Earlier this month, my parents took James and me to their very good friends Lynne and Bill's house for dinner. I had never met Lynne before but was very well aware of her reputation as one of the best cooks my mother had ever met. So incredible is her culinary expertise that her husband is usually disappointed when he eats out at restaurants because he knows he would have had a far better meal at home. After dining at their home, I don't blame him. She is one super-skilled woman!
One of the dishes that totally blew me away was her incredible pavlova. There was no sign of the usual strawberries, bananas or passionfruit pulp. And it clearly wasn't a store bought meringue. No, Lynne's creation was the most perfectly crisp pavlova covered in a cream/crème fraiche combination and topped with verjuice soaked apricots, white nectarines, crushed candied almonds and chopped mint leaves. It was groaningly good - sweet, syrupy fruits and cream with crisp meringue made for the perfect combination and there was no way I could resist going back for seconds.
I took to google to find a similar pavlova recipe and found this gorgeous one from the magnificent Maggie Beer. The only difference with mine is I'm adding some white nectarine to the topping. I just know this is going to go down soooooo well for Australia Day tomorrow! Shall we begin?
You will need:
4 free range eggs
1 pinch salt
1 cup caster sugar
1 tbsp corn flour
250g dried apricots
1/2 cup verjuice
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp honey
1/2 cup almond flakes (toasted lightly)
1 cup creme fraiche
1 cup cream, whipped
1 white nectarine
Start by preheating the oven to 160°C (a tad lower if you don't like your meringue too crisp) then place the egg whites into a bowl with a pinch of salt then whisk with an electric mixer until peaks form. Add the sugar gradually, 1/3 of a cup at a time, whisking well until the mixture is stiff and shiny. Make sure the sugar is dissolved by rubbing the mixture between your fingers. If it's grainy, keep whisking.
Add the cornflour and one tablespoon of Verjuice and do a final combine. The mixture should have tripled in volume and will stand up when the beaters are lifted from the bowl. I didn't read the recipe before making mine so my mixture was a tad too liquidy. Oops!
Once it's done, turn the oven off, leave the door ajar and allow the pavlova to cool completely. Mine is a bit cracked but the cream will act as the perfect disguise. No-one's gonna be any the wiser...
Now, pop the dried apricots into a microwave proof bowl and pour over 1/2 cup of Verjuice and 1/2 cup of water and cover with cling flim. Place into the microwave (1100 watts) for 4 minutes on the defrost setting so the apricot will reconstitute, plump up and soften. If you have a lower wattage microwave this time will vary. Remove from the microwave and strain off the Verjuice liquid into a bowl, setting the apricots aside.
To prepare the cream topping, place the cream into an electric mixer and whip until soft peaks form. Then add the crème fraiche and whip for another 30 seconds. Spoon the cream mixture onto the top of the cooled pavlova and arrange sliced nectarine, apricots and roasted almonds on top.