Banoffee ‘Mess’



Even the best of intentions can end up busted. First- thank you to so many of you who wrote such lovely emails to me after last week’s sleep deprived brushes with the outer perimeter of sanity.  In this month of madness we’ve absently poured wine into our empty pasta bowl instead of glasses, become over sensitive about stubbed toes, lost sunglasses and keys like foreign change and occasionally wept for very little reason.  Like sadness, it seems exhaustion has a season and this too, shall pass. I can’t guarantee when, but I’ve been told it should be sometime soon. A recent diagnosis of  reflux, some drugs to administer to the little one, sterner bed time routine and reorganisation of furniture into a more appropriate nursery all seem to be helping a little. Ah, life with small people.

In the mean time, we roll with what we can. I had grand intentions for this flavour combination. It was designed as dessert for our New Years Eve celebrations. I wanted something that would be a fitting close to a year of which saw our life – and our hearts- spread across two countries. It would take some of the best of both and meld them as one. The was banoffee – that classic English, borderline sickly sweet combination of toffee and banana with cream – and the antipodean summer dessert hero of pavlova.

It was almost there- except my meringue was a little flat (thanks Sydney humidity) and the base broke when I tried to parcel it into a tupperware for transit . I swore a little. I messaged our host- who knows all too well what it’s like to exist on four and a half hours of splintered sleep for back to back months. ‘Should I make another one?’ ‘Bugger it’ was her response. ‘We’ll make do. More time for us on the balcony with Bollinger’.  She’s a very wise woman, for many reasons.

So instead, like the creator of the ‘Eton Mess’; a dessert rumoured to come to genesis after meringues for pudding at a posh boarding school were broken, a Banoffee ‘Mess’ was born.

And what a beautiful pile of ruin it was too. An addictive one. The chocolate meringue to me is actually perfect in rustic shards- it helps you  better appreciate the marshmallow squidge of the interior (care of the vinegar and cornflour folded through before baking). The cocoa helps to temper some of the sweetness of the sugar. And there’s thrift. There’s always the question of what to do with the six egg yolks you’re left with when making meringues. I’d wondered if a thick, dulce de leche style caramel could be made in the same fashion as a citrus curd. Turns out, yes- you can. Take six egg yolks and a combination of brown sugar and white and whisk together. Add two more whole eggs, for extra body. If you want a slight twang, then the zest and juice of a lime. Then combine with butter and stir in a saucepan over a medium heat until the butter melts and the whole lot morphs and thickens. It will be sweet. Dangerously sweet, so add some sea salt to pull it back from the edge. Then try and prevent yourself from eating spoon after spoon of it, or slathering it over french toast, grissini, or any other carb you can lay your hand on.  It will firm up even more with a spell in the fridge.

All of this then gets accessorised with other textures and tricks. The bananas get tossed in lime zest and juice too- not only does it help prevent them from turning an unsightly shade of brown when exposed to the air, but it helps add a wink of the tropics. The cream is unsweetened, just whipped to firm peaks. And the chocolate should be dark and finely grated- just a final hint of darkness over snowy peaks. The final addition is peanuts. They add a nice textural contrast and help invite a certain Snickers style satisfaction to the party.

This is a casual, everyone dig in, leave your dignity behind style dessert, perfect for groups of good friends. Serve it to the sort of people who don’t mind if you’re wearing mismatched shoes, pour your drink into the wrong vessel entirely, or disappear upstairs at the party for 20 minutes to take a quick disco nap. It’s the kind of thing you can prepare bits of ahead of time and easily assemble off site. It’s happy making stuff.

If the past month has taught me anything it’s that sometimes when life gives you a lemon, make lemonade. And when things are a bit of a mess- at the very least you can have a delicious one.

Banoffee ‘Mess’


Serves 8


Chocolate Meringue Base

6 egg whites (reserve the yolks and use for the caramel sauce)
300 g caster sugar
1/2 tbsp cornflour
1 tsp white wine vinegar
40 g cocoa powder

Salted Caramel Sauce

(Makes 500 ml of caramel sauce- more than you will need- but it is excellent on ice cream and will keep for about a week)

6 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
150 g muscavado sugar
150 g caster sugar
200 g butter
Zest and juice of 1 lime
2 tsp salt flakes

To serve

600 ml thickened cream, whipped
4 firm, just ripe bananas, sliced
1 lime, zested and juiced
2 tbsp roasted peanuts
20 g of dark chocolate, grated

Here’s how we roll

The night before, or at least 6 hrs prior to serving make the meringue base and caramel sauce.

Meringue base

1) Preheat the oven to 150 C/350 F and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.

2)Whip the egg whites in a clean, grease free bowl until foamy. Rain in the caster sugar, tbsp by tbsp  and continue to whip until the meringue is glossy and stands in firm peaks. Fold through the cocoa, cornflour and white wine vinegar.

Transfer the meringue to the baking tray into a 30 cm disc and bake for 1 hr, until firm to touch. Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and allow the meringue to cool. The exterior should be crisp but the interior should still have some marshmallow-give to it. Store in an airtight container until ready to serve (it’s ok if it gets broken a little bit- it’s going to be busted when you serve it).

Caramel Sauce

1) Whisk together the egg yolks, eggs and sugars until they are light and fluffy.

2) Transfer to a saucepan and add the butter, lime zest and juice. Stir over a low-medium heat until the butter melts. Continue stirring continuously over a medium heat until the sauce thickens to the consistency of lemon curd/thick custard and holds a line when you swipe a finger through it on the back of a spoon. This may take up to 15 minutes. Taste and season with the salt, bit by bit. You want to temper the sweetness. Place in the fridge to chill (the sauce will continue to thicken as it cools).

To assemble the mess

1) Just prior to serving break the meringue into rough pieces, approximately the size of a deck of cards. Scatter on a large platter. Dot the meringue with tbsp size daubs of whipped cream.

2) Toss the banana slices through the lime zest and juice. This will help stop the banana from turning brown. Scatter the lime-banana pieces over the meringue and the cream.

3) Drizzle the meringue/banana and cream with 1 cup of the caramel sauce (leave the remainder for those who feel like indulging more, or for serving with ice cream or brownies). Top with peanuts and grated chocolate. Serve immediately from a platter.

  1. He is Darling! If he gets any cuter I will fly down there and volunteer to babysit….. I love your posts and hope you soon get to sleep through the night… 🙂

  2. Depsite the lack of sleep, it seems your outlook on life (and your magic in creating food) is still good!

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