Vanilla and Elderflower Pavlova

A British summer cannot pass by without a considerable consumption of Strawberries and Cream.  This is not a tradition that should be messed around with – a cooked strawberry in my opinion is a ruined strawberry.  In this respect a Pavlova comes in very handy, keeping the berries fresh and making a bit more of a ‘dessert’ out of them whilst maintaining the two vital ingredients.  It was particularly great in this case as I had some egg whites left over from a hollandaise recipe I had been testing.   This is a very simple and quick meringue, but you could substitute it with any other that took your fancy – it gives lovely shiny meringues though with a nice chewiness to them.  We had two wonderful friends, Freddie and Ricardo, coming round and this is what they got (I just managed to delete the image from my proper camera, so here’s one from my phone, sorry it’s a bit dark):

Serves 6 (or four when you’ve got Freddie’s pavlova appetite in the house)

for the meringue: 2 egg whites, pinch of salt, 110g caster sugar, 1 tsp vanilla essence, 1/2 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out

for the filling: 200g mixed berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries), 250ml double cream, 2 tbsps elderflower cordial, 2-3 tbsps icing sugar (sifted)

Preheat the oven to 110c. Get a really clean bowl and add the egg whites with the pinch of salt.  If you’re feeling very energetic / crazy get a whisk or if a little more sensible use some electric beaters and beat until they hold a stiff peak.  Once you get them there, start beating in the sugar. Add it in three batches, each time let the mixture become glossy and smooth before adding the next batch.  Once all the sugar is incorporated beat in the vanilla essence and the seeds from the pod.

Get a baking tray and line it with baking paper, use a little blob of meringue mixture to hold the paper down in each corner.  Here you could either make six meringues or as I did go for the pavlova thing.  Scrape the meringue mixture onto the baking sheet and form it into a circle of about 20cm in diameter, make a slight dent in the centre where the filling will go once cooked, leaving at least a 5cm border of lovely bubbly meringue round the edge.  Place in the oven for 1 1/2 hours.

Once it’s done, remove from the oven and allow to cool.  Whip up the cream with the icing sugar and the elderflower cordial.  Stop whipping when it just holds its shape – DO NOT overwhip the cream and if you do, just add a little more unwhipped cream to loosen it a bit.  Stir through the berries and dust with icing sugar.  Serve!

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