Yes, you want a non-traditional meal. But try and host a party without a pavlova as the central feature of a dessert spread and see how quickly someone notices. Face it: The pav is our national dessert. So, if you gently manipulate the pillowy meringue into a circle and then decorate it with festive touches, no one will think the worse of you.

Serves everyone at your table. 

(At least 8-10 people)

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 egg whites at room temperature
  • 1 ¼ cups (270g) caster sugar
  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 300ml thickened cream
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar mixture, sifted

Fruit topping:

  • 2 punnets strawberries, 2 punnets fresh raspberries and the seeds of 1 pomegranate
  • Juice ½ lime or 2 tablespoons marsala

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 120°C. Line a large oven tray with baking paper. Spray with canola spray and dust with a tablespoon of cornflour, shaking off excess. Mark a 24cm diameter circle on the paper with the blade of a butter knife scored into the paper. If making a wreath, mark a smaller 12cm circle in the centre.
  2. Using an electric mixer, whisk egg whites in a clean dry bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, one tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition, until meringue is thick and glossy and the sugar has dissolved. There is no quick cheat’s way to do this, you need to beat each addition very thoroughly to enable the sugar to dissolve into the egg whites. The results will be a deliciously soft meringue that does not ‘weep’. This step could well take up to 20-25 minutes. Please, take your time.
  3. Rub a little meringue between fingers. If you can still feel grains of sugar, continue to whisk until sugar dissolves. Add cornflour, vinegar and vanilla and with the food mixer or your beaters set on low, very gently whisk until just combined.
  4. Spoon meringue onto the baking sheet, using the marked circles as a guide. Now is not the time to reproduce a perfectly smooth-sided base – we’re going for a more artisanal look. Pile up the meringue towards the centre of the circle, smoothing the top but leaving the sides a swirling, undulating mass of meringue.
  5. Bake in oven for 1½ hours or until pavlova is dry to the touch. Turn off oven and leave pavlova in oven to cool completely, overnight if possible. When completely cold, transfer to serving plate or store in an airtight container until required.
  6. When ready to serve, use an electric mixer to whisk the cream and icing sugar in a medium bowl until firm peaks form. Spoon cream onto the top of pavlova. Wash and hull the berries and add them to a little lime juice or a dash of marsala and toss them gently. Drain. Decorate pavlova and serve at once.

Sandra Reynolds

Sandra Reynolds is an award winning blogger, writer cookbook author. Surviving hardship, she has created, written and shared over 1300 nutritious, low-cost and family-friendly recipes for her blog The $120 Food Challenge and encouraged thousands of people on low incomes to do more in the kitchen with less. Her first cookbook, The $120 Food Challenge is published by Penguin Viking.