I promised you rhubarb pavlova. And I would never break a promise. Here it is in all its meringuey, creamy, rhubarby glory.
I've been having a bit of a love-affair with rhubarb of late, this being my third rhubarb related post in as many weeks. Well, forced rhubarb is something to be celebrated. A glimmer of colour in a season otherwise weighed down with roots, roots and more roots. Not that I don't love roots, you understand. But it is nice to have a bit of colour. Don't you agree...?
I usually make this in the summer with red berries - strawberries, raspberries and redcurrants. But you can really choose anything. Slightly tart fruits are best due to the sweetness of the meringue - kiwi, pomegranate or passion fruit are great choices. Pavlova is a dessert that hails from New Zealand and was named in honour of Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. The idea is that the meringue should have crisp outside and a marshmallow-like interior - they key to achieving this is the addition of cornflour and vinegar. Unlikely, it may sound, but trust me on this!
I'd never tried topping a pav with rhubarb, but I thought the tartness would work well, to say nothing of the pretty-in-pink colour.
For the meringue:
4 egg whites
8 oz caster sugar
1 teaspoon raspberry vinegar (or another fruit vinegar, cider vinegar or lemon juice if desperate!)
1 teaspoon cornflour
For the topping:
Approx 10 medium stems forced rhubarb
2 tablespoons sugar (to taste)
Half a pint double cream
Handful pistachio nuts (optional)
1. Start the meringue the night or at least 3 hours before. Pre-heat the oven to 150C. Whisk the egg whites in a whistle-clean bowl until stiff. You should be able to turn the bowl upside down without the whites falling out, but you may not want to try this!
2. Mix the cornflour with the caster sugar and whisk into the egg whites a little at a time until the mixture is glossy. At the last minute stir or whisk in the vinegar.
3. Next you need to form the base. Ideally one of those brilliant non-stick sheets of black teflon type stuff is just the thing. If not, greaseproof paper on a large baking tray will do! Spread the meringue mixture out on the sheet in a rough circular shape - with a spoon try to make a depression in the centre. Take a skewer and swirl around the edges to create peaks. It doesn't have to be perfect - a rough messy shape is perfect. If you have a very stiff mixture, you could get all excited and pipe it in artistic fashion, but really, life's too short, if you ask me.
4. Pop in the oven and bake on the low heat for one to one and a half hours. When it is done, the exterior should be crisp but not in any way brown...5. Whilst it is in the oven, get your rhubarb on the go. Chop into 2cm pieces and pop into a saucepan. Sprinkle over a ramekin full of water and a tablespoon or two of sugar. Stew on a low heat for soft but not too squishy. Taste and add more sugar if needed - you want it reasonably tart. Drain with a sieve and retain the juices. Chill the rhubarb.
6. Make a little rhubarb syrup with the juice - pour into a small pan, add a little more water if you haven't got much and another tablespoon of caster sugar. Heat and bubble to reduce until syrupy in consistency.
7. Once the meringue is done, it need to be cooled. Hence I suggest you make it the night before. When ready to serve, whisk the cream until blobbable. Blob over the meringue and top with rhubarb and drizzle with the syrup...8. I had this lovely idea of sprinkling over some chopped pistachio nuts. I forgot. Until the next day, when I was polishing up the leftovers. The idea was a purely aesthetic one - I love pink and green together.