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20 November 2014

Sometimes the simple things are the very best of things. Gourmet cuisine and Michelin stars are a treat of course, but I often find myself wishing for nothing more than beans on toast, Heinz tomato soup or eggs and peas when times are tough. If you've never tried the later incidentally, you haven't lived - and that's not just nostalgia for my student days talking.

Meringue is deliciously simple and, while I was never convinced by the stuff as a child, I've been well and truly won over since I braved making my own. Now full disclosure - I do find it very satisfying that these little beauties deliver all of the sugar kick with none of the butter. I know my logic here is a little warped, but it's true that meringue is a slightly-less sinful option for the waist-watching pudding lovers among us. You may not be able to have your cake and eat it, but meringues do offer a tasty compromise.

Piping them into little coloured kisses, and they'll look just as delicious as they taste. Packaged up in some pretty paper, these would make a lovely homemade Christmas present if, like this writer, you're already feeling the festive pinch.

one part egg whites, two parts sugar
2 egg whites (approximately 75g)
150g vanilla caster sugar
food colouring

Begin by preheating your oven to 90C, and lining two baking trays with parchment. Next, sterilise your mixing bowl by gently wiping it with half a lemon - this is to ensure it's entirely clean, which will make for the fluffiest meringues. 

Separate your egg whites from the yolks, then add the whites to your bowl. Whisk on a medium speed for a minute or two, then crank up your mixer and whisk on full speed for 5-7 minutes. The whites are ready when they are stiff, and the bowl can be turned upside down without the whites falling out. 

With the mixer going on a medium speed, add the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time. Allow to mix for 30 seconds between each spoonful, so as to ensure the sugar dissolves fully (this will stop your meringues from cracking in the oven).

Once all the sugar has been incorporated, whisk for a further 3-4 minutes. Next, take a plastic piping bag fitted with a round nozzle, and paint a stripe of food colouring on the inside. Spoon in your meringue, then pipe the morsels into small, tall shapes. 

Bake in your pre-heated oven for 30-40 minutes - the meringues are done when you can lift them from the paper without any sticking or resistance. Don't be tempted to crank up the heat - baking at a low temperature ensures that the meringues remain white and glossy throughout baking. 

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