FOOD: Marvellous meringues
PUBLISHED: 12:58 19 August 2014 | UPDATED: 12:58 19 August 2014
Tessa Allingham meets Tara Stuart, who does wonderful things with egg whites
“I call the big ones girly dollops. That’s what my nan called them,” says Tara Stuart, bringing over a bowlful of giant white meringues, their flamboyant peaks scattered with nuggets of crystallised stem ginger. They feel fragile, light as a feather. They taste sweet and spicy, the middle is mallowy.
She puts them next to some diminutive pale pink meringue kisses, sugary puffs fragrant with rose oil, studded with limey specks of pistachio.
“I’m not a pink person myself, but meringues are definitely all about pink, don’t you think?” Tara definitely doesn’t come across as a ‘pink person’, rather a clear-headed, determined woman with years of fashion retail management behind her. But it doesn’t take much for a centre as soft as the meringues she makes to emerge. She wells up telling how her 10-year old daughter, Maddie, said spontaneously recently ‘Mummy, you shine like a diamond, I’m so proud of you’. It’s not surprising, Maddie!
Love Meringues is barely four months old, but is already a business that appears to have legs – or make that feather-light, fairy-dusted wings.
“Once I’ve decided to do something I get on with it,” says Tara. “I’ll happily work till 1am to get orders ready, Heart FM on the radio in my lovely girly world!”
When we meet, she is just back from delivering a first order to Café del Mar in Bury – owner Maria Broadbent is using the rose meringues to make Eton Mess with Greek yoghurt, pistachios and pomegranate seeds – and has had two successful days at Wyken Farmers Market where she will be selling throughout the summer. Customers at March Hare Collective sales have been equally enthusiastic, buying meringues in beribboned, cellophane-wrapped bundles, in pretty jars, or boxed as pavlova bases.
Tara fits Love Meringue around a part time job as a teaching assistant at St Edmunds primary school in Bury.
“I love working with early years children, and the school has been fantastically supportive – in fact some of my best customers! – as I’ve tried to balance two very different worlds.”
They are worlds that she envisages continuing to run parallel. “I don’t want Love Meringues to become particularly big – I like the idea of it remaining a little bit secret.
“But I do want my daughter to see what you can achieve with hard work and determination. I want her to be proud of me. I want to feel that my nan Lily would be proud too. After all, it was she who taught me to make meringues. I remember standing on a step in her orange kitchen making marzipan fruits, meringues, chocolate truffles!”
Husband Mark is a key cog in the Love Meringues wheel as well. Tara indicates a KitchenAid mixer that stands next to the simple domestic electric oven she uses. “Mark and my mum gave it to me for Christmas last year. It had a big bow on it and a note saying ‘Go for it!’”
The Love Meringues range includes raspberry ripple made with freeze-dried raspberries, chocolate and hazelnut, and Crunchie bar meringues. “I’ve been experimenting with blueberry too, picking the berries out of my muesli and testing recipes with them! My favourite is ginger, though, the flavour I associate most with my nan.”
Flavours aside, what of the eggs? “I’ll let you into a secret!” Tara fetches a carton of Two Chicks egg white. “Brilliant stuff. It freezes, it’s free range, and there’s no waste. It means I don’t have to have a stall selling lemon curd next to my meringues!”
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