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Jeremy Lee delivers a festive meringue masterclass

Jeremy Lee joins House & Garden for A Slice of Life, where the Scottish chef talks us through how his epicurean parents inspired in him a love for cooking, although he was originally destined to follow in his father’s footsteps by pursuing the arts. Jeremy Lee pulls out his “magic carpet” of a cook’s bench before beginning preparations for his Christmas-inspired meringue tumble. “The kitchen is the heart of the home… Which is a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a very good reason,” Jeremy explains as he expresses his affection for his space. “Is it channelling Mum? You know, happy memories and times past, with a coffee and a pile of books. Thinking what dishes you can cook — what’s in the fridge, what you can get”. Now proprietor at Quo Vadis in London, Jeremy recounts the moment he ended his long and happy tenure at Blueprint Café in London’s Design Museum and pursued a new venture: “It was at the stroke of midnight 2011/2012 that I partnered up with Sam and Eddie Hart, and became chatelaine of this incredible building in Soho with the boys”. Watch the full episode of A Slice of Life with Jeremy Lee as he brings this festive treat to life.

Released on 12/02/2022


As a great dear Italian friend of mine once said,

isn't being Scottish and a cook an oxymoron?

And I was like, right, that is it.


[upbeat music]

When did I realize this is what I wanted to do?

Oh, Lord, by this, I think you mean

the profession of cooking.

God, I wish it was a profession,

it's about time it was recognized as such.

I was on my way to art college

to follow in my father's footsteps

and my brother's footsteps and my grandfather's footsteps,

and to make some pocket money

along the way I became a waiter.

I was an absolutely rubbish waiter,

just dropped everything all the time

and gossiped endlessly

'cause they were all Mom and Dad's friends.

And instead of sacking me they put me in the kitchen.

Before you could bat an eyelid

I was there with my tall hat and a white neckerchief,

and a floor to ceiling apron serving an apprenticeship.

[mellow lounge music]

And with that, today's pudding, meringue tumbles.

[upbeat jazz music]

Because the scullery is tucked away at the back of the flat,

to optimize and have the best fun,

is just to move this cockamamey funny little bench out,

which is a sort of thrill of magic carpet of a cooks bench.

I chose the meringue for Christmas because

it doesn't level you quite like the way the cannon ball

of the proverbial Christmas pudding often does,

never eaten or looked at as scams.

So what we do is take a dozen eggs,


I like Ivy House Farm Cream 'cause they are incredible.

An apricot compote made by simmering halved apricots,

stone removed and sugar.

Began to sim the berry compote which is made

by cooking black currents and red currents and blackberries

in sugar until literally they just collapse.


And then some chopped pistachios and almonds,

and a final dusting of icing sugar.

Bob's your uncle.

[upbeat lounge music]

And so without further ado, we crack a dozen eggs.

Your bowl must be scrupulously clean and dry.

because if it's not, the egg whites are quite volatile.

What we then do is weigh these to it

I'd love to say I had opened Quo Vadis,

but as it was opened in, well, it was founded in 1927,

that would be quite something to say,

I'm celebrating my centenary.

I'd had a very long, very happy tenure

at the Design Museum on Shad Thames.

But it was coming to an end

with the moving of the Design Museum to Kensington.

It was that the stroke of midnight 2011, 2012,

I partnered up with Sam and Eddie Hart

and became, you know, shattered in

of this incredible building in Soho with the boys.

[upbeat music]

So what we'll need to do are two bowls of sugar,

each one weighing 282 grams exactly.

As well as a scrupulously clean bowl,

you're gonna need a scrupulously clean frisk.

And of course, you can do this by hand if you wish

but you will need the shoulders of a titan to do it,

and our dear friend, the KitchenAid is just that.

The kitchen is the heart of the home, you know,

which is a cliche but it's a cliche for a very good reason.

It's sitting here and it's,

is it channeling mom, you know,

reading, happy memories, times past,

you know, with a coffee and a pile of books

thinking what dishes you can cook.

What's in the fridge?

What can you get?

[upbeat music]

So once you start making the meringues, you don't stop.

Your foot is to the pedal

and what you're after are very stiff peaks,

and then with the machine still going up full tilt

start adding the sugar.

The second half of sugar you fold in.

I would say,

I would say that's just about done.

This is the stiffness you want to achieve for a meringue.

If it's not that, it'll go liquid.

And also the other great way to test,

you just pop up on your head

and if it doesn't fall out and make a terrible mess, hoorah.

If it does fall out and make a terrible mess, oops.

[upbeat music]

These will go into a preheated oven

at 180 degrees centigrade,

which you immediately then turn down to 120.

[upbeat music]

And then in with the second tray.

Now these are gonna go in the oven for an hour.

And what is vital at this stage

is remembering to turn the oven down to 120.

[upbeat music]

How would I describe my cooking style? Golly G.

Well, coming from a home where food mattered so much,

it has been an extraordinary journey cooking with fair,

I really did luck out with who I got to work with and I,

after serving apprenticeship in Scotland

and coming south to London,

I ended up working with Simon Hopkinson in Bibendum

and Alistair Little at his eponymous restaurant

on Frith Street in Soho.

And they were just

at the forefront of keep it simple.

It's just good food for good folk,

'cause that's what I love most in life

is to just get pals around a table,

plonk them down and plonk food in front of them.

[upbeat music]

And behold, the meringues.

And you can see it, they've turned,

and the test to a meringues cooked,

ow, hot,

is when you lift them off the paper.

There we go.

[upbeat music]

The best construction of our,

and it is a construction,

are liberal amounts of cream.

I think you need to be very Scottish with this.

Otherwise, A, apart from anything else

it libates the meringues,

also gives a very good holding quality to all this.

[upbeat music]

Gosh, do I like hosting Christmas?

Lordy, I'm not sure I ever,

oh, actually I tell a lie, I did host a Christmas once.

I did lay a table and did all the rest of it

and it was a truffle risotto 'cause it was just two of us.


Which is quite sweet.

No, I tend to go to my sisters

or very dear friends

and I'm not even allowed in the kitchen.

Whenever I get found even trying to wash up a teaspoon,

it's civil war.

And I've learned not to even try anymore.

[upbeat music]

One of the great thing about

doing meringues of all shapes and sizes and randoms

is you get all these fissures and ravines and rivulets

that let all the compotes and custards and creams pour down.

And now, to start, if you want to add berries

this is the time to do it.

No symmetry for it, just the work of the devil.

Hit as many notes as possible so it's pure cacophony.

I can almost hear the sleigh bells.

[upbeat music]

And there you have it, your Christmas tumble.

Everything you ever wanted on one plate and all of it too.

[upbeat music]

This is beautifully ironed new table cloth

that I just crumpled outrageously.

[upbeat music]

As I've been very, very, very generous of the custard,

this is gonna make the most marvelous mess

on the table and on the plate.

But it's Christmas

and I think we should go a tip with sheer gusto.

And in we go.

And make sure you go right to the heart of the matter

'cause the whole point of meringue is it has everything

and all the fun's in the outside

but all the goop is in the middle.

Full of goodness.

It's a Christmas mess.

Here you go, my dear.

That's all for you.

[upbeat music]

Can the cook put his money where his mouth is?

Is this Christmas on a plate

or celebrations more to the point?

[upbeat music]

Not too shabby, darlings.

Happy Christmas.

[upbeat music]

Starring: Jeremy Lee