Gascon mess



  • 300g of Agen prunes, ready to eat, soft and pitted
  • 50g of sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • 5 cardamom pods
  • 2 oranges, zested
  • 150ml of boiling water


  • 4 egg whites
  • 240g of caster sugar
  • 1l double cream
  • 25g of icing sugar
  • 100ml of Armagnac


1-Begin with the prunes as these will need to soak overnight. Place the boiling water in a pan over a medium heat and stir in the sugar until fully dissolved. Add the spices and the zest of 1 of the oranges and cook for a couple of minutes until the mixture thickens to form a syrup

2-Add the prunes to the pan and continue to simmer for 3 minutes in the spiced syrup. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely, then cover the pan and leave to marinate overnight

3-Preheat the oven to 100°C/gas mark 1/2. Line a large baking tray with baking paper

4-To make the meringues, place the egg whites in a large clean bowl and whisk until the mixture holds soft peaks when the whisk is lifted out. Start adding the sugar a little at a time, whisking continuously until the meringue is thick and glossy

5-Use a tablespoon to spoon mounds of the mixture on to the lined baking tray, leaving a little space for expansion between each one. Bake in the oven for 3 hours until crisp on the outside and a very pale golden colour. Cool and store until ready to serve

6-When ready to serve, place the double cream in a large bowl and add the icing sugar. Gently whip until soft and slightly thickened, then add the Armagnac and continue to whip until firm and voluminous – be careful not to overwhip as the cream will become stiff and dry

7-Drain the prunes, discarding the spices but reserving the syrup. Chop the prunes into halves or quarters (depending on their size) and roughly crush the meringues. Layer up the prunes, syrup, Armagnac cream and crushed meringues in serving glasses or bowls, finishing with a generous sprinkle of orange zest


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