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My meringue masterclass

According to The Meringue Girls, it is not just the technology industry that is subject to constant upgrades and modernisation, the age-old, quintessentially English tradition of Afternoon Tea is, too. Say ‘too-da-loo’ to scones laden with clotted cream, miniature meringues are the way forward. I went along to one of the girls’ meringue classes in Hackney, with the intention of mastering the art of creating beautiful, deliciously flavoured ‘meringue kisses’.

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Held at Meringue Girl HQ in their warehouse kitchen space, it was an evening affair and, as our group of eight hurried inside one-by-one to escape the rainy October weather, we were welcomed with glasses of Prosecco, a table filled with savoury snacks and, of course, a menagerie of meringues.

It was an incredibly well organised event run by the girls themselves. Their knowledge and experience in all things meringue was made clear as they were circling the kitchen ensuring our mixture was ok, stopping at each meringue-making-station for a little chat. Their  recipe is no secret and you can find it on their website here. But I would challenge anyone who doesn’t need hands-on-help from the experts. It’s an art that is not easy to replicate – their recipe relies on impeccable timing and uses a very particular piping technique.

Having made the perfect meringue-mixture, we were let loose on their impressive collection of flavourings and toppings. I went for a lemon and strawberry meringue, swirling pink and yellow food colouring through the bright white mixture and secondly a lavender flavour meringue with purple food colouring and peanut sprinkles. I’m going to be honest and admit that the lavender and peanut flavour meringues were quite revolting and I definitely didn’t discover a new, innovative flavour combination there. Nevertheless, I returned home with boxes and boxes piled high with beautiful sugary treats.

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I have since tried making the meringues at home with great success. I made rose and pistachio flavoured ones which had pale pink colouring pulled through and sprinkled with crushed pistachio nuts and then violet flavoured meringues which were meant to be a pretty pale lilac colour but turned out to be a bright indigo. I served them at a dinner party and there was not a sugary crumb left.

If you’d like to try your hand at making these gorgeous meringues, I would recommend investing in a silicone baking mat (I got mine from Lakeland Limited) and also Two Chicks’ egg whites in a carton (you can get these in most large supermarkets and they can be frozen for up to two years- so when you find some – stock up!).

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Afternoon Tease? Yes please!

Today was a sunny autumn day spent perusing the streets of Cambridge with my good friend E. We worked up an appetite on our non-urgent mission to find pom-poms (for my knitted blanket) and a necklace (for her birthday) and so retired to Afternoon Tease for…afternoon tea!

The sounds of busy shoppers and ringing bicycles faded away as we arrived at number 13 Kings Street. Tucked away behind one of the main shopping areas in Cambridge, the relaxed, echoey space in which Afternoon Tease is situated, deceives its central location.

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On entering the cafe, which is illuminated by natural light and a minimalist colour scheme, your eyes are immediately drawn to the chalk board filled with tea and coffee options and the counter, laden with an array of delicious homemade cakes. There are old favourites (an award-winning chocolate brownie or a slice of carrot and walnut cake), as well as something interestingly flavoured to try (chocolate and Guinness cake with cream cheese icing or a pear and sultana bunt with caramel icing).  The choice of cake attracts an equally wide range of customers; a cluster of students sit out the front chattering over cups of tea or coffee. Inside, a young professional types away on his MacBook, stopping every so often for a sip of coffee and a bite of cake, while a little girl in school uniform is enjoying an after-school treat with her Mum.

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We represented the ‘two young ladies catching up’ demographic. I chose the chocolate and Guinness cake with an English breakfast tea while E went for the carrot and walnut cake with a latte. We chatted for hours, admiring the mis-match crockery, the charming 1950’s sideboard and the display of fresh flowers and I was very satisfied with my choice of cake until, as we were leaving, I saw a lemon and pistachio loaf arrive on the counter, which only reaffirmed my desire to visit again, and soon!