This mouthwatering meringue takes a bit of work – but the end result makes it well worth the effort
- For the meringue:
- 4 egg whites (room temperature)Generous pinch of cream of tartar
- 200g (7oz) caster sugar
- 3-4tsp vanilla extract
- For the topping:
- 70g (2½ oz) caster sugar
- ½ x 435g can chestnut purée
- For the filling:
- 450ml (16fl oz) whipping cream
- 1-2tbsp caster sugar
- 1tsp vanilla extract
- 1 egg white (room temperature)
- Curls of plain dark chocolate, to decorate
- Icing sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 120ºC (250ºF, gas mark 1-2). Grease a baking sheet and line with greaseproof paper, then mark with a 23cm/9in circle.
In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and whisk until soft peaks form. Beat in 2tbsp sugar until the mixture holds stiff peaks when you lift the whisk. Fold in the remaining sugar and the vanilla.
Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm (½ in) plain or starred tube, and pipe a large round base on to the prepared sheet. Bake for 1-1½ hours or until the meringue is firm to the touch. If it browns during baking, reduce the heat. Carefully transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool.
To make the topping, briefly boil together 175ml (6fl oz) water with the sugar to make a thin sugar syrup. Set aside to cool, then beat enough syrup into the chestnut purée to make it thin enough to pipe but thick enough to hold its shape. Set to one side.
Whip the cream until stiff, then add sugar to taste and the vanilla extract. Whisk the egg white in a separate bowl until stiff peaks form, then fold in the cream. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a star tube. Place the meringue on a serving platter and pipe the cream on to it in high swirls – like a mountain.
Pipe the chestnut purée mix on top with a fine nozzle, so it looks like a bird’s nest. Finally, decorate with curls of chocolate and then dust with icing sugar.
Check the meringue regularly while it's baking. If it browns, just reduce the heat.