“The flavours are the most exciting part we came up with, my mom and I, because she is a big foodie. And we hashed through these different combinations. They’ve each got a name that we came up with just to make it a bit fun, such as a cocoa and chilli, we call that one The Mexican. Nowadays I find that F&B isn’t just about F&B, it’s about your presence, your profile, your product.”
Afifah Rahman-Shepherd’s passion is evident in the mere appearance of the meringues she makes; colours delicately crafted into swirls and drops. The flavours are so interesting it would appear that there might be some personal infusion behind their inspiration. It turns out that there is indeed a story behind many of her meringues. Made with natural Halal dyes and 100% fresh ingredients, here’s a round-up of the flavours which are most easily identified by their colours:
How natural, you ask? Well, real cardamom and dates are used for The Arabian, real lavender buds for The English Garden, and real rose petals and pistachios for The Turk, like Turkish Delight. “I think that was a big point for us, we didn’t want to infuse any artificial flavours. I find it fun to come up with these combinations, so we are always experimenting.”
Many of the flavours are inspired by Afifah’s own experiences growing up and based on what her mother has introduced her to in the kitchen. For example, the lavender and lemon combination of The English Garden is based on her thirteenth birthday cake at one of her favourite bakeries in London – a lemon loaf cake with lavender sugar sprinkling. The Mexican on the other hand, was inspired by a dish which Juliette Binoche’s character in the movie Chocolat makes, chocolate and chilli. But not every flavour works out in a meringue, as she realised soon enough.
We tried a sea-salt dark chocolate inspired by our favourite Lindt bar, but that failed miserably! You CANNOT put salt on a meringue, it’s awful! So there are a lot of things that go wrong. And I think research is a huge part of starting any business. There’re great things happening in Singapore where you’ve got charcoal waffles with salted caramel ice cream and it’s just incredible; it’s so much fun. My mum always says, “Put the two ingredients you want to test together and smell them, and see if it agrees with you.” We were going to try star anise and black sesame. So she said, “Get the star anise, smell it and put black sesame in your mouth and see whether that works.”
It’s evident that Afifah loves what she does, and with her passion for something new, is always on the hunt for new flavours and combinations. I couldn’t wait to try these temperamental concoctions of twirling, dizzying love. And so, as I left our meeting after the interview (read it here), I popped one into my mouth. The tricky little thing dissolved to release a chewy sugary centre. The flavours were difficult to fathom with the overpowering sweetness of the meringues, but in the end that’s where the fun lay, in trying to figure out the flavours and mixes.
The pistachio of The Turk and the walnut in The Colombian were interesting touches that fused well with the sweet, but my personal favourite turned out to be the cool blue The Arctic – white chocolate works well. This was followed by The Arabian, the cardamom of which lingered as a deep after-taste in the mouth. Unfortunately, this flavour is no longer available.
As I continued, I unknowingly put The Matcha into my mouth, attracted to the swirling green colours. Not able to down even normal green tea, I figured out my mistake soon enough, with its taste too incredibly strong in my mouth. I quickly mouthed another to counter the flavour. Ah, I had found The Mexican!
All in all, the flavours were refreshing and adventurous; and I quizzed and nodded, acknowledging the sour after-taste of The Sour Pom as a kicking surprise. Despite the obvious freshness of the ingredients, it was surprising how strong the flavours were. And while they were all very sweet even for a desi taste, I struggled to resist getting more of the texture and flavours in my mouth. Meringues are an acquired taste for sure, and not everyone will take to them. But if one can acquire a taste for durians, why not meringues? These are definitely on my list for the next children’s party in the house.
Afifah personally delivers her orders island-wide and free-of-charge regardless of the amount. At $6, a “rainbow bag” includes 10-12 meringues with 9 different flavours and 3 variations of a plain meringue; in my opinion, an extremely reasonable price for the quality and freshness of the desert that you get.
For more information on the flavours and orders, visit: http://www.thelittlemeringuecompany.com/