You don’t know what a kitchen disaster really looks like till you’ve messed up a particularly big batch of meringue. Wee bit of yolk in there, whites aren’t at room temperature, an unclean pan, overbeating by just a minute—whatever the reason may be for your meringue not beating up to a stiff peak, you have to unfortunately start all over again. There’s no saving the liquid mess that’s left behind with from a failed meringue. It must be binned.
My somewhat old-fashioned kitchen is still not equipped with a stand mixer for lack of space or economical reasons, but my sturdy, high voltage hand mixer does the job quite well. It’s not the breeze that the KitchenAid promises, but I like that I put a bit of muscle in there, and standing over it ensures that I control the speed, which doesn’t result in any over-mixing.
For a successful meringue, the process begins when you separate your eggs. Cold eggs separate better, so separate the yolks from the whites when cold and let the whites come to room temperature . The pavlova I’ve made here uses just the egg whites. Any bits of yolk will cause your meringue to fail, and so by using a packet of EggsUp liquid egg whites, I eliminate the risk of there being any streaks of yellow yolk in my albumin. Room temperature liquid egg whites were whipped stiff, sugar was added bit by bit, increasing my speed ever so slightly till they held peaks. At this stage, cornflour, an acid, and any flavouring agents are added in, folded through, and tipped neatly onto a baking tray and transferred to a preheating oven. That’s it! A pavlova couldn’t be easier to make, provided you follow the recipe to the T.
This particular recipe is adapted from Nigella’s new cookbook, At My Table. Delicate rose water and black pepper make this meringue different from the others. In my opinion, a teeth-jarringly sweet meringue without something to cut through falls flat for me. I top the meringue with fresh figs, whipped cream, rose petals and blanched pistachios. I blanch them so that they can slip out of their papery skins and grace the dessert with its true, vibrant green colour.
You could swap out the whipped cream for another delicious Nigella recipe of Syllabubed yoghurt which is made by whisking together 3/4 cup greek yoghurt (I prefer Epigamia and Caro) with 1-2 tablespoons of red wine, a generous tablespoon of honey, zest of one orange and a pinch of cinnamon. Whisk till smooth and pour over the pavlova, letting it drip down the sides. Ensure that the pavlova base is properly cold before topping it with any cream or fruit.
Nigella's Rose and Pepper Pavlova
Using liquid egg whites that come out of a packet reduces the risk of failure when making a meringue, where the little things are so very important. The fig and pistachio topping also tastes heavenly with a syllabubed yoghurt if you don't want to whip cream, the recipe for which is provided above.
Eggs 6, separated. Yolks saved for another use and whites separated and brought to room temperature. (approximately 240ml of liquid egg whites from EggsUp)
Caster sugar 375g
Cornflour 2 1/2 tsp
Black Pepper 1/4 tsp
White wine vinegar 2 tsp, or any vinegar of your choice
Rosewater 1/2 tsp (if you’re using Key Brand, I suggest adding a 1/4 tsp more)
For the topping:
Non-dairy whipping cream 150 ml (I used Rich’s)
Figs 3-4, cut into quarters
Pistachios 1/4 cup, blanched in hot water and rubbed to slip them out of their papery skins
Honey 1-2 tbsp (optional)
Rose petals for garnishing
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius and line a baking sheet. You could draw a circle on the baking sheet to help you shape the pavlova properly, or you could do it by eye. If you’re making it for yourself, a few rough edges don’t matter.
In a squeaky clean bowl, whisk the liquid egg whites using a hand mixer or a stand mixer till stiff peaks form. Then, continue to beat the meringue adding a spoonful of sugar at a time till all the sugar has been used up. Continue beating till the mixture is thick. This takes a wee bit of time, but you’ll know its done when the mixture is quite stiff and glossy.
Sprinkle over the cornflour, black pepper, vinegar and rose water. Fold them through very gently and pile onto the lined baking sheet in a neat circle. Smoothen the top and transfer to the oven.
Immediately turn the temperature down to 150 degrees celsius and let it bake undisturbed for 45 minutes.
Once the baking cycle is complete, close the oven and wedge a wooden spoon in the door of your oven, keeping it slightly ajar. After ten minutes, open the oven door and let the meringue stand in the oven for an additional ten minutes before taking it out and letting it stand on the kitchen counter to cool further. Top with the cream and fruit only once the meringue has cooled completely. The top will definitely crack, so don’t think you’ve gone wrong in any way.
Thaw the non-dairy whipping cream for 15 minutes at least before whipping it up to shiny stiff peaks that don’t move when the bowl is turned upside down. Smear the cream thickly over the meringue and top it with the quartered figs. Crush the blanched pistachios or cut into thin slivers if you have the luxury of time and sprinkle over the top. Finish with a drizzle of honey and garnish with rose petals.