pavlova: fit for winter

fig & walnut pavlova with yoghurt sour cream 

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my brother and his life long obsession with that classic dessert lemon meringue pie and well it got me reminiscing about all the great desserts from my younger years: cheesecake, rice pudding, baked custard, apple crunch (Mum’s version of your classic crumble), fruit salad, baked apples stuffed with dried fruit, busy day pudding, strawberries with marsala and cream, and the dangerously boozy chocolate log. All comforting sweet treats in their own right, but none that got me anywhere near as excited as that great New Zealand / Australian creation: the pavlova.

Call it alchemy, I really can’t put my finger on it but there must be some sort of magic at work when it comes to turning beaten egg whites and sugar into such a deliciously light crunchy-on-the-outside yet gooey-on-the-inside cloud of a dessert. A dessert that is the perfect base for a generous topping of marscarpone and your favourite fruit of the moment, say a mixture of berries. A dessert that is just crying out to be named after a ballerina.

While there are very few desserts that can top a pavlova as the perfect end to a summer BBQ with the family, as the days shorten and the winter months roll in, I find myself thinking less and less about meringue. But this weekend when I was looking for something to complement a hearty Saturday night dinner at the farm of pot roasted leg of lamb with celeriac puree, there was something about Maggie Beer’s creation of meringue with figs and walnuts that just struck the right chord.

Now Maggie actually calls hers a tart, I guess since it’s cooked in a tin but I think pavlova is closer to the mark. The light airness of meringue is still there but where a classic pav offers up a contrast of textures from the middle to the shell, this new take has textural contrast in every mouthful. Think crunchy nuts and chewy figs that lend a slight Christmassy feel. Then team it with the rich tartness of sourcream lightened and sharpened with yoghurt and you have yourself the perfect winter pav….all good things.


fig & walnut pavlova with yoghurt sour cream
serves 8-10
Adapted from the ever smiling Maggie Beer in her latest offering Maggie’s Harvest.

With all the fruit and nuts this far far richer than your traditional pavlova but equally effortless to prepare and just as great as a do ahead dessert when you have a crowd to feed.

Feel free to play around with your fruit and nut combinations, while I’m yet to try it out am thinking that a prune and almond version would be a winner or if you were after more of a middle eastern vibe maybe apricot and pistachio. No limits really.

If fruit and nuts aren’t really your thing, think about adding a twist to your favourite pav recipe by keeping the brown sugar idea and serving with the sour cream yoghurt mixture and a hot chocolate sauce.

6 egg whites
pinch salt
250g soft dark brown sugar
375g dried figs
200g walnuts, toasted & roughly chopped
250mL (1C) sour cream
125mL (1/2C) natural yoghurt

Preheat oven to 180C and grease and line a 24cm springform pan. Beat egg whites with salt until firm peaks form then gradually rain in brown sugar and beat until sugar is dissolved and mixture is glossy. Place figs in a heatproof bowl and pour over boiling water. Allow to stand for a minute then drain and roughly chop, discarding stalks.

Fold nuts and fruit through the meringue mixture and gently spoon into prepared tin and smooth top. Bake 45 – 55 mins or until top is well browned and the pav feels firm. It won’t feel as crunchy as a regular pavlova or meringue. Allow to cool.

Whisk together yoghurt and sour cream and serve slices of pav with cream mixture passed separately.

ps. If you are doubly lucky and happen to have some fig & walnut pav leftover as well as someone willing to make Sunday breakfast, am highly recommending milky porridge made the old school way on the stove top with a sliced banana or two stirred in for the last few moments of cooking. Serve piping hot topped with some crumbled leftover fig & walnut pavlova and a dollup of yoghurt, or better yet some of the sourcream mix.

Enough to gladden your heart that Winter is finally here.

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