British plums tend to be found at the likes of Jock Stark & Son’s stall in August and September, so really they’re both a summer and autumn market fruit. Finding the correct season in which to pigeon-hole plums, though, is less important than recognising that they make a very ﬁne pavlova topping. Here they are roasted rather than stewed, so that they soften but retain their shape, and turn pleasingly tart too. The tarragon adds an extra dimension, with fresh and grassy notes cutting through the jammy fruit. Flaked almonds provide extra crunch, which feels necessary amidst all the cream.
Use whichever plum variety seems the most plump and juicy when you’re picking through them, though Victoria, President and Pershore are reliably good for this. Roast them well in advance so that they can take on as much tarragon ﬂavour as possible.
FOR THE ROAST PLUMS
6 sprigs of tarragon
1kg seasonal plums, halved and de-stoned
40g golden caster sugar
FOR THE MERINGUE
5 large egg whites (about 175g)
350g caster sugar (or twice the weight of the egg whites)
70g toasted ﬂaked almonds
600ml double cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
leaves picked from 2 sprigs of tarragon
15g toasted ﬂaked almonds
Preheat the oven to 200C fan/220C/425F/gas mark 7.
Place the tarragon sprigs for the roast plums in the base of a ceramic dish or roasting tin with 150ml water. Lay the plums over these, cut side up, ideally in one layer. Sprinkle the sugar onto the plums, macerate for 15 minutes, then bake in the oven for 20–30 minutes, until soft and puffy but still plum shaped. Leave to cool for 15 minutes, then transfer the plums, juices and tarragon to a smaller vessel and refrigerate until required.
Weigh the egg whites. You will need double the quantity of sugar to whites to make a classic meringue, and ideally a stand mixer ﬁ tted with the balloon whisk to do the hard work. Set the oven to 130C fan/150C/300F/gas mark 2 and line a baking sheet with baking parchment or a silicone baking mat.
Ensure the mixing bowl is spotless. Add the egg whites and whisk at medium speed until they form stiff peaks. Increase the speed and sprinkle the sugar into the egg whites in a steady stream. Continue whisking for 9 minutes, until the mixture is glossy and, if pinched, has no hint of sugary crystals.
Scatter half the toasted almonds over the meringue mixture. Use a large metal spoon to carefully but conﬁdently ripple through the nuts in two or three large swoops. Spoon the mixture onto the lined baking sheet, creating a circle 26–28cm in diameter, with high, wavy sides and an indent for cream and fruit in the middle. Place in the centre of the oven, reduce the oven temperature to 110C fan/130C/250F/ gas mark ½ and bake for 2 hours, then turn the oven off and leave for 1 hour more. Remove the meringue from the oven and sprinkle the remaining almonds on top.
Whip the cream and vanilla extract in a bowl until they reach loose ribbon stage, then spoon on top of the meringue. Arrange the plums and juices over the cream, then scatter with fresh tarragon and the ﬂaked almonds.