les flottants, or floating islands, is the bizarre but delicious French pudding that makes clever use of both the yolk and the whites of the eggs. You would have seen this dish often on dessert trolleys in grand restaurants and hotel dining rooms, and now the dessert trolley is rarely to be seen, except when it's gathering dust in antique warehouses. You can serve any summer fruits with this or just leave it plain.
6 eggs, separated
100g caster sugar
150ml double cream
Half a vanilla pod
Summer berries, to serve
Put the cream and milk into a saucepan, halve the vanilla pod lengthways and scrape the seeds with the point of a knife into the milk mixture and add the pods too, then bring to the boil and take off the heat. Remove the pods. Meanwhile mix the egg yolks with 70g of the sugar. Whisk the boiled cream mixture on to the egg yolks and sugar, and mix well. Return to a clean pan on a low heat and stir every so often, ensuring you stir the bottom and sides of the pan. When the sauce coats the back of a spoon (this should take 3-4 minutes) remove from the heat, give it a good whisk and transfer into a mixing bowl.
Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites. Use an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, or an electric hand whisk (the bowl must be very clean with no signs of grease, so rinse with boiling water and dry it first). Whisk the whites with the rest of the caster sugar for 3-4 minutes until they are really stiff and shiny.
Bring a large pan of water to a simmer and, with a large kitchen serving spoon, lower four spoon shapes of egg white as neatly as you can into the simmering water. Cook for a couple of minutes on each side, then transfer to a large plate, preferably lined with kitchen paper to soak up any moisture. Cook a couple of batches if your saucepan isn't big enough.
Serve immediately with the warm sauce, or allow to cool to room temperature. Divide the sauce between four pasta-type bowls and float a cooked "meringue" in the middle of each, scattering your berries over as you wish.
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