- 2-3 drops vegetable oil
- 4 large egg whites
- 225g white caster sugar
- 200ml whipping cream
- 200g strawberries, stalks removed
- 100g blueberries
- 100g raspberries
- A few sprigs of redcurrants (optional)
- Mint leaves, to decorate
- Preheat the oven to 140°C/Gas 1. Using a dinner plate or your serving plate as a template, draw a 30cm circle on a sheet of non-stick baking parchment. Cut it out, just inside the pencil mark. Place a couple of drops of oil onto a baking sheet, and put the baking paper on top (the oil will help to prevent it from moving).
- To make the meringue, put the egg whites into a large grease-free bowl (it’s best to wash the bowl in hot soapy water first). Take care that there are no traces of grease or egg yolk in the bowl, or the egg whites won’t whip. Using a handheld electric whisk with scrupulously clean beaters, whisk the egg whites on full speed until they hold their shape.
- Gradually add the caster sugar, whisking well on high speed until the egg whites are very stiff. White caster sugar is the best for this, as it has very fine grains, which are easily incorporated into the egg whites to give the best volume. At this stage the egg whites should look very glossy.
- Heap half the meringue onto the baking parchment and spread it out with a palette knife or the back of a spoon into an even layer, to almost reach the edges of the circle. Spoon the remaining meringue into a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle and pipe a border all around the edge. If you prefer not to pipe the meringue, just heap spoonfuls around the edge.
- Immediately transfer the meringue to the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 1½-2 hours. The meringue is ‘dried out’ rather than cooked at this low temperature. It won’t harm the meringue if you open the door at any time. Cool the meringue completely, then carefully remove the baking parchment. Transfer the meringue to the serving plate.
- About 15 minutes before completing the pavlova, chill the bowl and beaters that you need for whipping the cream in the fridge. Keeping the utensils cold will help the cream to whip successfully. Pour the cream into the bowl and whip it until it holds its shape. Spoon it on top of the meringue and spread it out to cover the centre up to the border.
- Reserve about one third of the fruit and set aside. Cut the remaining strawberries in half and arrange them on top of the cream with the rest of the blueberries, raspberries and redcurrant sprigs, if using. Decorate with mint leaves.
- Put the reserved fruit into a bowl and use a handheld stick blender to purée the fruit. Alternatively, purée the fruit in a blender. For a smooth purée, pass the mixture through a fine sieve to remove the tiny seeds from the raspberries. Taste and sweeten the sauce with a little caster sugar, if needed. Serve with the pavlova.
Tropical Fruit Nests
For a speedy dessert, take a couple of ready-made meringue nests. Beat 100g low fat soft cheese for a few seconds until smooth, then mix in 4 tbsp natural Greek yoghurt, 1 tsp vanilla extract and 2 tsp caster sugar. Pile into the nests and top with thinly sliced fresh mango and kiwi fruit. Add a few pomegranate seeds and decorate with mint sprigs.
Rhubarb & Ginger Eton Mess
Gently cook 200g sliced rhubarb in a little water with 50g caster sugar until tender. Cool, then mix in 1 knob of stem ginger in syrup, thinly sliced. Whip 100ml double cream until thick, then fold in one lightly crushed meringue shell and 50g broken cinder toffee. Spoon the rhubarb into two serving glasses, alternating it with the cream mixture. Chill until ready to serve.
Problems with your pavlova? Let Sue help!
Q I never seem to get much volume from whisking egg whites. What’s happening?
A Use the whites from large eggs, and use them at room temperature, rather than straight from the fridge, so that they’ll whip up to a greater volume. And use your hand whisk on full speed.
Q What I can do with the egg yolks?
A Pop each egg yolk into an ice cube tray, cover with a little water and freeze. When you need an egg yolk for pastry, to make fresh custard or to enrich a sauce or mashed potato, thaw out one egg yolk. Or just make scrambled eggs – adding the extra egg yolks.
Q Any suggestions for other fruits I could use?
A Cherries and pomegranate seeds make a lovely combination. Or try fresh pineapple with mango, papaya and kiwi fruit for a tropical version.
Q Can I use other sugars to make pavlova?
A For the best result, fine white caster sugar works best. For a more chewy, caramel flavour, try using light muscovado sugar. Fill with cream when finished, top with fresh orange segments and drizzle with melted chocolate.
5 Golden Rules
Remember that egg whites will not whip if there is any trace of grease in the bowl or on the beaters. Make sure your hands aren’t greasy when separating eggs, and don’t get any egg yolk in the whites.
Do use a big enough bowl! Those egg whites are going to increase in volume – and you need space for this to happen.
Take care that you don’t over-whip the cream. You might prefer to swap to a balloon or spiral whisk once the cream has thickened, so that you have more control.
You can keep the unfilled meringue pavlova for several weeks in an airtight container – just finish it off shortly before serving.
Don’t leave a cream-filled pavlova sitting in the sun or a warm room. Keep it covered and chilled in the fridge before serving, and keep any leftovers cool, eating them up the following day.
Recipe and food styling: Sue Ashworth
Photography: Jonathan Short