Before we get into my first recipe, here’s a little about what this column will be about.
Knowing from personal experience the often long hours that real estate professionals put in, I believe in cooking from scratch at every opportunity, so when I get home at odd hours or have to leave early in the morning to attend a class or a meeting, there is always (my own) fast food available.
I insist on only the best, fresh ingredients, and believe in shopping the sales and designing and creating my own recipes, mixing and matching odd foodstuffs at times. It is easy to sometimes make wonderful recipes from next to nothing; for example, I make a wickedly good ice cream using brandy marinated figs and homemade plum conserve. You will love my butter sautéed garlic shrimp in cream sauce.
My Christmas goodies are always finished by the end of August, with the fruitcake marinating in brandy from then until the holiday season, so as to miss the Christmas rush.
Here, since the fresh fruit season will soon be with us, I’m starting off with this delightful old recipe from my writings in the ’70s.
History has it that the dessert Pavlova was first made with passion fruit about the turn of the century, in Australia, and was served to Anna Pavlova, a Russian ballerina.
You really must see this masterpiece to be able to appreciate its beauty. Give it a try. The only caveat is: don’t try to make Pavlova during humid weather. It won’t dry properly and you will find it becomes a sticky, gooey mess like melted marshmallow.
Will you believe you can prepare this dish yourself in less than 10 minutes? The only catch here (there had to be one) is that it takes two hours in the oven, but at only 250-275 degrees F.
A busy Realtor has to eat, and often even finds time to entertain friends. You can make your Pavlova ahead because, stored in an airtight container, it will keep for up to six months, so this dish is ideal to keep on hand.
Make it early one morning or late one night, if you don’t want your oven on during the heat of the day in summer weather. Or, toss it in the oven after you have had the oven on for some other dish. Just turn down the temperature, bake for one hour, turn off the oven and let the Pavlova sit undisturbed for another hour.
Pavlova has a reputation of being difficult to make. I’ve never been able to figure out why, but I think those comments come because it looks so impressive – and perhaps people fail to consider the weather. You can even take your ready-made Pavlova with you and assemble it at someone else’s house, if you are requested to bring dessert.
This recipe will keep for a few days, even after filling, in the fridge. Slice and serve generous pieces in pie-shaped servings. It lifts easily with a cake knife.
Served in a swish French restaurant under the guise of Vacherin “whatevers” (the names vary), with individually baked rings piled one on top of the other to form a very high case, filled with softened ice cream and then artfully decorated with fluffy whipped cream, it certainly is impressive and definitely does take more time and flair. But you will find this Bird’s Nest Pavlova will create such a stir with your friends, they’ll have you labeled “gourmet” expert in no time.
Recipes for Pavlova come in many variations. Some use salad oil, salt, berry sugar and cream of tartar; others, vinegar; and still others, lemon and corn starch. My recipe is really a combination of other recipes that I have created to personalize it, and I prefer it to most others I have tried.
Bird’s Nest Pavlova
6 or 8 egg whites (it really doesn’t matter)
1-1¾ c sugar (very fine, if available) (depending on how sweet your sweet tooth is)
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp cornstarch
Beat egg whites until stiff, but not dry, so you could turn the bowl over your head (don’t try it when you’ve just come home from the hairdresser) and the egg whites won’t move.
Add lemon and then the sugar gradually and sprinkle the cornstarch over and blend.
Put mixture onto a well-buttered and floured cookie sheet (use lightly oiled brown paper if you prefer, or parchment paper). With the back of a spoon, make a nest with high sides.
Flick the spoon for effect on the sides. Keep piling mixture up on the sides, smoothing the bottom a little. Ideally, keep mixture within a 10-inch circle.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, but as soon as you’ve put the Pavlova into the oven, turn down the temperature control to 250-275 degrees.
Pavlova should be a warm cream colour, not amber. The object is to dry the mixture, not to overcook it. After one hour, turn the oven off. Don’t peek. Keep the door closed. Don’t bake your Pavlova with the oven light on. Keeping an oven light on can sometimes alter the oven temperature if your thermostat is overly sensitive.
Let the Pavlova sit in the turned off oven for another hour or until cooled. Remove paper if used, and store in an airtight container.
Fill with stiff whipped cream and top with fresh fruit of your choice. For a different spin on the filling, try stirring Fry’s hot chocolate powder into the whipped cream, or extra strong coffee. YUM!