As River Cottage chef, teacher, food writer and stylist Gill Meller visits Bristol to share the inspiration behind his cooking, we take a beautifully seasonal-looking leaf out of his debut cookery book…
Having worked closely with wholesome celeb chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for around a decade as part of the lovely River Cottage team – often popping up on the TV shows and authoring The River Cottage Handbook: Pigs and Pork last year – it was about time Gill Meller launched his own book, and we absolutely love the debut tome, Gather, whose title alone gives us all the autumnal feels. A celebration of seasonal British food, with each chapter featuring ingredients from different environments – from moorland to garden, farm to harbour and seashore to orchard – the collection of 120 original recipes focuses on simple cooking inspired by changing landscapes. Gill is officially launching Gather at River Cottage Canteen on 4 October at 7pm, with a special evening event that will see him explain the inspiration behind the book, and guests enjoying a delicious three-course dinner (£25 per person) based on recipes designed by Gill.
Blackberry & apple meringue with walnuts & elder (serves 8-12)
“Sometimes it’s hard to let go of the summer: warm mornings, holidays, swimming in the sea, Pimm’s, long lunches – and Pavlova. This Pavlova, though, is inspired by the autumn hedgerow, bursting with ripe elderberries, tart blackberries and sugary, fried windfall apples. Wet walnuts, found in markets and farm shops during the autumn period, are fresh, sweet and milky…”
• A dash of sunflower or walnut oil
• 2 small to medium dessert apples, quartered, cored, then each quarter cut into 2 or 3 wedges
• 1-2 teaspoons golden caster sugar (optional)
• 300ml (10½fl oz) double cream
• ½ vanilla pod, seeds scraped
• 2 handfuls of blackberries
• 1 or 2 sprays ripe elderberries, berries picked
• 35g (1¼oz) shelled wet walnuts, or walnuts, or hazelnuts, roughly broken for the meringue
• 4 egg whites
• 200g (7oz) golden caster sugar
- Heat the oven to 120°C/235°F/gas mark one. First, make the meringue. Place the egg whites in a large, clean bowl. Whisk with a hand-held electric whisk until they form and hold soft peaks. (You can do this in a food mixer with a whisk attachment, if you prefer.) Keeping the whisk running, add one large spoonful of sugar at a time, until all the sugar is incorporated. Continue to whisk for a further 6-8 minutes, until the meringue is thick, pale, smooth and glossy.
- Lightly grease a sheet of baking parchment and lay it on a large (at least 30 x 30cm/12 x 12in) flat baking tray. Spoon the meringue onto the parchment, trying to make a large round with slightly peaked edges – it doesn’t have to be perfect. Bake the meringue in the oven for 25-30 minutes, then turn down the heat to 90°C/185°F/gas mark ½. and bake for a further two hours, until the meringue has formed a crisp shell. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. (If you’re not using the meringue straight away, store it in an airtight container.)
- Heat the oil in a non-stick pan over a medium heat, then add the apple. If the apples are a little tart, add the caster sugar and stir.
- Cook the apples for 4-5 minutes, turning them over occasionally, until they have taken on a little colour and are beginning to soften. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool.
- In a clean bowl, whisk the double cream with the vanilla seeds until thick and pillowy. Spoon the cream over the meringue base, spreading it roughly out towards the edges.
- Arrange the cooked apple pieces over the cream. Scatter the blackberries over the top. Finally, sprinkle over the broken-up wet walnuts (or walnuts or hazelnuts) and the elderberries, and serve.