Pavlova in Purgatory

Another happy tuesday spice lovers. This week, I’m not bringing you my own recipe but rather a review of someone else’s.

I’ve noticed my own recipes creeping up in heat lately so I’ve decided to pick something mild from my new favourite chilli cook book.

2017-03-21 14.03.30

Heat by Kay Plunkett-Hogge.

Unlike so many others, this cook book isn’t just a case of adding chilli powder to regular recipes and it isn’t all about the heat, despite its name. In fact, Kay doesn’t even recommend anything above a half-strength habanero strain called “Trinity”.

But, rather than just looking at what this book doesn’t do, maybe we should take a look at what it does. Scotch bonnet and cayenne shrimp, gazpacho soup with hot smoky paprika, a thai green curry with bird’s eyes, chipotle beef ribs, jalapeño key lime pie and, today’s recipe, kashmiri chilli pavlova. Just to name a few of the wonders within.

This book contains recipes from all over the globe, almost all featuring their own specific chilli(es). Chillies that have been carefully chosen to fit both the flavour of the dish and, in many cases, its region of origin as well.

It is a chilli cook book with a lot of hard work and love put into it. One that actually cares about the peppers’ flavours. The perfect example of what a chilli cook book should be.

And we’re going to be making the dish from page 180, “Pavlova in Purgatory”.

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For the meringue base, we will need:

3 egg whites

175g of castor sugar

½ teaspoon of cornflour

¾ teaspoon of white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon of cornflour

Then for the creamy centre:

300g double cream

½ teaspoon of castor Sugar

1 drop of vanilla essence

And the topping:

400g strawberries

150g raspberries

50g icing sugar

25ml lemon juice

1 teaspoon of kashmiri chilli powder

The kashmiri being an indian chilli used in milder curries for its deep red colour and flavour. It has a little bit of heat but not too much, with the powder probably rating about a three on my scale.

It also has a bit of bitterness on its own but that and its heat will both be brought down by the rest of the desert. So let’s preheat the oven to 120°c and get ready to bake.

I say get ready because, before we begin, we’re going to have to cut out a 20cm circle of baking paper, grease it, dust it with a little extra cornflour and lay it on a baking tray. Then we can move on to making the meringue.

For the meringue, we need only the whites of the eggs. Unless you’ve specially bought pre-separated egg whites, this means you’ll have to carefully crack your eggs and pass the yolk back and forth between the two halves, letting the white drip out. And make sure you don’t pop the yolk because any traces of it will stop the whites from fluffing up properly.

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It’s a difficult task but one that, once mastered, will help you make a lot of good meringues, soufflés and other risen egg dishes.

After that, your only real problem will be working out what to do with all those yolks.

But they’re a problem for another time. For now we’re more interested in the whites.

These need beating with an electric whisk until they start to hold a peak like so:

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Then we can gradually add the sugar, roughly a third at a time, and whisk that in too, continuing to beat the resulting mixture until it’s about as stiff as you can get it.

Finally, gently fold in the cornflour, vinegar and vanilla essence, trying not to disturb the bubbles too greatly, before spooning the mix onto your baking paper base and popping it in the oven.

Its shape should look something like this, with walls at the edges to hold in the fruit and filling:

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Leave that in for an hour and a half and, while it bakes, we can prepare the topping.

To do so, stick your raspberries and kashmiri powder into a blender and turn them into pulp. Pour the result into a sieve and press it through as best you can to keep all but the seeds.

This can take a very long time and an awful lot of effort so I eventually resorted to a colander which, sadly, did let some seeds through. Fortunately though, not most of them.

So, having passed the first of our fruit through one of those two, we now have a smooth liquid to mix with our lemon juice and icing sugar. This makes the sauce for our strawberries but there’s no sense cutting them just yet. We might as well keep them fresh for now.

Once the meringue is done, however, we’re ready to go. Chop the tops off your strawberries and cut them into quarters, then toss them in the sauce until they’re nicely coated.

While the flavours infuse slightly, we’ll whip our double cream up to stiff peak point and stir in the sugar and vanilla essence.

After that, it’s just a matter of making sure that the meringue is cool enough and we can build our pavlova.

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Just fill the base with the cream and spoon your strawberries on top, pouring over any excess liquid. It can be just a tad messy but it’s an excellent creamy, fruity desert with a smooth, light and bubbly centre to its crumbly base. Not to mention a slight chilli tingle that I’ll call a

0.5/10

Heat

because it only hits me at all in the most fruit filled of mouthfuls.

And, once refrigerated, this light back of the tongue tingle contrasts with the chill of the fruit and cream just as the hard outer shell of the meringue does with its soft and springy core.

It’s these contrasts that really bring life to the desert but half an hour in the fridge does it some other favours too. A little extra time for the flavours to mingle allows the strawberries to soften a tiny bit and take up the sweetness of the juice.

I am very happy with how this recipe turned out but, while I actually rather like the fleeting hints of fire quickly doused by the cream, I could certainly understand if you want to go hotter. All I ask is that, should you plan to up the power of the powder, you pay close attention to its flavour.

This dish could easily accommodate something rich like ghost pepper, thai reds or maybe even the facing heaven “rounds” used in my mapo tofu but I’d stay away from sharper things like the red habanero and wouldn’t even consider branching out into other colours.

And, of course, should you like this recipe as much as I did, it may be worth checking out the book itself for more ideas.

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