Vegan Eton mess

Vegan Eton mess

vegan eton mess glass portion

Life has a habit of dropping you down a peg (or two) from time to time, showing you how fragile everything you hold dear is, or maybe making you appreciate the things that matter and stop sweating the smaller stuff…This is exactly what happened to us this week, starting from 2 AM on Thursday.

Thursday night, I am suddenly jerked awake by Duncan doubling over in pain on the other side of the bed. For a second, I think he is having a nightmare. He is screaming in pain, but it sounds like he is underwater. He cannot breathe, he cannot speak, he cannot move and he is turning grey. I try to find out what is going on, but he is unable to speak, he just keeps on clutching his chest and making muffled pain sounds. Time stands still. I’ve never seen him like this – I am terrified that he is going to die. I call an ambulance.

Just before the ambulance arrives, his pain lessens considerably and he is able to explain his symptoms to me. He starts questioning if calling an ambulance was a good move. He is still in a lot of pain when he tries to breathe in deeper, but nothing like he was when the pain started. He is even starting to crack jokes. Too late, I say, we are going to Accident and Emergency (A&E) no matter what. There is no way I am risking you having an episode like this again.

When the paramedics arrive, he looks almost back to normal. We tell them what happened and that he has been recovering from pleurisy for the past week, yet they seem to think that what he has matches pericarditis (which it later turns out is completely wrong, btw). They don’t appear to think that what he has is that serious, yet I wonder if they would have been that chilled out if they had turned up 15 minutes earlier.

Once in A&E, we are clearly not an emergency anymore, so we have to wait till 8 AM to be seen by a doctor. The staff are great, by the way, but clearly overwhelmed by the number of patients on file. After 8 AM things are starting to move forward. After we see the first doctor, another one comes over and we are moved out of A&E into an assessment ward. Every one or two hours, something happens. A doctor comes to talk to us, someone gets Duncan’s blood, does his ECG, an X-ray, but everything is moving quite slowly. We keep on being told that we are soon going to be discharged, but the goalposts keep moving.

Our doctor is honest with us, he does not fully understand what has caused the attack of sudden pain, but he brings in a senior doctor for a second opinion. Together, they decide to order a number of very specialist tests just in case, although they make it clear that they don’t think they will come back with anything but negative results. To their (and our) astonishment, one by one, they all come back positive. Twenty hours of staying put later we finally have a diagnosis – it’s a pulmonary embolism (or PE for short).

A CT scan shows that Duncan has not one but two blood clots in his left lung. This not good news at all and it suddenly dawns on us that he really was quite close to dying. We are both shell shocked but lack of sleep makes everything seem surreal.

What makes Duncan’s case so difficult to pin down is that as a vegan marathon runner (3:09 PB) he does not have any of the classic PE risk factors (this is something called: unprovoked PE). This is why the doctor isn’t sure what has caused the clots and more importantly if they will keep on forming in the future. At some point he says it could be cancer, we are both freaking out so he rushes to reassure us that it’s only about a 20% chance. Only 20% chance? That’s still pretty high!!!

The next step is to thin the blood and then to run a whole series of other tests and to consult with a range of specialists as an outpatient. We are finally discharged at 10 PM with a diagnosis, a referral and a prescription for a large dose of blood thinner, which is meant to dissolve existing clots and prevent further ones from forming before we get to the root cause of the problem.

We are sleep deprived and shell-shocked. We both hoped that there is a simple explanation for Thursday night, although deep down we both knew that something of this magnitude couldn’t have come from nowhere. Neither of us was prepared for the diagnosis of this caliber though. We go to bed devastated.

After we catch up on sleep, things start to look up a little. I do a little research online and it turns out that there is a fairly high incidence of blood clots among athletes. They can be a result of dehydration and tissue trauma, which are both associated with long distance races. As Duncan has just completed a strenuous 26K race only two weeks ago, I am hoping that this was the cause of the clots and that they are a freak accident. Duncan agrees that it is likely.

Still, this is just speculation and we won’t know for sure until all the experts have had a chance to examine him and give their opinion, so this is truly nerve wrecking for both of us, but for Duncan especially. He is a really great patient, does not get fazed too easily, is patient, appreciative and has a wonderful optimism and can-do attitude, but this thing is huge and it’s taken a bit of a toll on him, I can see that.

Myself and Tina (who was not impressed that we left her – luckily I had the foresight to fill her bowl – for 20 hours by herself) are rooting for him as he means the world to us and we know he will get through this. We also promise not to sweat the small stuff as none of is important really, only the people (and animals) you love are! We should remember that daily!

Oh and by the way, we cannot express our gratitude to the staff of Bristol Royal Infirmary hospital. Despite years of merciless NHS cuts (bloody Tories!!) and being worked to the bone, all the staff members we dealt with were truly wonderful – emphatic, capable and friendly. But the person who definitely needs a special mention is Dr Josh Tyrell Price, who worked tirelessly (14 hour shift!! until we left) to conclude Duncan’s case, deliver the diagnosis to him and give him all the necessary paperwork to take the case to the next stage. We are both incredibly grateful to him for his dedication and hard work.

Meanwhile, the sunny weather has finally made it to Bristol too, although it did lose its shine a little in the face of our recent health crisis, I’ll be honest. Now that we are back home from hospital, we plan to enjoy the weekend in our garden, patting Tina, drinking Greek iced coffees and stuffing our faces with vegan Eton mess – a simple summer dessert that features indulgent layers of juicy strawberries, cream and crunchy meringues. Below is my vegan take on this British classic, which I hope you’ll enjoy.

vegan eton mess straws

vegan eton mess meringues

vegan eton mess dusted meringues strawberries

makes
4
PREP
20 min
COOKING
90 min
makes
4
PREPARATION
20 min
COOKING
90 min
INGREDIENTS
VEGAN MERINGUES

  • 120 ml / ½ cup aquafaba, from home cooked chickpeas or shop-bought
  • ½ tsp lemon or lime juice, white wine or apple cider vinegar
  • 125 g / ½ cup + 2 tbsp fine caster sugar

REMAINING INGREDIENTS

  • 500 g / 18 oz ripe strawberries, stemmed and chopped
  • approx. 500 g / 18 oz thick coconut yoghurt* (I like The Coconut Collaborative)

METHOD
VEGAN MERINGUES

  1. Preheat the oven to 100º C / 210º F and line a baking tray with a fresh (it is important that the surface is grease-free) sheet of baking paper.
  2. In a large, clean bowl (make sure there is no greasy residue, it is best to use a glass bowl for this) beat chickpea water with an electric whisk or use a stand mixer until you get stiff peaks. Add ½ tsp of acid to stabilise the mixture and help you reach stiff peaks.
  3. To test if whipped chickpea water is ready, gently turn the bowl upside down. If the mixture does not start sliding down, you can start adding sugar. Otherwise, keep on whipping until the mixture stays in the bowl when inverted.
  4. Add sugar very slowly, tablespoon by tablespoon, whipping well after each addition. Continue until all the sugar has been added. By now, the mixture should become beautifully glossy, thick and sticky – no different to an egg-based meringue, really.
  5. Spoon the meringue mixture into a piping bag. You can also use a large ziplock bag, which you can then wash, dry and reuse for the same task in the future.
  6. If using a plastic bag, cut the corner of your filled bag off – start with a small hole and make it larger if needed. Hold the bag perpendicular to the tray and squeeze small blobs of the mixture onto the tray and quickly pull away after each blob. Allow some space around each blob or else the drops may stick together.
  7. Bake for about 90 minutes, then turn the oven off but leave the tray with meringue drops inside with the oven’s door slightly open for another 90 minutes for the meringues to dry out fully. Keep the meringues in an airtight container. Please note that the exact baking time depends on the size of your meringues, so if you are going for a larger size, be sure to adjust the baking time.

ASSEMBLY

  1. You may want to squash some of the strawberries for a prettier, messier and juicer dessert.
  2. Divide strawberries, coconut yogurt and meringues between 4 glasses, placing them in layers. Consume immediately.

NOTES
*If you cannot find a good, thick vegan yoghurt where you live, make simple cashew cream by blending softened (soaked in boiling water for 30 minutes) raw cashews and just enough water / plant milk (including full fat coconut milk, which will give you most indulgent cream) to create a thick mixture. Refrigerate the mixture to thicken. My method has been described in detail here except that in this recipe, there is no need to use any sweeteners as meringues contribute a lot of sweetness.

I dusted my meringues with dry-freeze strawberry powder, but that’s totally optional.

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NUTRITIONAL INFO
calories
333
17%
sugars
49 g
55%
fats
11 g
16%
saturates
7 g
33%
proteins
5 g
10%
carbs
55 g
21%
*per serving
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5.0
1 review, 21 comments
REVIEWS & QUESTIONS
Theresa Maday:
I hope this finds you and Duncan much better. I do have a question about vegan recipes. I am new to eating this way since moving to the country. Interacting with farm animals everyday has really turned me around. For overall health though, I’ve been surprised to see white sugar and flour in many vegan websites recipes. Do you recommend a substitute for white sugar in this recipe? Many thanks for all you do to make the world a better place.
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi Theresa,
    I am glad to hear that you've decided to give vegan lifestyle a go since moving to the countryside. We've had a similar experience in the sense that adopting a poorly stray cat has made us reconsider eating animals and animal products. While many people resort to wholefood veganism as a means of losing weight or reversing disease (see this website for more information on this) veganism is not a diet in the traditional sense. Veganism is a lifestyle that seeks to eliminate and minimise (if complete elimination isn't physically possible) animal exploitation and suffering and as such it simply focuses on not consuming or using animals or animal-derived products for any purpose.
    With regards to this particular recipe, while you could use another flour (I tried a GF flour mix which works well enough), I do not think that any other sugar or sugar substitute will give you the meringue that is close to an egg meringue.
    I hope that clarifies!
    Ania
Carrie:
How terrifying! You poor darlings. Best wishes and good health to you both. Keep us posted. xo
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thank you, Carrie! Yes, it shook us both quite badly. I will as soon as we know more. x Ania
Susan:
Oh my gosh, that sounds terrifying! I am so glad you had access to good and thorough medical care. <3
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thanks, Susan! Yes, that was my thought exactly - we used to live on a remote Greek island without a hospital and I kept on being grateful that it did not happen then. x Ania
Gerard:
Hi Anita
As one of Duncan‘s fellow runners on Paros/Antiparos I was shocked to hear what happened but relieved when I read on. Wish him Alltage best!
Gérard
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi Gerard,
    Yes, I remember you guys running together. Thank you - he saw your comment and is very touched that you wrote. He sends his best wishes too! x Ania
Heather:
My father developed blood clots during a half marathon. It can happen with dehydration and muscle trauma like you said. With medication he has never had it happen again and he has continued to run. Hopefully they figure out the perfect treatment for you guys.
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thank you, Heather! Yes, we hope so too! Glad to hear that your father hasn't had any issues since. x Ania
Aneta:
Od dluzszego czasu czytam Twojego bloga i uwielbiam Twoje przepisy, nigdy nie komentuje zadnych postow ale tym razem zycze wszystkiego najlepszego dla was oraz szybkiego powrotu do zdrowia, Oby nie bylo to nic powaznego,
Pozdraiwam,
Aneta
    Ania
    Ania:
    Dziękujemy pięknie. Też mamy taką nadzieję!! Czas pokaże!
    Cieszę się, że przepisy się przydają!!
    Pozdrawiam serdecznie,
    Ania
Laura:
All my best wishes for Duncan's full recovery! I can only imagine the terror, but happy to hear that he should be fine.
Thank you for a dessert /snack recipe that looks easy and delicious. I can't wait to try this!
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thank you, Laura! Yes, it was intense. I was never that stressed before in my entire life. We are hoping for a good outcome, but the time will tell. x Ania
Julie:
Best wishes for a healthy recovery to Duncan, and to you! What a frightening scare for you both.
I love your recipes, photos, and stories.
Stay strong from Indiana, USA
Julie
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thank you, Julie! x Ania
Judy:
Good heavens! What a story. So glad Duncan is home and you have a diagnosis and the two of you can get down to the business of making him fit and well again. Duncan, we all need you to take very good care of yourself--Ania and Tina love you and need you. We all love you and need you. Sending all good thoughts your way. And thank you, Ania, for the Eton mess recipe.
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thank you, Judy! Yes, it was totally unexpected and a harrowing experience. He feels fine apart from that horrendous incident so it's just a matter of doing all these tests to get to the bottom of this. We really hope that they will all come back negative and this was just a freak, one-off occurrence. You are welcome, I hope you'll enjoy it! x Ania
Pal Kaur:
Sorry to hear about Duncan’s episode in hospital. Wishing him a speedy recovery and sending loads of positive vibes. Much love Pal xxx
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thank you, Pal! I will pass that on, I am sure he will appreciate your kind words. x Ania
Amanda:
I've been following your blog for a while but this is my first comment as I just wanted to wish you and Duncan all the best. It sounds so frightening. I work with the NHS as an interpreter and see the strain they are under but also how amazingly professional and as you mention, kind and empathetic they always are. Real life superheroes. Wishing Duncan a very speedy recovery. And thanks for all the wonderful recipes. I used to love Eton Mess before going vegan so I must try this. It's the perfect light summer dessert. I have had one attempt at making vegan meringues and it wasn't great but you have inspired me to try again. The recipe I used before didn't have any lemon juice so maybe that was the problem. Do you think lemon juice is better than cream of tartar which I see in a lot of aquafaba meringue recipes? Anyway,I will go and experiment!
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thank you, Amanda! Yes, totally, the people are amazing - it's such a shame they have to work with such a brutal system right now. They are really underappreciated and taken for granted, I feel!! Thank you, I will let Duncan know - he is feeling almost normal now, it's just a question what all these tests show. Hopefully they will all be negative, fingers crossed.
    Aw, glad to hear that you will give it another try. They really aren't that hard, you just need to make sure the mixture is definitely at stiff peaks before adding sugar, that's all. I think both are fine to use, it's just that I always have a cut lemon on hand. I hope they will work out perfectly this time! x Ania
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