A couple of weeks ago I had been invited to attend the launch of Valli Little’s new book under the Delicious series: Love to Eat at The Grounds of Alexandria’s Potting Shed. It was a sumptuously beautiful rustic location, with hanging pots from the ceiling trailing vines down over our heads, and huge fresh pomegranates, bunches of grapes, and mixed lush green foliage spilling down the centres of our communal dining tables mixed in with potted fresh flowers as table runners.
We feasted on The Potting Shed’s signature Charcuterie Grazing Board, followed by a three-course meal of recipes from the Love to Cook book: entree of Corn Cakes with Mexican Green Sauce, main of Harissa Salmon with Pearl Couscous, and dessert was Japanese Cheesecake with Raspberries. Each paired with a beautiful glass of Grant Burge wine.
I was also given the opportunity to meet Valli herself and have my copy of her book signed. I’ve been run off my feet recently with end-of-year work deadlines and Christmas preparations that I have not yet had the opportunity to try anything from her decadent-looking new book. Definitely in the new year or even during the Christmas break.
The book is a little different from the previous Delicious books, as its focus is on a variety of world flavours taken from Valli’s travels. 120 recipes covering childhood favourites, fast weekday meals, and of course, fuss-free yet impressive food for entertaining a crowd. Valli herself is a natural hostess, moving among the tables during the course of the lunch and posing for photos while chatting to people about the book and giving recipe tips and advice.
As guests to the event, I was gifted with a glorious huge bag of delicious things, including some paella rice, French sea salt flakes, and Louisiana Crystal hot sauce just to name a few. And there was also a huge pile of jars of this wonderful Bonne Maman caramel spread for all to take. Although I often make my own caramel, I’m certainly not going to say no to one of these!
I was having a quiet afternoon at home one weekend and in the mood for baking (what’s new). I had some leftover egg whites and inspired by some Christmas recipes I’ve seen around, decided to make these wonderfully chewy, salty and sweet Salted Caramel Meringues. So wonderfully easy to make, rustic and textured, and no matter how they are presented they look divine. Wrap them up in clear cellophane or simply pile into a box for gifts. Or munch on them solo. I can guarantee you will sneak at least two for yourself.
To make approximately eight meringues, you will need:
- 2 egg whites;
- 1/2 cup (110g) caster sugar;
- 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar;
- 1 tablespoon caramel sauce. If you want to make your own, you can find my go-to caramel sauce recipe here;
- Sea salt flakes, for sprinkling.
Preheat the oven to 150 degrees Celcius. Place the egg whites in a bowl and whisk with an electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, waiting 30 seconds before adding more. Once all the sugar has been added, whisk for a further 6 minutes or until stiff and glossy. Check if the sugar is all dissolved by dipping your finger in (with the beater off, please!) and rubbing a bit of meringue between two fingertips to look for grittiness.
If you don’t do this, you’ll get weepy meringues later and end up with sticky hot sugar syrup all over your oven tray while it bakes. My Sister, who’s recently been starting to get into baking, saw this syrup when she was making meringues for the first time and thought “ooh, toffee!” and reached to dip her finger into it. Nuh-uh. Keep in mind that liquid sugar boils at a higher temperature than water. She burnt both her finger and her tongue. I don’t think she’ll be doing that again.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the vinegar and whisk for a further two minutes or until glossy and combined.
Draw eight 10cm circles on two large pieces of non-stick baking paper to fit two large baking trays, allowing room to spread. I just used the base of an old pasta sauce jar to draw the circles. Make sure you draw it with pencil and flip the paper over once drawn so you don’t get pencil on your meringue bottoms.
Divide the meringue between the circles.
Top each with a teaspoon of the caramel and using a palette knife or skewer, swirl the mixture and spread to the edge of each circle. Don’t over-swirl it as you will lose the effect, and don’t be overly pedantic about it because the meringue collapses and the caramel sauce bubbles up regardless so it won’t look too much like what you first put into the oven.
Sprinkle with sea salt flakes and reduce the oven heat to 120 degrees Celcius. Bake for one hour or until crisp to the touch. Turn the oven off and allow the meringues to cool in the oven for 30 minutes.
Crunch, chew, devour and enjoy their sticky and salty sweetness 😉