There are some things which are just so right when the sun shines in summer; a proper, creamy Italian gelato in a sugar cone, new flip flops which don’t cause you blisters, a glass of white wine so chilled the glass glistens with condensation or sitting in a park or woodland until 9pm just because you can. Summer eating should be about light pasta sauces, interesting and unusual salads, chilled soups and ice creams. What is also perfect in summery weather is a pavlova. In the winter I want dark, rich, steaming puddings, oozing with sauce and hot custard. But in the summer, when you want something a bit more interesting than another bowl of fruit salad, not much beats a pavlova with it’s meringue that is crunchy on the outside and fluffy marshmallow on the inside, topped with whipped cream and fruit; it’s a gem of a pud for a time when the sun shines for longer and you’re not having to sit next to a radiator to keep warm, which is often the case in this country.
Following on from my earlier post about how to make the perfect meringue; many people I know are scared of making meringues, but if you follow a few rules, it is very simple really. Once you have tasted the real thing, you will never go back to buying them from the supermarket again.
British raspberries, particularly Scottish ones, are one of the greatest fruits we produce. Their delicate, fragile structure means they have to be eaten very quickly after they are bought. Luckily this is not a problem in my house. They are perfect just as they are, but doing that would make this post about them pretty boring, so here is one of my favourite ways to scoff them.
I cannot take the credit for this recipe, as it is a very close relation to one which Nigella Lawson published in Forever Summer. I feel the need to share it here, as it is a something I have made so many times, always with a fantastic reaction. It is really simple to prepare and if you make the meringue the night before, the assembly is a matter of moments. The combination of chocolate and raspberries is obviously wonderful from a visual, as well as a taste point of view. The blood-like redness of the raspberries looks stunning against the snowiness of the cream and the deep darkness of the meringue. This chocolate meringue works equally well with any other berry of your choice. You can also make a white chocolate version without the cocoa powder and with 75 g of chopped white chocolate; this is very sweet, so works best with a tarter tasting berry like redcurrants. You can also use this recipe to make individual portions; just bake them for a little less time.
You can make the meringue base in advance, but do not add the cream until the last minute, or the meringue might collapse. This will obviously not change it’s luscious flavour, but it won’t look quite so beautiful. Use the freshest berries you can find and chocolate with a cocoa content of no less than 70%.
Chocolate & Raspberry Pavlova
6 large egg whites
300g caster sugar
3 tbs cocoa powder, sieved
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
50g dark chocolate, finely chopped
500 ml double or whipping cream
3 tbs dark chocolate, grated
Heat the oven to 180°C and line a baking tray with baking parchment.
Beat the egg whites until fluffy and then add sugar a spoonful at a time until the mixture is stiff and shiny. Add the cocoa, vinegar and the chopped chocolate. Then gently fold everything until the cocoa is thoroughly mixed in. Heap the mixture onto a baking sheet in a circle. Put in the oven, then turn the temperature down to 150°C and cook for about one to one and a quarter hours. When it’s ready it should look crisp around the edges and on the sides and be dry on top, but when you push it gently, you can feel a softness underneath. Turn off the oven and open the door slightly, and let the meringue cool completely.
Place the cold meringue on a large serving dish. Don’t worry if it cracks a little-a pavlova is not meant to look pristine. Whisk the cream until thick but still soft and pile it on top of the meringue, then scatter over the raspberries. Grate the chocolate over the top and serve as soon as possible.