Cooking time: 1 hour 5 minutes, plus cooling time for meringues
Chilling time: 2 hours
For the meringue layers
3 eggs, large (U.K.)/extra large (N.A.), whites only
170g (6 oz) caster/white sugar (¾ cup + 2 tbsp)
½ tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp chopped hazelnuts or walnuts
For the filling
8 large red plums
2 tbsp caster/white sugar
284ml carton double cream/whipping or heavy cream (1¼ cups)
For the plums
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) (gas 4)
Wash the plums and cut in half following the natural line. Twist the halves in opposite directions to separate. Remove the stones.
Arrange in a single layer in a baking dish, cut sides up. Sprinkle with the sugar and add 2 tablespoons of cold water.
Bake in the oven for 25 minutes. Remove and leave to cool.
For the meringue layers
While the plums are cooking, the nuts can be roasted. An easy way to do this is by tipping the nuts into a small non-stick frying pan/skillet placed over a medium-low heat. Cook until they just start to smell ‘nutty’, stirring occasionally. This only takes a few minutes.
Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
Once the plums have cooked, lower the oven temperature to 150°C (300°F) (gas 2)
Prepare the meringue while the oven is cooling down to the right temperature.
Draw a 20cm (8 inch) circle with a pencil on two sheets of baking parchment. (Using a 20cm (8 inch) up-turned plate makes this easy.). Turn the sheets over and lay on two baking sheets/trays.
Whisk the egg whites to a stiff peak and then add the sugar a tablespoon at a time, whisking well between each addition. Finally, whisk in the lemon juice.
Add a dab of meringue on the four corners of the baking sheets/trays, pressing the baking parchment down to keep in place. Then divide the the meringue evenly between the paper lined sheets/trays, spooning it into the centre of each circle. Using the back of the spoon, level the top of the meringue on one of the sheets/trays. Keep the top of the meringue rough on the other sheet/tray and then sprinkle the nuts over the meringue on this one.
Bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Turn out the oven but leave the meringues inside until the oven has become cold.
Lift the meringue layers from the paper and slide the base one onto a serving plate.
For the filling
Whisk the cream until stiff and then spread over the base meringue layer.
Pour off any juice from the plums and reserve. Top the cream with the plum halves with the cut sides facing downwards. Sprinkle over 1 tablespoon of reserved plum juice being careful not to allow it to get too close to the edge or it will run down the outside of the bottom meringue layer.
Cover with the top meringue layer and chill in the fridge for at least two hours.
When slicing the meringue into portions use a long bladed knife that has been dipped in a jug of hot water. Shake off any droplets of water before cutting and wipe the blade clean between each cut.
170g (6 oz) strawberries, hulled and halved (⅞ cup)
170g (6 oz) blueberries (1 cup)
For the custard
150ml (5 fl oz) whole/full fat milk (⅔ cup)
150ml (5 fl oz) single cream/table cream (⅔ cup)
2 eggs, large (U.K.)/extra large (N.A.)
28g (1 oz) caster/white sugar (2 tbsp)
½ tsp vanilla extract
Single cream/table cream
a shallow ovenproof dish with a capacity of 600ml (20 fl oz) (3 cups)
a small roasting tin/pan
For the fruit compote
Wash the plums, halve and remove the stones. Pour 300ml (10 fl oz) of water into a pan, add the sugar and stir over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring the syrup-water to a simmer and add the plums. Cook for one minute. Remove from the heat, cover and leave for 10–15 minutes until the fruit has softened but still keeps its shape.
Meanwhile, wash the berries, hull and halve the strawberries. Add them to the plums and stir to distribute the fruit. Transfer the fruit to a serving dish, cover and chill for 24 hours.
For the custard
The next day prepare the custard.
Heat the oven to 170°C (325°F) (gas 3)
Pour the milk and cream into a mixing bowl and add the eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract. Whisk to combine and then strain the custard into the ovenproof dish.
Pour the custard into the ovenproof dish and place this in the roasting tin/pan. Then slowly pour cold water into the roasting tin/pan to a depth of at least 2.5cm (1 inch). Carefully slide onto the middle rack in the oven and bake the custard for 50 minutes until it is set but still has a slight wobble in the centre when gently moved. It will also have an attractive golden skin. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 20–30 minutes.
Remove the fruit compote from the fridge to bring it to room temperature.
Divide the custard between four dessert dishes and then spoon the compote around. Cream can also be poured over for a little bit of extra indulgence.
Wash and halve plums. Remove the stones and cut the fruit into chunks, placing them in a bowl. Add the 2 tablespoons of sugar and cornflour/cornstarch and toss to coat. Tip into the ovenproof dish and set aside.
Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles small crumbs. Mix in 70g (2½ oz) sugar. Stir through the buttermilk or yogurt until combined. A food processor does all of this in no time.
Scatter balls of the dough over the plums, leaving some of the fruit exposed. The balls of dough will expand when cooked.
Sprinkle the top with the remaining sugar and bake for 40 minutes until the juices are bubbling and the top is pale golden in colour.