Christmas mess

Serves 8

Although cranberries are not British, along with turkey they have become a symbol of our Christmas Day celebrations. Cranberries have a lot more going for them than just serving as a turkey accompaniment, though, and along with chestnuts you can create interesting desserts and savouries.

I've based this on something I once ate in Italy, which was rather like a monte bianco but made with strawberries.

You don't need to go to the trouble of making fresh meringue unless you really want to: there are plenty of good ready-made examples on the market that will do perfectly well in this dish.

500ml double cream
80g caster sugar
40-50 chestnuts
2tbsp icing sugar
150-200g ready-made meringue

For the cranberry sauce

200g fresh cranberries
90g sugar
1 small stick of cinnamon
Juice of 1 orange

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6.

Make an incision in the top of the chestnuts with a small, sharp knife and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, then remove and leave to cool. Meanwhile put the cranberries, sugar and cinnamon into a heavy-based saucepan with the orange juice and cook on a low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved and then simmering gently for about 20-25 minutes until the cranberries have softened.

Check the sauce and add a little more sugar if you think it's necessary. Leave to cool.

Peel the chestnuts, removing as much of the brown skin as possible and then place them on a baking tray lined with foil; dust them with the icing sugar. Cook in the oven for about 20 minutes, turning every so often. Whip the cream and sugar together until stiff; you can do this in a mixing machine if you wish.

To assemble, stir about two-thirds of the cold cranberry sauce and two-thirds of the chestnuts into the cream, spoon on to the meringues and then arrange on individual plates or on one large serving plate. Spoon the rest of the cranberry sauce over and scatter the chestnuts on top.

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