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!

Rhubarb curd

Homemade rhubarb curd and daffodils
Spring has finally arrived in Scotland! Easter weekend passed and suddenly the evenings seem longer, the temperature milder and the sun has been gracing us with its presence for weeks now. Despite the warning of a drop in temperature, and more than a drop of rain, this weekend the season has undoubtable changed and brought with it a new crop of spring produce. Every spring my mum makes a batch of lemon curd (you can find the recipe here) and seeing ruby red stalks of seasonal rhubarb inspired me to try a new twist on the recipe. I can reveal the results of this experiment now: superb.

Luckily my local gardener (dad) has a bumper harvest of both regular and forced rhubarb right now. I decided to go for the regular rhubarb for this recipe, purely based on aesthetics – I wanted a curd with a gorgeous pink colour. The initial juice from the rhubarb is an almost shocking pink, but when mixed with the butter and eggs it turns a more pastel shade. Very spring-appropriate, I think. If you have extra rhubarb and want to make something that retains the vivid pink then you can cook up the excess juice into rhubarb syrup for drinks. I’ll post a recipe in the next few days!
Ingredients for rhubarb curd
Ingredients (makes 1 medium-sized jar)
400g rhubarb (for leftover juice for rhubarb syrup increase to 700g)
100g butter
150g granulated sugar
3 eggs, well beaten

Method
1. Chop the rhubarb into small pieces and place in a pan with a splash of water (just a few tablespoons).
Chopped fresh rhubarb for rhubarb curd
Rhubarb with a splash of water for stewing
2. Simmer the rhubarb on a low heat for 10-20 minutes until the rhubarb has completely softened.
Stewed rhubarb for rhubarb curd
3. Strain the rhubarb through a fine sieve to achieve a beautiful, smooth rhubarb juice. Measure out 250ml of the juice for the curd.
Straining stewed rhubarb for rhubarb juice
Rhubarb juice
4. Melt the butter in a bain-marie making sure the water in the pan does not touch the bottom of the bowl.
Butter in a bain-marie for rhubarb curd
Melted butter in a bain-marie for rhubarb curd
5. Add the sugar and mix.
Adding sugar to the melted butter for rhubarb curd
6. Add the eggs and rhubarb juice and whisk well.
Adding beaten eggs and rhubarb juice to the bain-marie for rhubarb curd
7. Continuously stir the curd over a very gentle heat with a wooden spoon until you have achieved the consistency you want – usually so that it’s thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. It can take a very long time to get to this stage so stick at it. And remember that the mixture will thicken a little more once cool.
Constantly stirring the rhubarb curd with a wooden spoon
Getting the right consistancy for rhubarb curd
8. Pour the curd into a sterilised jar and leave at room temperature to cool completely. Keep the curd in the fridge – it will last for at least 3 weeks.
Close-up of homemade rhubarb curd
Spread on toast or swirl through yogurt for an indulgent spring breakfast, or use the curd to top ice-cream for the perfect, simple spring dessert.
Homemade rhubarb curd in a Kilner jar

Mini Lemon Curd Tarts

Mini lemon curd tarts served for afternoon tea
Last Friday we travelled up north to a beautiful little cottage at the Lake of Menteith to begin the hen weekend celebrations for Abi, the most gorgeous of brides-to-be. The journey was eventful, to say the least. My train was late which in turn made us late picking up the (funky) hire car, half of us got lost on the drive up (due to misdirection, not our own fault of course), we were unexpectedly faced with a pot-hole ridden single track road snaking up the side of a mountain and the airbag light in Kirsty’s car kept coming on. However, good things come to those who wait and once we had finally made it to the cottage, unpacked and put “Now That’s What I Call A Wedding!” on the sound system, it was all worth it. What ensued was a night of food, cocktails, games, onesies, surprises, shots, more cocktails and extremely enthusiastic singing. It all began with an afternoon “tea” – I say “tea” because instead of pots of tea we had pots of Pimms. It’s how it should be done.

The girls had whipped up finger sandwiches, vanilla cheesecakes and red velvet cupcakes, and my personal offering was mini lemon curd tarts. I needed something that would keep well for 2 days and would also travel well. So instead of baking the lemon filling into the tart cases, I made separate tart cases and a pot of lemon curd. All that needed to be done at the cottage was to spoon the curd into the cases and adorn each one with a raspberry. Simple.

This is my grandmother’s recipe for lemon curd and it is delicious. As in, eat-it-from-the-jar-with-a-spoon mouth-wateringly delicious. It reminds me of spring because she, and now my mum, would make it around Pessach (or Passover) time when there is an excess of egg yolks leftover from the Pessach baking. The pastry recipe is a sweet shortcrust pastry from Katie Stewart’s Cookbook. This book is the bible in our kitchen. Although this description in The Telegraph’s obituary for Katie Stewart refers to a different one of her cookery books, the exact same applied to ours: “Unlike some recipe books from the early 1970s, Katie Stewart’s book remains timelessly useful. Alongside the glossily pristine compendia of Gordon Ramsay, Sophie Dahl, Ottolenghi et al, The Times Cookery Book is almost always recognisable from its broken spine and pages dog-eared and stained with the oil and gravy of many years’ service. Clean replacements are hard to find.”. Never have truer words been spoken.

The golden rule of pastry is “Cold, cold, cold”. Keep everything in the fridge until you need it, run your hands under the cold tap and perhaps even open a window. If you don’t have white cooking fat, then just use all butter, but it will enhance the flavour and crumbly texture of the pastry. I wanted my curd to be very set, so took it to a fairly thick consistency. Be careful when doing this as you don’t want the mixture to curdle.
Ingredients for homemade mini lemon curd tarts (sweet short crust pastry and lemon curd)
Ingredients (makes 12 tarts, with a little pastry and a half jar of lemon curd to spare)
4 tbsp cold milk
25g caster sugar
100g butter
15g white cooking fat
225g plain flour
A pinch of salt

100g butter
150g caster sugar
3 lemons, zested and juiced
3 eggs, well beaten

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas 6. Mix the milk and sugar together and put in the fridge.
Mixing the milk and sugar for the sweet short crust pastry - now chill in the fridge!
2. Chop the butter and fat into small squares and put this in the fridge too.
Chopped butter and white cooking fat for sweet short crust pastry - now chill in the fridge!
3. Weigh out the flour and add the salt.
Combining the fats with the dry ingredients to make a "breadcrumb" texture for sweet short crust pastry
4. With cold hands combine the fats with the dry ingredients, rubbing the ingredients together until you have a “breadcrumb” texture (similar to what we did for the crumble topping).
Sweet short crust pastry rolled into a ball - now chill in the fridge.
5. Add the milk and sugar and use a knife to bring the ingredients together, using a splash more milk only if absolutely necessary. Tip out onto a floured surface and shape into a ball with the minimal amount of kneading possible. Cover in cling film and rest in the fridge for about 20 minutes.
Rolling out the homemade sweet short crust pastry
6. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry until about 5mm thick and cut circles to line 12 holes of a muffin tray. Prick the bases with a fork, line with small squares of baking parchment and fill with baking beans. If you don’t have ceramic baking beans then any dried bean or rice will do the job.
Lining a 12 hole muffin tin with homemade sweet short crust pastry
7. Bake in the middle of the oven for 15 minutes. Remove the baking beans and paper and cook for a further 5-10 minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool and store in an airtight container until ready to use.
Homemade sweet short crust pastry cases after baking
8. Melt the butter in a bain marie (or bowl over a pan of water to you and I) making sure the water in the pan does not touch the bottom of the bowl.
Melting butter in a bain marie for lemon curd
9. Add the sugar and mix. Add the eggs, lemon zest and lemon juice and mix well. At this point I like to use a whisk.
Ingredients for homemade lemon curd - eggs, sugar and lemon zest and juice
Whisking the lemon curd in a bain maire over a gentle heat
10. Stir over a very gentle heat until you have achieved the consistency you want – usually this is when the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Remember that the mixture will thicken a little more once cool.
Heating the lemon curd mixture until it coats the back of a spoon
11. Spoon the curd into two small jars or a single large one. Leave to cool and then keep in the fridge for up to 10 days. If you can keep your hands off it for that long.
Jar of homemade lemon curd
Homemade lemon curd with sweet short crust pastry cases
12. When ready to serve, spoon the curd mixture into the tart cases and top with a raspberry or redcurrants.
Afternoon tea for Abi's hen do, with homemade mini lemon curd tarts
We still have a little lemon curd leftover, which is gorgeous spread on top of toasted crusty bread and served with coffee for breakfast.

I had a fantastic time at the hen do and now can’t wait for the wedding to roll around in just over 3 weeks’ time. Better get dress shopping…eek!…