I visited Wilder, headed by Richard McLellan, in February this year, a few months after it opened in Sir Terence Conran’s Shoreditch hotel Boundary and it was one of the most memorable meals this year. Richard who has previously worked as the right hand of Alyn Williams at the Westbury and of Lee Westcott at the Typing Room, has created a restaurant strongly inspired by wild foods. Sadly the lockdown has hurt his activity as well, but while he is waiting to reopen (and while we are waiting to revisit him), he is, like many chefs, cooking at home. Here he shares his new version of Eton mess. With a wild plant, to keep in line with his passion.
“One of the simplest of the English desserts to create but undoubtedly tastiest, this mess sprung out of the currently strange circumstances of lockdown.
On our daily exercise with my partner and her Whippet, we came across knotweed shooting up all around Hackney marshes. Knotweed has a distinctive flavour characteristics similar to rhubarb so it lends itself very well stewed down alongside berries to give some sharpness cutting through and complimenting the sweetness of meringue.
Just be aware that once the plant begins to grow larger, the stems become woody and indigestible.”
Japanese knotweed and berry mess
75g Egg white
112g Caster sugar
Squeeze of lemon juice
Knotweed and berry compote
100g Young Japanese knotweed stems (washed and sliced)
80g early harvest strawberries (hulled, washed and diced)
100g Raspberries (washed and diced)
60g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod (split)
1 sprig mint
200ml Double cream
35g Icing sugar
3/4 early harvest strawberries roughly diced
Add egg whites into a mixing bowl and start to whisk slowly till the whites start to foam, then gradually turn up the speed slowly tapping in the sugar until a stiff peak forms, add a squeeze of lemon juice to stabilise before turning off the machine
Line a baking tray with silicon paper then with a large kitchen spoon quenelle the meringue onto the baking sheet repeat this until the meringue has gone should be around 3/4 large quenelles.
Place the tray into a preheated oven at 110c for 1-2hrs till the outside has dried and become crisp leaving a soft gooey centre, allow to cool for an good hour or so
While the meringues dry add all the compote ingredients except the mint to a solid bottom pan, add a splash of water and bring slowly to the boil, turn the heat down to a simmer, add the mint and gently continue to cook out the knotweed and berries to a thick pulpy consistence, taste for sweetness remove the mint and vanilla take off the heat and allow to cool.
Add the cream, icing sugar and scrapped vanilla pod together and whisk until a soft peak, gently crush up the meringue into irregular pieces and begin to add this to the bowls in layers along with the compote and diced berries to make a mess.