- Food & Drink
My new favourite cookbook is New Feast by Greg and Lucy Malouf. Published last year, I found it in a stack of cookbooks at work and brought it home to read. That was about six weeks ago and I haven’t taken it back yet (I must, I really must, take it back).
It’s a vegetarian cookbook that races through the cuisines of the Middle East, pulling them in and turning them into recipes that sound so delicious you’ll be at least 2/3s of the way through the book before you realise nothing has died to make a meal. It is crowded with glorious dishes and not a duff recipe so far from all the ones I’ve cooked.
The desserts, however, serve a lot of people and I’ve needed an excuse to make them. Last week that excuse arrived in the form of the Band of Bakers Summertime Event. There was a recipe for pavlova flowers with apple jelly, raspberries and vanilla labneh that seem almost perfect. The apple jelly was a sticking point – not really very summery. And the labneh, because I don’t really have space in my fridge to strain yogurt or a usefully close-by shop that stocks it.
However, the elder trees in the park are lacey with blossom right now, so I’ve been making elderflower syrup (one million smug middle class foodie points to me, please). And there is always, always cream. I made a few switches, fired up the oven and set to.
Pavlovas of any size are not the best travelling dessert, so I piled all the elements into boxes. At the venue, The Crooked Well, I hastily assembled the mini pavs, put out a spoon and then ran off to the bar to buy an Aperol spritz. It is summer after all.
Mini Pavlovas with Strawberries, Peaches & Elderflower Jelly
For the jelly:
250ml diluted elderflower cordial (make it a little sweeter than you think is nice)
1/2 x 6.5g sachet vege-gel
For the meringue:
5 medium egg whites
200g caster sugar
200g icing sugar
2 tsp cornflour
For the topping:
Whipped cream, sliced strawberries and diced peaches
1 Make the jelly the night before. Pour the elderflower cordial into a pan and sprinkle in the vege-gel. Whisk it in, then set over a low heat and whisk now and then till the pan comes to the boil. Simmer for 1 minute. Take it off the heat and pour into a plastic tub. Leave to set in the fridge.
3 Pour the egg whites into a very clean bowl – don’t use plastic, they are always secretly greasy. Whisk the egg whites for a few minutes till they are very thick and stand stiffly in high peaks. Whisk in the caster sugar, 1 tbsp at a time, whisking well between each addition. Sift in the icing sugar and cornflour and whisk them in.
4 Spoon the meringue into a piping bag and pipe flowers onto your baking tray – pipe a small blob and then pipe a circle of blobs round it so it looks like a flower. Bake for about 11/4 hour to 13/4 hours, depending on how crunchy you like your meringues. I like mine to collapse into a sodden mess, so I always underbake them.
5 When you’re ready to serve the mini pavs, put the meringues on a plate (or plates). Spoon over some cream and scatter with sliced strawberries and chunks of ripe, skinned peaches. Turn the jelly out of its tub and chop it into small chunks. Sprinkle over the mini pavs and serve.