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.
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).