ROSE AND PEPPER PAVLOVA WITH STRAWBERRIES AND PASSIONFRUIT
The flavors sound so bold here and yet taste so delicate. My maternal grandfather used to eat strawberries with a grinding of black pepper; he insisted it made their berried freshness sing. I prefer to add it to the pavlova base, pairing its perfumed warmth with some rosewater, giving the marshmallow-bellied meringue the huskiest hint of Turkish delight. Macerating the strawberries in passionfruit juice both heightens their flavor and brings its own sour-sweet fragrance.
It is best to make the pavlova base a good few hours, if not a day ahead, then store it in an airtight container. Certainly, it must be completely cold before being topped with cream and fruit.
For the base:
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
1¾ cups plus 2 tablespoons superfine sugar
2½ teaspoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Rosewater
For the topping:
10 ounces strawberries
2 teaspoons sugar
1¼ cups Heavy Cream
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a grease-free bowl, whisk the egg whites until firm peaks form, and then beat in the superfine sugar a spoonful at a time until the meringue is stiff and shiny. Be patient: it takes a little time to thicken glossily.
3. Sprinkle the cornstarch, pepper, vinegar, and rosewater over the meringue, then, by hand, gently fold everything until it is thoroughly mixed in. Mound onto the lined baking sheet in a fat disc approximately 9 inches in diameter, smoothing the sides and top. Place in the oven, then immediately turn the temperature down to 300°F and bake for 1 hour.
4. Take out of the oven and leave to cool, but do not leave anywhere cold as this will make it crack too dramatically. You’ll always get some cracks though, so don’t fret. If you think your kitchen is too cold, then drape the pavlova base loosely with a clean tea towel.
5. When the meringue is cold and you’re ready to eat, turn the pavlova base onto a large flat plate with the underside uppermost.
6. Hull each strawberry and cut, from hulled end to the tip, to make 3 slices, putting them into a shallow bowl as you go. Cut the passionfruit into halves then, using a small strainer over a pitcher or bowl, spoon the juice and seeds into the strainer, pressing all the juice out into the pitcher. Discard the seeds, then pour the juice over the strawberries and sprinkle with the sugar, leaving them to macerate while you get on with the cream.
7. Whip the cream until thick and airy but still soft, and spread on top of the pavlova base in a swirly-mound, working all the way to the edges so that it is evenly covered.
8. Spoon the shiny strawberries in their juice over the top – the swirls of cream will catch some of the golden yellow of the passionfruit – and bear proudly aloft to the table.