Pavlova love

One of the best things about living in Britain are the strawberries. Strawberry picking is one of those favourite things I love to do on a sunny sunday afternoon in Oxford. Living by Binsey Lane, we would run down to Binsey farm and pick a punnet of lovely sweet and scrumptious strawberries then on the walk home eat them out of the punnet. On one particularly hot day in Oxford, I decided to make salted caramel icecream and then follow through and use up those leftover egg whites by making a New Zealand favourite: the mighty Pavlova.

Pavlova is one of those well-loved New Zealand desserts that everyone’s families had a recipe for—if not though, the classic and trusty Edmonds cookery book would be the first port of call. Dad used to love making pavlova but little did he (or any of us) know that his was more like a squashed and crispy meringue rather than a pavlova in the ‘traditional’ sense. Dad’s one didn’t seem to have the pillowy softness in the middle but it would be more like a chewy sugary texture. It didn’t matter though because I think Dad’s version is actually the one I prefer—everyone has their preferences for what part of the pavlova is the best. Some prefer the gooey eggy mass on the inside, others all of it together, but for me I love the meringue crunchiness, the shell on the outside. When I was sifting through the cookbooks to see what recipe to use, I consulted a few different versions. They all have a couple of the same ingredients 1) cornflour 2) vinegar. Apparently the vinegar makes the pavlova’s marshmellowy centre and the cornflour stops the whole thing from collapsing.

I used the recipe from Alexa Johnston’s Ladies, A Plate which is an excellent source for classic New Zealand baked goodies. Shame it didn’t include lollycake! but I suppose that isn’t technically considered as typical baking … perhaps her next book Second Helpings includes more lovely recipes … I feel a trip to NZ coming on to do some cookbook purchases.

Pavlova

6 egg whites

pinch of salt

2 cups caster sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla essence

2 teaspoons cornflour

300 ml whipping cream

Plenty of fresh strawberries

1. Beat the egg whites with salt at a high speed until they are white and fluffy. They should become soft peaks rather than being stiff and upright.

2. Add the sugar a bit at a time and beat on high until the sugar is incorporated and the mixture becomes a shiny. The mix should become firm, upright peaks.

3. Add the vinegar and vanilla and then sift in the cornflour. Gently fold everything together carefully.

4. Pour the mix on to the centre of a lightly greased piece of foil on a tray and spread the mixture out gently.

5. Place into the preheated oven at 150°C and bake for 45 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave the pavlova there with the door shut for at least an hour or overnight.

Once cold, top with cream and strawberries and serve.

Adapted from Ladies, A Plate: Traditional Home Baking (Penguin).

Salted butter caramel icecream

I now have an obsession with salted caramel. Anything on a menu which states ‘salted caramel …’ I immediately order and am guaranteed to enjoy. Who wouldn’t love salty-sugar. I have a niggling feeling that my pull towards salty sweet desserts harks back to my childhood—in Thailand there is an array of salty sweet desserts and sweet snacks to treat your tastebuds. Firstly, there is the salt, sugar, dried chilli mix which is used to dip pieces of unripened mango. This is one of my favourite things, the sour tang of the mango is offset by the salt and sugar then there is the chilli that leaves a spicy burn in the mouth. Secondly, basically all of the coconut based desserts (mango and coconut sticky rice, mung beans in coconut milk, pumpkin in coconut milk) have base flavours of salt and sugar. I think these two are a matched made in heaven and when I saw this recipe on David Lebotovitz’s website, I was salivating on the keyboard.

The recipe takes a long time to make so be warned. For some reason on one of the hottest days we have had so far, I spent all day making this icecream, cleaning the house then making pavlova. I think when the sun is shining I feel like eating good food all the more.

You can get the recipe from here. I think the next one I will try from David’s site will definitely be the milk chocolate and black pepper. That one really intrigues me and I am pretty sure it would be equally tasty with pink pepper opposed to black peppercorns.

Above is the excruciating long process of melting down the caramelised bits into a smooth liquid … takes a while but it is definitely all worth the wait!

The end result is a delicious flavour sensation of salty sweet buttery goodness. I’d imagine it would go really well with peanut brownies for some reason—will have to try this out next time.