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Floating Islands

by , featured in The Weekend Cook
Published by Bloomsbury Absolute
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My Uncle Ren has always loved this dessert, so when I was making it for the photography shoot for this book, I called him up and asked him over. It was during lockdown (when we could meet outside), so he didn’t come near us, but just enjoyed it quietly in the garden, packed the rest into a container and left for his home, very happy and full!

I like to serve this when I want a bit of a showstopper; the meringue quenelles, the caramel and the custard make it a great dessert to impress.

Image of Angela Hartnett's Floating Islands
Photo by Jonathan Lovekin


Serves: 8


  • 750 millilitres full fat milk
  • 1 vanilla pod (split lenghways and seeds scraped out)
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 200 grams caster sugar


  • 500 millilitres full fat milk
  • 1 tablespoon caster sugar


  • 8 egg whites
  • 200 grams caster sugar


  • 100 grams caster sugar


Floating Islands is a guest recipe by Angela Hartnett so we are not able to answer questions regarding this recipe

  1. First, make the crème anglaise. Pour the milk into a saucepan and add the vanilla pod. Place it over a medium heat and leave it to heat up, so that the milk infuses with vanilla, until the milk is just below boiling point (look for a few bubbles around the edges).
  2. Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a mixing bowl until pale. Pour a touch of the hot milk mixture on to the eggs and sugar, and whisk rapidly until smooth. Pour the egg mixture into the pan with the rest of the milk. Stir continuously over a medium heat for 4–5 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  3. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a bowl, cover the surface with a piece of baking paper to stop a skin forming and leave the crème anglaise to cool (this is quickest set into a bowl of ice). Once cool, transfer the crème anglaise to the fridge until needed.
  4. Make the poaching liquor. Combine the milk, sugar and 250ml of water in a wide pan that’s deep enough to accommodate 3–4 meringue quenelles at a time. Place it over a low heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
  5. Meanwhile, make the meringue. Tip the egg whites into a large bowl and, using an electric hand whisk, whisk them until they form stiff peaks (but don’t let them go dry). Add 1 tablespoon of the sugar, and continue to whisk until the mixture comes back to stiff peaks. Keep adding the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, whisking between each addition until you’ve added all of it and you have a thick, glossy meringue.
  6. Using a serving spoon dipped in cold water, shape 12–16 (depending on the size of your spoon) quenelles (oval shapes with pointed ends) of the meringue and gently poach them in the milk mixture about 3–4 at a time. You need to leave room to be able to flip them over. Cook the quenelles for 4 minutes each side, making sure the liquid doesn’t boil, otherwise the meringues will puff and then collapse. As each meringue is cooked, remove it from the poaching liquid with a slotted spoon and place it on a large tray lined with baking paper to cool.
  7. Make the caramel. Tip the sugar into a clean pan and add 2 teaspoons of water. Melt the sugar over a low heat, brushing down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush from time to time, until the sugar turns a dark copper colour. Do not stir! Remove the caramel immediately from the heat to stop it from burning.
  8. Pour the caramel over the meringues and leave until set.
  9. To serve, make a generous pool of crème anglaise on each serving plate and top it with a meringue.

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