Most Monday nights we try to do dinner; Ollie and Jason, Francesca and myself, flatmates, sisters, a few strays we have picked up along the way. Sometimes we are four, sometimes eight. Sometimes the meals are elaborate multiple course affairs, where we sit around drinking tea or wine for hours, only to realise it’s nearly midnight and about time we drag ourselves home. Sometimes they are simple, short and sweet. But there is always cheese, wine and fruit paste. And nearly always dessert. They are a great start to our week.
During the past few weeks we have made cannelloni with spinach from our garden, spaghetti bolognaise cooked slowly in Jason’s Le Creuset, roast red onion and kumara, Nigella’s green beans with butter and lemon, we have made gravy and apple cake. We have eaten a lot of cheese.
Last Monday Jason made Strawberry Cloud Cake. It was delightful, cold and light, with little air bubbles that sort of carried the flavour along. Most definitely worth sharing, I told him. It is less of a cake, I think, and more of a pie with a candy floss pink, softly whipped filling. It sat nestled in our freezer while we ate our very wintery, too wintery, beer and beef stew.
The weather has warmed up recently, a late summer hit. Some days are warm and cloud free, barely a ruffle of a breeze. All I want to eat is crisp salads, and melons, and strawberries. I want grilled pineapple with mint sugar. I want fresh tomato and basil salsa.
And then, Jason arrived with his Strawberry Cloud Cake. It is a little bit like frozen ambrosia, slightly sweet, but not overly so. As you put your fork through the dessert it is the texture of marshmellow, maybe a soft moose, and then you hit the biscuit base below. It breaks cleanly into bite sized chunks, each one like a little pink island. The biscuit base holds it all together; it could be too buttery, too savoury perhaps. But then, you realise, this base with the toasty taste of coconut is just what the pie needs to intensify the flavour of the strawberries. It is just what I needed too.
Strawberry Cloud Cake
From Annabel Langbein, Free Range in the City
For the base:
150g plain sweet biscuits (made into fine crumbs)
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
1 1/2 teasspoon cinnamon
100g butter, melted
Line a 26-28cm springform tin with baking paper. Mix base ingredients together and press into tin, along the base and sides. Refrigerate while preparing the filling.
For the filling:
2 egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 punnet strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Place all filling ingredients in a clean dry bowl of an electric beater. Beat on high for 6-8 mins until mixture is very thick and fluffy and the sugar is dissolved. You should not feel any gritty sugar after this time. If you do beat for longer. Spoon over chilled base, smooth top, cover with baking paper and freeze for at least 4 hours. Will keep in an airtight container in the freezer for up to one month.
Serve with raspberry or strawberry compote, or fresh berries.