2) Off the heat, add 120ml water and 1/2 tsp of the vanilla; be careful, the syrup will bubble violently. Stir and cook over high heat until the caramel reaches 110C (thread stage) on a sugar thermometer. Set aside.
3) For the praline, combine the almonds with 60ml of the caramel and spread on a sheet pan lined with greaseproof paper. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the almonds are lightly browned. Allow to cool at room temperature and then break up in pieces.
4) For the meringues, lower the oven to 130C/Gas mark 1/2. Line 2 sheet pans with greaseproof paper.
5) Beat the egg whites, salt and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on medium speed until frothy. Turn the mixer on high speed and add the remaining 220g of sugar. Beat until the egg whites are very stiff and glossy.
6) Whisk in the remaining tsp of vanilla. With dessert spoons place 12 mounds of meringue on the greaseproof paper and bake for 20 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
7) To serve, pour creme anglaise on the bottom of individual plates. Place a meringue on top of each serving, drizzle with caramel sauce, sprinkle with praline, and serve.
For the creme anglaise:
1) Beat the egg yolks and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, or until very thick. Reduce to low speed, and add the cornflour.
2) With the mixer still on low, slowly pour the hot milk into the eggs. Pour the custard mixture into a saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until thickened. The custard will coat the spoon like heavy cream. Don't cook it above 82C or the eggs will scramble!
3) Pour the sauce through a fine strainer, add the vanilla essence, Cognac and vanilla seeds, if using, and chill before using.
Cook's Note: To make a day or two ahead, leave the caramel and praline at room temperature and refrigerate the creme anglaise. Bake the meringues before guests arrive and assemble the desserts just before serving.