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!

Garlic mayonnaise

Handmade garlic mayonnaise
I have a tragic story to share with you. Truly, it’s a heartrending tale. In the world of home cooking at least….

During the summer we were due to have friends round for Friday dinner, and as per my parents’ usual Friday routine they had been to the fishmongers that morning. This time they had come home with a particularly great haul of seafood: squid, prawns and, best of all, crabs. I really fancied some homemade garlic mayonnaise in which to dip the simply cooked fish, and after a great success whipping up a batch in a basic student kitchen I felt pretty confident. I grabbed the electric whisk (on which I am going to (unfairly) blame this entire story and conclude that I will forever more use a hand whisk for mayonnaise even if my arm drops off) and began separating eggs. I was making a pretty big batch of mayonnaise – about 3 egg yolks worth – and dripping the oil in at a painstakingly slow pace. A few hundred millilitres in and suddenly the mixture split. But never fear! Google and Delia Smith were on hand to reassure me that this was not the disaster it seemed. Simply separate another egg, lightly beat the yolk and then drip in the “ruined” mixture. The mayonnaise will begin to take form again and you can return to incorporating the rest of the oil as planned. So I persevered and eventually turned off the whisk with a huge bowl of the best looking mayonnaise you have ever seen. Ever. I lifted the bowl slightly and tapped the balloons of the whisk off the side of the bowl…..CRASH. As I tapped the whisk on the side, the bottom of the glass bowl had hit the counter top and suddenly the bowl was in dozens of shards, small and large, the beautiful mayonnaise in amongst it. A lot of expletives were uttered as I stood frozen in shock. Mum was switching between laughing at me and feeling sorry for me. To be honest, I was all for risking glass cuts in order to eat the mayonnaise, but she didn’t think that was a great idea….so in the bin it went.

Basically, this is a convoluted way to tell you of a newfound fear of making mayonnaise I developed and how a few weekends ago I overcame this to make mayonnaise once again, this time without a glass fragment topping. And if I can do it, SO CAN YOU. I have just a few tips for you: first of all, some people use half, or even all, olive oil but I find this gives far too rich a flavour so I go for 100% sunflower or vegetable oil. Secondly, I would always use a hand whisk and add the oil as slow as humanly possible to begin with – an extra pair of hands can help at this point. And finally, never ever ever bang the balloon of the whisk off the side of the bowl unless it is flat on the work surface. You have been warned.
Ingredients for homemade garlic mayonnaise
Ingredients
2 egg yolks
1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp cider or white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
300ml sunflower oil

Method
1. Put the egg yolks, garlic, mustard and vinegar into a large bowl. Whisk together well, with a generous seasoning of salt and pepper.
Egg yolks with seasonings for garlic mayonnaise
Whisking the egg yolks with seasonings for homemade garlic mayonnaise
2. Begin to add the oil. This needs to be done very slowly, while you continually whisk the yolks. If you have a helper, get them to drizzle in the oil at an almost painfully slow pace as you whisk. If you’re by yourself, just add a drop at a time to begin with. After about 100ml of oil the mayonnaise will begin to thicken slightly.
Beginning to add with oil for homemade garlic mayonnaise
3. Continue to pour in the oil. You will suddenly notice that the mayonnaise becomes very thick and at this point you can add the oil a little quicker. Once all the oil has been incorporated you should have an indulgently thick, wobbly mayonnaise.
Adding the oil to homemade garlic mayonnaise
Serve straight away, or spoon the mayonnaise into a jar or a bowl covered with cling film and store in the fridge. It will keep for a couple of days…although I would be surprised if it lasts that long! It is delicious with steamed or grilled seafood, as a dip for homemade chips, in a burger or with fried chicken, or even just in sandwiches for a real treat. And, believe me, it is worth the effort.
Homemade garlic mayonnaise

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!