My mum loves to throw dinner parties. I have fond memories growing up of her whipping up things in the kitchen. I don't think desserts were ever her thing so she tended to stick to a few reliable favourites. In the seventies, it was pavlova. In the eighties, baked cheesecake. In the nineties, blueberry tart. To this day, I can still hear her opening the oven and exclaiming, oh the meringues worked or oh no, the meringue has collapsed. It seemed there was always something going on with the meringue which as a child I didn't fully understand. All I remember was the sweet taste of the gooey, chewy white clouds and the layers of whip cream and berries.
Strawberry Pavlova - adapted from Jamie Oliver
For the meringue
6 large free-range egg whites
300 g sugar
1 pinch sea salt
For the pavlova
400 g fresh strawberries
200 ml whipping cream
200 ml natural yoghurt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tsp vanilla
a few sprigs fresh mint, leaves picked
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Put your egg whites into a clean bowl and whisk them at a medium speed until they start to form nice firm peaks.
With your mixer still running, gradually add the sugar and a pinch of salt. Turn the mixer up to the highest setting and whisk for 7-8 minutes more until the meringue is white, glossy and smooth. If it feels grainy, whisk for a little bit longer, being careful not to let the meringue collapse.
Line two baking trays with baking paper. Divide the meringue mixture evenly between them and shape each blob into a circle about 20cm in diameter. Put both trays into the oven and bake for 1 hour until the meringues look slightly golden and are fluffy in the middle.
Halve or quarter the large strawberries and leave the smaller ones whole. Whip the cream with the sugar until it forms soft peaks, then stir in the yoghurt and fold in the vanilla. Spoon half the cream mixture on top of one of the meringue halves and smooth it out. Sprinkle half of your berries evenly around the cream mixture. Place the other meringue on top and press down gently to stick them together. Spread the remaining cream mixture over the top layer and sprinkle the remaining berries on top. Scatter over a few small mint leaves and enjoy!
It's the perfect, light dessert for spring parties - Easter, Mother's Day or just Sunday dinner with friends. And just wait until the fresh strawberries are in season! I'll be making it then again, for sure.