Memories of summer: Hibiscus meringues and Red mullet with sweet & sour scallions

There’s a chest freezer in my shed that’s a bit like a tombola inside. In the summer it’s loaded with berries, rhubarb and rosehips and in the autumn bags of apples, damsons and elderberries are added. It’s potluck and always a surprise to find things that I’d forgotten about.

hen I’m making pasta, I use a lot of egg yolks and freeze the whites. Older eggs make better meringues and the defrosted whites whip up into successful and impressive ones. Now is the ideal time to use up this produce and brighten a dull day with memories of summer.

Flavouring meringue with something zingy cuts through the intense sweetness that this dessert tends to have. Hibiscus tea is now widely available. Grind or finely chop some of the deep magenta coloured petals and add to the whipped sugary egg white. Sandwich them with some cream and frozen berries cooked into a compote. If your freezer isn’t seasonally stocked, you can buy tasty frozen berries in the supermarket.

Lemons are perfectly in season at the moment. To capture their essence for future months the zest can be made into limoncello. It’s simple to make, just soak the peelings in vodka for a week then mix with sugar syrup and strain. It’s a great toot to have with the meringues.

There’s some fantastic locally caught fish available at the moment. The fishmonger near me has some very impressive specimens on display including a very fine turbot.

One of my favourites, red mullet is at its peak now and easier on the pocket than the luxurious turbot. It’s red, mottled skin belies translucent, mother of pearl white flesh. Your fishmonger will fillet, scale and pin bone the fish for you. When you fry them in the pan the skin becomes even more pronounced. In the recipe here it’s paired with sweet and sour scallions and a velvety cider butter sauce to cut through the richness of the fish.

Hibiscus meringues with berries and cream and Limoncello

What you’ll need

4 egg whites

225g castor sugar

1 teaspoon ground hibiscus

2 teaspoons cornflour

1 teaspoon vinegar

Method

Whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl to soft peaks then slowly add the sugar. When the sugar is fully incorporated whisk the cornflour and vinegar and then fold in the hibiscus. Spoon into a piping bag and pipe onto a tray lined with baking paper. Bake in a 120oc oven until firm and golden – about 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the meringues to cool in the oven.

For the berry compote

250g mixed frozen berries

100g castor sugar

Simmer together until sugar has dissolved.

Use to sandwich the meringues with some whipped cream.

For the limoncello

4 lemons

750ml vodka

250ml water

175g castor sugar

Peel the lemons with vegetable peeler into strips. Freeze the lemon juice for future use.

Place in a bowl and cover with the vodka. Cover with cling and leave for a week. Boil the sugar and water until the sugar is dissolved. Cool and mix into the vodka mixture. Strain the liquid into bottles and seal. Add to sparkling wine, soda water or gin and tonic.

Red mullet with sweet and sour scallions and cider butter sauce

What you’ll need

4 red mullet fillets (around 175g each), scaled and pin boned (ask your fishmonger

1 tablespoon oil

Salt

25g butter

Method

Pat the fish dry with kitchen paper and season with sea salt.

Heat the oil in non-stick pan (if you don’t have non-stick line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper) and place fish skin side down. Cook for a minute then dot the butter around. When fish skin is crispy (after about 3 minutes) flip and cook on the other side for a minute. Spoon the butter around the fish.

For the sweet and sour scallions

1 bunch scallions

1 tablespoon oil

25g castor sugar

25ml vinegar

25ml water

Salt and pepper to taste

1 teaspoon chopped dill

Cut the scallions into 4 lengths. Heat the oil in a pan until smoking and add the scallions. Season with salt and cook until wilted down. Add the sugar, water and vinegar and cook for 5 minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed. Add the dill.

For the cider butter sauce

1 shallot, finely chopped

200ml dry cider

2 tablespoons double cream

150g cold butter diced

Boil the shallot and cider until all the liquid has evaporated. Add the cream and heat through. Lower the heat and whisk the butter in a cube at a time until incorporated. Strain through a sieve and serve with the fish and scallions.

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Belfast Telegraph