Saturday, 14 February 2015

Raspberry, Pomegranate, Rosewater & Pistachio Pavlova

Even though Valentine’s Day seems to be one of the most popular days in the year for dining out, I always think it’s far nicer to make something tasty at home for your loved one to eat! Don’t get me wrong, I love eating out and trying new restaurants, but personally I prefer not to do so on Valentine’s Day where it’s hard to get bookings and so many restaurants want to get you in, served and finished as quickly as possible so that they can accommodate another sitting.  I probably sound extremely cynical and a little grumpy, but believe me, I have experienced this more than once! In fairness, not ALL restaurants have this approach, but many do.

My other great complaint about dining out on Valentine’s Day is that many restaurants eschew their normal menus and offer so-called ‘Special’ Valentine’s Day menus. These menus are often predictable and contain dishes that are easy for stretched and stressed restaurant kitchens to prepare. Regular a la carte menus are often set aside completely for the night or are offered in a truncated form, again easier for busy kitchens to deal with!

I wanted to create a dish that was sweet and light but looked pretty and delicate and most of all inviting to eat; something elegant, a little playful and fun… which for me is what romance is all about.

After toying with a number of ideas, none of which was really grabbing me, I decided to make a pavlova. I must have produced hundreds of pavlovas over the years, but I don’t think I will ever tire of producing them because they are easy to make and people seem to love them! It’s hard not to… with their crisp exteriors giving way to a marshmallow-like centre they are already wonderful, but add cream and fruit and they are a perfect end to a meal, as witnessed by their almost universal popularity.
 
I’m not normally a fan of rosewater, but here it works really well. I erred on the cautious side when adding it, because I know from experience that if you are heavy handed with it, it can swamp the flavours of all other ingredients. Here, the rosewater is a gentle background note that delicately flavours the pavlova, working in harmony with the fresh raspberries, pomegranate seeds and chopped pistachios.

Because this is a layered pavlova, I have doubled the quantities given in my basic Strawberry Pavlova recipe, but have cut back a little on the cornflour and vinegar. Other than that, this is more-or-less the same recipe with a little added rosewater for flavouring. if you like you can fold in half of the chopped pistachios to the meringue just before you spoon it on to the baking trays, but I prefer to sprinkle them over the finished pavlova just before serving. This recipe will leave you with a number of egg yolks, but I have a few recipes coming up over the next couple of weeks that are great for using them up.
 

Ingredients:

8 large egg whites
500g caster sugar
1tblsp cornflour
2tsp white wine vinegar
1tsp rosewater
Filling:
500ml single cream, lightly whipped (flavoured with ½ tsp of rosewater if desired)
125g fresh raspberries
Seeds of 1 pomegranate
50 pistachios (unsalted) roughly chopped
To decorate:
Some crystallised rose leaves or fresh rose leaves (untreated with pesticides etc.)
 

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Fan Oven 160C/Gas Mark 4. Line three large baking sheets with baking parchment which onto each you have drawn a 23cm circle on the underside. Set aside.
2. Place the egg whites into a large mixing bowl and using a hand-held electric mixer whisk the egg whites to the soft peak stage. Gradually whisk in the caster sugar, mixing well after each addition to create a glossy meringue which hold it shape.
3. Sift over the cornflour and add the vinegar and rosewater, mixing briefly so that they are just incorporated.
4. Spoon the mixture, dividing it evenly, onto the three prepared baking trays using the circles that you have previously drawn as a guide, making sure to keep within the edges. Leave aside a few tablespoons of the meringue mixture for the final meringue disc and place into a disposable piping bag fitted with a plain 1cm round nozzle. Use this to pipe little ‘mounds’ of the meringue over the top of this disc. This will be the top layer of your pavlova.
5. Place the trays into the preheated oven and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 120C/Fan Oven 100C/Gas Mark ½. Bake for 1 hour exactly and then turn off oven. Allow to cool completely in the oven before finishing.
To finish:
6. Carefully peel the baking parchment off the  baked pavlova discs.
Place one of the plain pavlova disc on your serving plate/cake stand and spoon over half the cream. Top with the other plain pavlova and spoon the remaining cream on top. Place the top pavlova disc on top.
7. Scatter the fresh raspberries, pomegranate seeds and chopped pistachios over the top of the pavlova. Serve with rose petals strewn around the pavlova with a few decoratively placed on top.

Serves 6-8 generously.