It is officially BBQ season, and by that I mean the season of flooded gazeboes, burnt chicken and soggy, rained-on salads is upon us. In England, it is a well-known fact that at the mention of the word Barbecue, a storm is imminent. At the first glimpse of sun, supermarkets sell out of meat and plastic kitchenware, and barbeques are rapidly dragged out of the shed and de-greased to remove any evidence of last summer’s antics - in the hope that the sun will stay out long enough for at least the halloumi kebabs to cook through. I love Barbeques and to be honest it is always more fun with a bit of rain. People rarely carry memories of a well-cooked burger through life with them, but they'll always cling on to the image of their other half or their dad panting over an inundated bbq, looking as if they are working their way through an impossible assault course.
For me, desserts were the highlight of any al fresco dining experience. Eton mess - as well as being the nations favourite Spring/Summer dessert - has always been mine too. However, not only do I prefer now not to eat dairy (cream) or refined sugar and additives (meringue), I also prefer the taste of this coconut version, and don't miss the aftertaste or sugar coating on my teeth that were often side effects that accompanied an eton mess bender.
My own interpretation of this traditional treat is dairy free, sugar free and gluten free. I know you probably have little faith in this statement, and are probably thinking, if it is true, it’s probably going to taste impossibly revolting. It took me a while to come up with a worthy substitute that would provide the same crunchy sweetness as a meringue. There are three ways you can do it. Sub the meringue for plain toasted coconut flakes. Sub the meringue for homemade, naturally sweetened toasted coconut flakes. Or invest in some Beetroot or Limited Edition Strawberries & Cream Qnola (available mid June). The coconut flakes develop a smoky flavour as they toast, and, combined with a little coconut palm sugar, create the perfect level of sweetness. I swear when you bite into them the coconut milk is released making the flavour incredible and increasing the creaminess to the entire dessert. The Qnola adds a much more flavoursome crunch to the Mess - making it fruitier and more vibrant - not to mention much for nutrient and protein rich. Add to either of these coconut yogurt or thick coconut milk for a dairy free alternative to thick whipping cream, or if you aren't cautious about eating dairy, some organic natural probiotic yoghurt.
2 Tins Coconut Milk (or Coyo or Natural Probiotic Yoghurt)
1/2 One Bar of Creamed Coconut, melted
1 Teaspoon Coconut Palm Sugar, Wildflower/Raw/Manuka Honey or Agave, optional
200g Toasted Coconut Flakes or Beetroot or S & C Qnola (or a combination of both)
50-60g Flaked Almonds
2 Tablespoons Chia Seeds
2 Tablespoons Desiccated Coconut
1 Tablespoon Maca and/or Baobab
1-2 Tablespoons Fresh Mint, diced
150g Strawberries, chopped or gently mashed
50g Raspberries, chopped or gently mashed
100g Blueberries, chopped or gently mashed
1 Teaspoon Fresh Lemon Juice
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Powder/Seeds/Bean Paste, optional
Ripe Avocado, cubed
Homemade Berry Chia Jam
Chopped Medjool Dates
Start by whisking the solid part of the coconut milk (or your yoghurt of choice) to whip some air into it. Fill a small bowl with boiling water and place the sealed bar of creamed coconut inside to soften it. Whilst it melts, chop your berries, and prepare your avocado or exotic fruits, if using. When the creamed coconut has completely melted, snip one corner off and add half of it to your cream mixture. Whisk again to combine. When the mixture begins to thicken, stop whisking and stir through your berries, chia seeds, honey or sweetener of choice, maca, fresh mint, lemon juice and half of the coconut flakes. Stir to combine and then either stir through the remaining coconut flakes or your Qnola, or use them to top each dessert to ensure they stay as crunchy as possible.
+ You can also use homemade cashew cream, cashew pudding, coconut cream or almond cream. Either blend 1 cup soaked nuts with 1 cup nut milk and a little coconut oil for a thick, whipping-style cream, or blend the soaked nuts with 3/4 cup water, strain the mixture, and then blend again until it becomes a smooth thickness you are happy with (this will become more like a runny cream).