm and hold it's shape.
Place large spoonfuls onto prepared trays and bake for 60 minutes. After the hour, turn the oven off and leave the meringues in to cool.

Combine the strawberries and a tablespoon of caster sugar. Set aside.

When the meringues are cooled, break them apart and divide between 4-6 bowls. Divide the strawberries and cream equally too and enjoy!

NOTE: When the egg whites are at soft peaks it will resemble foam. When it becomes tiny, frothy bubbles turn off the beater and grab a spoonful. Turn the spoon upside down; if the egg white clings on, it is at soft peaks. If not, keep beating until it does so.