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East Meets West - Dessert

There is an trans-Tasman contention over whether 'pavlova' is originally from Australia or New Zealand. We all know *cough* that the famed (and delicious) dessert comes from when the famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova was performing in the two countries, one of them created the dessert in her honour because it was "as light as air", supposedly just like her. As to which country it was - that's up to your loyalties to decide. I'll put my wooden spoon down now.

I have to say, I love a good pavlova. I didn't always. I used to really hate the smell of the meringue. And I hated the dry, crispy ones that you would get in most supermarkets that turn to dust in your mouth. Eugh. I know they make them like that to give them a longer shelf life but still... No thanks.

Since I started making meringue myself, it's become one of the things I like to make most and, unfortunately for my figure, one of the things I like to eat most. In the past I have always topped it with fruit and occasionally a fruit compote - which is delicious if you want to keep seasonal fruit into another season. I also love cardamom. At work, we make a variety of sweet Scandinavian swirl buns and my absolute favourite are the ones with cardamom fillings. There is cardamom in the dough as well but that double dose is just *insert pretentious eye roll and exuberant fist pump here*.

So why not put cardamom in a meringue? What better way to celebrate the union of a Kiwi and part-Arab than by making a dessert in dedication? I made his pavlova... Middle Eastern. And it was frigging delicious - if I do say so myself.

Now, I have tested this recipe quite a few times and I have a few theories on why meringues fail on first time meringue makers:

1) The sugar is too coarse. Always use caster sugar. The regular granulated stuff it far too coarse. If that's all you have, blitz it first.

2) The sugar does not dissolve properly. This also comes from the sugar being too coarse. However, sometimes even with caster sugar, it can take a while to dissolve. Add your egg whites to a mixing bowl and add the sugar and whisk with the bowl over a pot of boiling water until the sugar is dissolved. The egg whites will get foamy at this stage.

3) You are not using a fan oven. Fan ovens are wonderful in the world of baking because the fan distributes the heat. If you don't have a fan oven, hike the temperature up by 10 degrees C and cook for the same amount of time as instructed.

Try these tips if your meringue is failing you. Hopefully it won't happen anymore!

Middle Eastern Pavlova

  • 250g egg whites

  • 600g caster sugar

  • 7 cardamom pods

  • 300ml double cream

  • 1 1/2 tsp rose water

  • 100g shelled pistachios, chopped

Preheat the oven to 100 degrees C. Add the egg whites to a mixing bowl and either with an electric whisk or a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites slowly until foamy. Then increase the speed and gradually add 500g of the sugar. Again, if this hasn't worked for you in the past, use the method above. Whisk the egg whites until they stand in stiff peaks. With a stand mixer this will take about 7 minutes on the highest speed. With an electric hand whisk it's more like 15 minutes.

Remove the seeds from the cardamom pods and crush them with a pestle and mortar until they are fine but not powdery. 4-5 good blows really should do it. When the meringue is ready, whisk in the crushed cardamom until it's evenly mixed.

You can fit a piping bag with your favourite nozzle or no nozzle at all. I used a large star shaped nozzle for this one. Draw a 9" diameter circle on a piece of parchment paper. Take a teaspoon of the meringue and put it in the corners of a baking tray. With the circle on the underside, stick the paper onto the tray, using the meringue in the corners as a glue.

Starting in the middle of the circle, pipe the meringue in a spiral to the edge of the circle. Then build up the edges until you have a little well in the middle. Use all of the meringue but the well doesn't have to be massive if your edges get too high. The higher they are, the longer they will take to cook.

Put the meringue in the oven for one hour. When the hour is up, switch the oven off and let the meringue cool in it for another half an hour.

Meanwhile add the rest of the sugar and the rose water to the cream and whisk until it's just firm. If you over whisk it, it will be sweet, rose flavoured butter.

When the meringue has completely cooled, carefully take it off the parchment and put it on your serving platter. Top it with the cream and the pistachios. If you have any rose petals handy, scatter a few of them over for good measure.

Warning: incredibly more-ish.

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