My belief that IKEA truly is the seventh circle of Hell, was borne out today when I spent 20 minutes waiting in a queue, indeed the queue, whilst the poor beleagured checkout operator was forced to manually enter the barcodes of all the customers’ items because the scanner had broken. Only on this till, mind. The other tills were all working perfectly, as was amply demonstrated when after 20 minutes someone had the bright idea of actually opening them. Aarggh! Every time I go I swear it will be the last time, and then they suck you in with their reasonably priced flat-pack furniture (reasonably priced that is, until you factor in the cost to your relationship/sanity of attempting to assemble it) and their crazy Scandawegian foodstuffs (miniature Elk sausages!) and somehow despite only going for one or two items that absolutely cannot be sourced elsewhere, you end up leaving having spent a minimum of £100. It is physically impossible to spend less than this in IKEA. Fact.
But it’s over now, and I am the proud owner of an (as yet un-built) cheap-as-chips sofabed to grace the room of MiniBB and a giant rug featuring brightly coloured buttons. I also bought a child friendly coat stand in the hope of encouraging Little BB to hang up his coats rather than leaving them strewn across the floor on the rare occasions he deigns to remove them from his person. The obligatory ‘didn’t know you needed it until you saw it’ purchase this time came in the form of a collapsible fabric tunnel for the small people to crawl through. This is mostly a purchase borne of the guilt of not having a lovely big garden for them to run around in for the six days of sunshine we have a year. Already I can tell it is almost certainly something I will live to regret.
In the meantime here are some mini meringues which I made for a friend’s four year old daughter’s birthday party. Such is the tyranny of gender stereotypes by this age, that her little (boy) friend refused a party-bag which came in pink and featured a princess. An alternative and blue, pirate based, bag had to be sourced to placate him. Oddly, no such issues arose with the mini meringues, which I found him hoarding in his hot little hands whilst crouched behind my friend’s sofa.
Recipe taken from Annie Rigg – Gifts from the Kitchen
Makes a lot (enough for a toddler party)
Ingredients:150g egg whites (from about 4-5 large eggs or here) 300g caster sugar Pinch salt ½ tsp pink/red food colouring gel 1-2tbsp raspberry flavouring Freeze dried raspberries (optional)
Pre-heat your oven to 200 400F/Gas Mark 6 and line two trays with non-stick baking paper.
Put the sugar into a small (clean) roasting tin or other ovenproof receptacle and heat the in pre-heated oven for about 7 minutes; or until hot to the touch (but don’t burn yourself, or it). Turn the oven down to 110C/225F/Gas Mark ¼ .
Place the egg whites into a spotless and dry mixing bowl (this is crucial as grease and water are like kryptonite to meringues and if a speck gets in you can whisk for days without getting anything more than soap suds out of your egg-whites. To avoid this try rubbing half a lemon or a some kitchen towel dipped in cider vinegar over the bowl) and whisk the egg whites until light and foamy.
As this can take up to 10 minutes or so, a free-standing electric mixer is far and away the best for this. Once the egg whites are ready, pour in the still warm sugar and whisk on a medium speed for a further 8-10 minutes. You are looking for the mixture to turn thick, smooth, and glossy. Much like a cast member from Made in Chelsea then. Oh and cold. Yep, analogy still holds.
Drizzle the flavouring over the mixture and then using a wooden skewer or toothpick (I keep a jar in my kitchen for pretty much this purpose exclusively – hey, what’s a little spinach teeth between friends?) dot the food colouring over it as well. The recipe said to use red, I opted for pink (in my head red = strawberry, pink = raspberry) and I think I could have afforded to be a bit more generous as they came out quite pale. If using the freeze-dried raspberries, scatter them over as well, then with a large metal spoon, very lightly fold the colour and flavouring in. The idea, which I have never managed to achieve, is to create a marble-like effect.
Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle and stick down the baking paper with a little meringue mixture in each corner and the middle. This prevents the paper from blowing all over the meringues as they cook. Gently squeeze out little stars of meringue onto the baking trays. The easiest way to do this is to hold the bag vertically above the tray and apply a small amount of pressure until the mixture squishes out, then lift up the bag to leave a peak.
Bake in the oven for 1/5-2hrs. The idea is that they are crisp on the outside and slightly chewy on the inside.
Leave to cool on the trays before removing and eating/storing etc.