‘How to be a Domestic Goddess’ by Nigella Lawson was one of the very first cookbooks I purchased. Several years (and bookshelves) later, my cookbook collection has grown as rapidly as my waist line and now includes all 10 publications from the Queen of the Kitchen herself. Or Nige, as I lovingly refer to her as.
Not only did Nigella welcome me to the world of cookbook collecting, she too inspired my love of a certain dessert; pavlova. Or dare I say ‘pav’, and risk imitating Nigella entirely. I love pavlova: the crisp glass-like exterior, squidgy marshmallowy centre, snowy billows of whipped cream and deliciously tart fruit all combine in one glorious mouthful. It is sweet, but not overly so and is light enough to enjoy a large portion, or two (no-one judges here) after dinner. Nigella’s latest book, ‘Simply Nigella’ delivers a whole new pavlova experience – a lemon pavlova. As soon as I saw the recipe I knew it would be right up my street, I love citrus desserts. You can find the full recipe in ‘Simply Nigella’ or by clicking here. I stuck to Nigella’s method entirely and have outlined what I did for your reading pleasure. You’re welcome.
This lemon pavlova, like all pavlovas that have gone before, is a complete doddle to make. You start by whisking 6 egg whites until they form soft peaks. I would use a KitchenAid or other free-standing mixer if I had one, but Santa continued to be broke this Christmas and alas I made do with my old electric whisk.
Once you have the desired consistency, add 375g of caster sugar spoonful by spoonful, whisking as you go, until all is incorporated and you are now staring lovingly at a bowl of marshmallow like goo. I love this bit, it still amazes me how egg whites and sugar can turn into such a thing of beauty. Moving on, add 2 and a half teaspoons of cornflour, the finely grated zest of a lemon and 2 teaspoons of lemon juice and fold thoroughly to combine. Boring Science-y Bit: It is the addition of cornflour and acid that turn a meringue into a pavlova. The cornflour and acid work together to strengthen the egg whites, resulting in the soft internal texture only found in a pav. Again, you’re welcome.
Spoon the mixture onto a baking tray lined with parchment or greaseproof and form it into a rough circle, smoothing the top and sides. Confession: I didn’t quite whisk my egg whites enough, resulting in a fairly loose, runny mixture that fell into a circular shape without the need for any faffing. Really though, my base ended up being thinner than it should have been. Gladly, it didn’t affect the taste, texture or eating experience. Put the pav into an oven that has been pre-heated to 180°c then immediately reduce the temperature to 150°c and leave it to do its thing for an hour. When the time is up, leave the pav to cool gradually. I made mine the day before I was serving and prepared the topping about an hour before I was ready to eat it.
Now for some therapeutic dolloping and smoothing action. Spread a jar of lemon curd onto the pavlova. Nigella advises to beat the curd first to loosen it a little. This to me is another bowl to wash up, so I just swizzled it around in the jar with a latte spoon then got to work, it was fine. Next, top it with some softly whipped double cream, 300ml of it, dolloping rather than spreading as to avoid making a mess of the curd layer. (I over whipped my cream, sorry.) Finish with the grated zest of a lemon and 50g of toasted flaked almonds, cooled of course.
The recipe serves 8-12 normal people. Or just me. Maybe over 2 days.
The Verdict: How could this be anything but glorious? Even with my under-whisked eggs, over-whipped cream and almost burnt almonds it was a dream. Like a good old lemon meringue pie but lighter, creamier and with more of a smack in the face from the lemon. It has turned my pav hater finance into a pav lover, success. Nice one Nige.
Washing Up Score: 8/10 – I left the meringue mixture on the whisk and bowl overnight, rookie error.