Lemon curd and passion fruit pavlova

Easter pavlova with lemon curd and passion fruit 1
I love an event or special occasion. Whether it is birthdays or anniversaries or Christmas or Halloween or Burns Night or even an election, I’ll take advantage of pretty much any excuse to do the two things I enjoy the most: planning and partying. I’m not even 100% sure which aspect I enjoy more given my obsession for lists and timetables and A PLAN, but there is nothing better than new decorations, nice drinks, great food, even better company and perhaps even a few days off. Even Valentine’s Day, which I will scorn for being an utterly commercialised “holiday”, gives us a (sometimes much-needed) excuse to make time for our other halves, even if it’s just the simple effort of lighting some candles and having a tasty dinner at home together. Anyway, the latest excuse for some planning and indulgence is Easter weekend.

I think Easter weekend is particularly appealing to me because it marks the change of the seasons from dark, cold winter to cheerful spring. The clocks are going forward, the days are getting longer, the daffodils and crocuses have opened up in all their beauty and the spring break is tantalisingly near. So, hot cross buns and a lamb leg have been bought, the flat is full of spring blooms, Easter eggs are hidden away until Sunday and a long walk has been planned to make the most of the bank holiday Monday. All we need now is for 5pm to arrive and the weekend to begin.

I actually made this particular pavlova for my mum’s birthday a couple of weeks ago, but I think it would be the perfect pudding for a big Easter Sunday roast dinner. This is a relatively straightforward recipe to make for a large crowd, the component parts can be made ahead and assembled at the last minute and most importantly it is totally delicious. The outside of the meringue should be completely dried out and crisp but the inside should be soft, almost cloud-like, in texture. The cool topping balances the sweet meringue, especially with the addition of yogurt to balance the richness of double cream which I think can be too much on its own sometimes, and the passionfruit and lemon add the final sharp bite to the dish. Finally, if you’re looking for something to do with your leftover egg yolks, treat yourself to some homemade garlic mayonnaise, perhaps as an accompaniment for a bank holiday brunch or dinner.

One year ago:
The Easiest-Ever Loaf: Crusty no-knead white bread
Vanilla espresso martini

Two years ago:
Guacamole and zingy bean dip
Mini lemon curd tarts
Ingredients for lemon curd and passion fruit pavlova
Ingredients (makes one large pavlova to serve 6-8 people)
4 medium egg whites
250g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp corn flour
1 tsp white wine vinegar
250ml double cream
200g Greek yogurt
3 tbsp lemon curd (homemade is particularly good – find a recipe here)
3 passion fruit

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 10C/130C fan/Gas Mark 2. Separate out the egg whites and whisk until they form stiff peaks.
Whisking egg whites to stiff peaks for meringue
2. Add the caster sugar slowly, a dessert spoon at a time, whisking continuously until the sugar is fully incorporated and you have a thick, glossy meringue mixture. Add the vanilla extract, corn flour and white wine vinegar and whisk again. (Note: the corn flour and vinegar might seem odd here, but they are essential to give the pavlova its signature soft centre).
Whisking caster sugar, vanilla, corn flour and vinegar into egg whites for pavlova
3. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with baking parchment and, as always when making meringues, putting a dot of meringue mixture under each corner of the paper to stick it down. This will make shaping the pavlova much easier.
Preparing to shape the pavlova on a lined baking sheet
4. Using a spatula or a large spoon, pile the meringue mixture into the middle of the baking sheet and then gently spread it into a rough circle, making a slight dip in the middle where most of the filling will go. Use the back of a spoon to create little peaks around the pavlova if you like.
Pavlova ready to be baked in the oven
Pavlova ready to be baked in the oven
5. Bake the pavlova for 50 minutes and then turn the oven off and allow it to cool completely inside. (Don’t forget it’s in there if you come to use the oven later! I learned this lesson the hard way…)
Pavlova after baking and cooling in the oven
6. Whisk the cream until very loosely whipped and stir through the Greek yogurt.
Whipped double cream mixed with greek yogurt
7. Add 3 generous spoons of lemon curd to the cream mixture and fold through. It’s up to you (and the texture of your lemon curd!) whether you leave this a little rippled or whether you combine it completely with the cream.
Whipped double cream, greek yogurt and lemon curd for the pavlova filling
Adding lemon curd to the cream and yogurt mix
Folding lemon curd through the whipped cream and yogurt mix
8. Remove the seeds and juice from the passion fruits.
Passion fruit seeds for topping the pavlova
9. When you are nearly ready to serve, carefully transfer the pavlova to a serving platter and remove the baking parchment.
Preparing to fill and top the pavlova
10. Pile the cream and yogurt filling into the middle of the pavlova and gently spread it towards the edges. Finally, sprinkle over the passion fruit topping with a teaspoon.
Easter pavlova with lemon curd and passion fruit
Serve soon after topping the pavlova, although if you have leftovers they will keep in the fridge for a day or two. Cut into generous slices and enjoy as the perfect end to your Easter Sunday dinner!

Easter meringue nests

Easter meringue nests with mini eggs 1
Meringues and Easter were made to go together. It just seems so appropriate to make an egg-based dessert at Easter time, and meringues are the ultimate in egg magic. Made into individual nests, they are the perfect vessel for lashings of cool cream and piles of cute chocolate eggs. And even better, they can be made ahead of time if you’re planning a big Easter Sunday feast and don’t want to be rushing around the kitchen or juggling oven timings any more than you have to. These meringues will store perfectly in an air-tight container until the next day, but will even keep for three or four days after baking.

I mentioned many of the following tips in one of my very first recipes for chocolate-dipped meringues, but a few key pointers to keep in mind:
– Make sure you don’t get even a drop of yolk or a miniscule shard of egg shell in the whites, as this will prevent the whites from whisking properly.
– For the same reason, make sure your bowl and whisk are spotlessly clean.
– Stick down your baking parchment (not greaseproof paper since meringues can stick to this) with a few dabs of the meringue mixture under each corner.
– After baking, turn the meringues upside down, turn the oven off and leave to cool completely in the oven. Cooling in the oven helps the meringue form a crisp exterior. I have literally no idea why you turn them upside down but my mum does it so there.
– Meringue making is essentially science in the kitchen, so weigh out your sugar exactly and stick rigidly to the cooking time and temperature. Some meringue recipes will call for a certain weight of sugar, but this is the most basic meringue recipe: equal weights of egg whites and caster sugar.
Ingredients for Easter meringue nests
Ingredients (makes 3 dessert-sized meringue nests)
2 medium eggs
Same weight as egg whites in caster sugar
Optional: food colouring gel, cream or yogurt to fill, mini eggs

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 120C/100C fan/Gas 1. Separate out the egg whites from the yolks and weigh the whites.
Splitting the egg whites and yolks for Easter meringues
2. Whisk the eggs to soft, fluffy peaks in a large, clean bowl – try not to over whisk at this stage.
Whisking the egg whites to soft peaks
3. Weigh out the same quantity of caster sugar as you had of egg whites. Add to the whisked egg whites one dessert spoon at a time, whisking in between each spoonful. You should end up with a thick, glossy meringue mixture.
Adding sugar to the whisked egg whites
Meringue mix ready to be piped and shaped
4. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. If you don’t want to pipe the meringues freehand then draw around a bowl or plate which is roughly the size that you want your nests to be.
Baking parchment for meringue nests
5. Place your piping bag nozzle-down into a large glass – this makes adding the colouring and the meringue mixture much easier.
Holding the piping bag upright
6. Using a paint brush or a long skewer, paint two stripes of food colouring gel on opposite sides of the bag. The amount I used produced pale, pastel-coloured meringues, but if you want a more striking effect then you will need to be extremely generous with the amount of colouring you use.
Adding pink and orange food colouring gels to the piping bag
7. Fill the bag with your meringue mixture and pipe into nests on the baking tray.
Piping the meringue nests onto the baking sheet
8. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes until crisp and dry on the outside. Turn the meringues upside down, turn the oven off and leave to cool (or do this on a board if oven space is tight).
Turning the meringue nests upside down after baking
These meringues are crisp and crumbly on the outside, but very soft and chewy on the inside. Since they’re so sweet, I always think that meringues are best paired with a sharp Greek yogurt or crème fraiche rather than whipped cream, but choose whatever you fancy.
Easter meringue nests
Top with a pile of mini eggs for the ultimate Easter treat.
Easter meringue nest filled with greek yogurt and mini eggs

Chocolate mousse

Chocolate mousse served with redcurrants and creme fraiche
It feels like there’s always a long gap between my latest blog posts, since I’ve only been posting one recipe a week for a while now. Life has been busy, especially what with a certain political event happening in my country next Thursday (oh, and I guess there’s that PhD thing to be getting on with too). As much as a healthy dose of democracy is wonderful (and necessary) in life, at times what you really need is a respite from excessive politics. And what is the greatest antidote to politics? No, not alcohol: that is fuel of politics (or at least, “politics” around the dinner table with friends and family). Chocolate. Chocolate is the answer.

This chocolate mousse recipe could not be simpler if it tried – in fact, it comes from a children’s cookery book that we absolutely loved as kids. Posh it up with berries and cream if you want to serve for a fancy dessert, but really this can be whipped up in an instant (barring the chilling time in the fridge) if life is getting just a bit much and you need a large dose of comfort.
Ingredients for homemade dark chocolate mousse
Ingredients (serves 2)
60g good quality dark chocolate (about 70% cocoa solids)
2 eggs
Sea salt
Berries, or other fruit, to decorate
Crème fraiche for serving

Method
1. Break the chocolate into small chunks and place in a bain marie (a bowl placed over a pan of water, without the bowl actually touching the water) over a low heat. Heat slowly until the chocolate melts. Remove from the heat and set aside to allow the chocolate to cool.
Dark chocolate in a bain marie
Melted dark chocolate
2. Separate the eggs and beat the two yolks together well.
Seperating eggs for homemade chocolate mousse
3. Pour the yolks into the cooled melted chocolate and mix well to form a thick, glossy mixture.
Adding egg yolks to melted chocolate for chocolate mousse
Dark chocolate and egg yolk mixture for` chocolate mousse
4. Add a large pinch of salt to the egg whites and whisk until the whites are fluffy and make stiff peaks when you lift the whisk.
Egg whites whisked until stiff
5. Now the whisked whites need to be combined with the chocolate mixture – this is the trickiest step as you want to retain as much of the air that you just whisked into the whites as possible, so that the mousse has a lovely light texture. A good technique is to add about a third of the whites to the chocolate and stir fairly briskly to combine well and loosen the chocolate mixture. Now add another third of the whites, but this time fold gently with a large metal spoon until just combined – this should be a lot easier since the first batch of egg white went in. Finally fold in the remaining egg white, again folding gently.
Chocolate mousse to be spooned into dishes
6. Spoon the mixture into two small dishes or glasses and chill for at least a couple of hours before serving.
Dark chocolate mousse to be chilled
When you’re ready to serve, top the chocolate mousses with your chosen fruit and a small spoon of crème fraiche.
Chocolate mousse served with redcurrants and creme fraiche 1
Chocolate mousse served with redcurrants and creme fraiche
This is a rich pudding, with quite a bitter taste from the dark chocolate. You can use a lower coca content if you don’t like that bitter edge, but some gorgeously sweet berries will balance everything out otherwise. Comfort eat away!

Raspberry and Orange Chocolate-Dipped Meringues

Colourful swirled meringues flavoured with orange and raspberry arranged on a platter
Meringues dipped in dark chocolate arranged on a platter
There’s something about meringues that is pretty magical. Maybe it’s the way that a gloopy, anaemic liquid can be transformed into light, frothy clouds with just a whisk. Or maybe it’s the glossy, bright white mixture that appears once sugar has been added. It could be the texture after cooking, a perfect combination of crisp, soft and chewy. It’s definitely the wonder that only two basic ingredients, egg whites and sugar, can result in such a delicious treat.

Meringues can fit in equally well at afternoon tea or a fancy dinner party, and look impressive, but are easy enough that children love to make them. When we were small we had a wonderful step-by-step children’s recipe book which included a recipe for pavlova that we loved to make. Aged about 10 my little sister gave it a go all by herself. Unfortunately, she misread teaspoon as tablespoon and the end result was, shall we say, a little vinegary in flavour. A valiant attempt, but an advert for reading a recipe thoroughly if ever there was one.

I’d been contemplating making flavoured meringues a lot recently, and with four unused egg whites leftover from the custard I made last Sunday this seemed like the chance. I think the flavours I chose work perfectly together: the sharpness of the fruit, the bitterness of the dark chocolate and the intense sweetness of the meringue itself. If you want to try other flavours then go for it, but be careful when adding anything wet or runny as this can affect the texture of the meringue (for example, in this recipe don’t add any extra zest than stated because of the orange oil that will come with it). If you want plain meringues then just leave the added extras out, they will be just a scrumptious in their natural form.
Ingredients laid out for flavoured meringues - egg whites in a mug, sugars, an orange, freeze-dried raspberries, chocolate and food colouring

Ingredients (makes about 14 meringues, depending on size)
4 egg whites
115g caster sugar
115g icing sugar

Zest of 1 small orange
2 tbsp freeze dried raspberries
Orange and pink gel food colourings (optional, but this gives a stunning finish)

150g dark chocolate

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 120C/100C fan/Gas 1. Meringues require an extremely low oven temperature, which cooks them through without burning the outside and dries them out.
2. Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks. You are really going to want either an electric whisk or someone with tireless biceps to do this.
Stiff whisked egg whites in a glass bowl
3. Add the caster sugar a spoon at a time, whisking constantly.
Caster sugar added to the whisked egg whites to make a glossy mixture
4. Add half the icing sugar, whisk, then add the other half and whisk. Pro tip: do not add the icing sugar while the blades are switched on. This results in unnecessary clouds of powdered sugar billowing around your kitchen and requires a lot of wiping down of surfaces, chairs and toasters.Icing sugar added to the meringue mixture to make a silky, sticky mixture
5. You will now have a glossy, sticky mixture. Remove half of it into a different bowl and gently fold in the orange zest. Fold the freeze-dried raspberries through the remaining mixture.

6. Line 2 baking trays with parchment, not greaseproof, paper. Meringues will stick to greaseproof paper, but not baking parchment. I like to place a small blob of meringue mixture at each corner of the trays, so that the baking parchment has something to stick to and doesn’t slide around.
Adding a little meringue mix to the baking trays to hold the parchment paper down
7. Use a large dessert spoon to create individual mounds of meringue mix on the trays. Dip the end of a skewer into the gel food colouring and swirl through the meringues to your hearts content.

Meringues ready to be cooked, swirled with pink and orange
8. Cook the meringues for approximately 1¼ hours, or until they are crisp on the outside. Turn the oven off, turn the meringues upside down and leave in the oven to cool. Pro tip: do not forget that you have meringues in the oven and switch it back on to cook something else. This will lead to burnt meringue (or pavlova, as it was in that case).
Turning the meringues upside down after cooking. Leave to cool in the oven.
9. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of water. Make sure that the bowl does not touch the water otherwise the chocolate will get too hot.


10. Dip the base of the meringues into chocolate, allowing a few seconds for excess chocolate to drip off. Leave to dry upside down, again on baking parchment.

We had these after a delicious Thai meal that my mum cooked on Saturday. She made her ridiculously simple, but exquisite tasting caramelised oranges. (**BONUS RECIPE** Allow 1 orange per person. Peel and slice. Slowly heat 170g sugar with 140ml water, bring to the boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add the juice of ½ a lemon and pour over the sliced oranges. Chill.) As I banged on about before, oranges are at their primes right now, and they went so well with the meringues.
Bowl of caramelised oranges with two chocolate-dipped meringues, one raspberry flavour and one orange flavour
I think that the raspberry meringues would also be amazing served with fresh mixed berries and a generous dollop of cream during the summertime.

Speaking of which, is it summer yet? I have such a hankering for pesto and salad niçoise and fresh strawberries and Pimms.

No?

Sigh.