SUSPIROS – SIGHS
Meringues are everywhere in Portugal. You can make them & have them plain, or more dressed up as this lovely, simple dessert here.
Keep the egg yolks for making pasteis de nata. Makes many
4 egg whites, at room temperature
a good pinch of salt
225g (1 cup) caster sugar
a few drops vanilla extract
Preheat your oven to 100'C. Line 2 oven trays with baking paper.
Beat the egg whites & salt to very firm peaks with electric beaters in a clean metal bowl. Beat in the sugar, in small batches, until the mixture is bright white & almost climbing up on the beaters. Beat in the vanilla & spoon into a large piping bag fitted with a fluted nozzle.
Pipe smallish meringues (I make them small – just one squeeze of my big orange piping bag), leaving a bit of space between them for puffing up. Bake for about 1 hour until firm & crisp. Turn the oven off & leave the meringues inside with the door ajar so they cool down slowly. When completely cool, store in an airtight container.
photo by Manos Chatzikonstantis, styling by Michail Touros
DATES, FIGS, ALMONDS & MERINGUES
Inspired by the suspiros (meringues) & beautiful bag of almonds we brought bag from the Algarve. This is like a rough Portuguese trifle. It's about right for 2 people but very easy to change the amounts to be for as many as necessary.
185 ml(¾ cup) cream
4 fresh dates, stoned, halved or quartered
4 or 5 plump dried figs, quartered
1 tablespoon soft brown sugar
3 tablespoons brandy
about 16 whole almonds with skin, rough chopped
2-3 small meringues per person
Whip the cream into soft peaks that will hold up on a plate.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan with the dates, figs & brown sugar &, when it starts to sizzle, add the brandy.
Cook until gooey & just starting to crisp, but still with some sauce. Leave to cool a little.
Toast the nuts in a small dry frying pan until a bit golden, taking care not to burn them. Leave to cool.
Spoon some of the dates & figs onto a plate & top with a generous blob of cream, another spoonful of dates & figs & sauce, scattering of nuts, a sprinkle of cinnamon & a couple of whole or crushed meringues on the top.