Pavlova is believed to have been created in the 1920s to honour the Russian ballerina Ánna Pávlova when she toured Australia and New Zealand, with its original creation contested by both countries. This recipe caught my eye on a Saturday morning television programme last Summer: for some reason, until then, Irish cook Rachel Allen had passed me by. I think it was the combination of chewy Pavlova style meringue combined with coconut, as well as the cherry and creamy filling, laced with rose water, that attracted my attention. I made a mental note that it was the sort of recipe that my mother would like and a few months later produced it for her birthday meal, where it was extremely well received. The meringue was crunchy on the outside and satisfyingly gooey on the inside, a heavenly flavour combination with a delicate perfume – delicious! This is a wonderful recipe for a special occasion as the meringue and the filling can be made separately in advance, with the dessert being assembled an hour or two before serving. I have since watched several Rachel Allen programmes and copies of her books are on my ‘wish list’. I have my eye on some of her other recipes, which may well appear on these pages in the future.
I think the programme was called Rachel’s Favourite Food for Living and certainly there is a book with that name. The recipe is available on the Good Food Channel website, called Pavlova Meringue Roulade with Cherries and Rosewater Mascarpone (a bit of a mouthful, I know). I like to use low fat dairy products in an attempt to be a bit more healthy, difficult I know with a rich and luxurious dessert like this one. I had great difficulty tracking down low fat Mascarpone (30% fat), which I had never used before. I eventually found some and used it, but decided that the recipe would be just as good, in fact better, using low fat crème fraîche (or fromage frais). I substituted a bottle of cherries in syrup (Harvin brand from Lidl supermarket), which was drained and the cherries then spread out on kitchen paper to soak up dampness before being checked over for stones (pits). (Reserve the cherry juice and use it in place of some or all of the water when setting a jelly.) The bottled cherries was a good substitute for the fresh cherries used in the original, which were anyway well out of season. The jar yielded slightly more cherries than the quantity below so I was able to serve a few extra on the side. Rachel Allen has a second similar recipe on the Good Food Channel site for a Meringue Pavlova with a Raspberry Filling, also including coconut in the meringue and flavoured with rosewater, but with a lemon cream filling. The basic pavlova roulade would be delicious with any number of fillings in combination with either plain or flavoured cream and I shall certainly be making versions of this recipe again.
Cherry & Rosewater Pavlova Meringue Roulade
4 egg whites
225g/8ozs caster sugar
50g/2ozs desiccated coconut
1tsp white wine vinegar
For the filling
250g/9ozs low fat crème fraîche, fromage frais (or mascarpone, as in original recipe)
1tbsp caster sugar
1tbsp rose water
1 x 350g jar bottled cherries
300g/10½ozs cherries, halved and stoned
1. Preheat the oven to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4
2. Use tin foil to line a Swiss roll tin, leaving a border of 4cm (11/2in) high all round. Fold the sides of the foil up to make a frame, squeezing the corners together to help the sides stand upright.
3. Brush the foil lightly all over with sunflower or vegetable oil.
4. Separate the eggs and whisk the whites in a clean bowl until they form soft peaks.
5. Carefully fold in the rosewater, the wine vinegar and sifted cornflour. (The egg yolks can be individually frozen for use in other dishes.)
6. Add the sugar to the egg white mixture. Whisk at full speed for around 4–5 minutes until it forms stiff peaks that hold their shape.
7. Using a large metal spoon, firmly and quickly fold the coconut into the mixture.
8. Spoon the meringue into the prepared tin and smooth carefully into an even layer with a palette knife.
9. Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes, watching so it does not overcook. It should be light brown in colour and firm to the touch.
10. The meringue should be allowed to cool for a few minutes, before it is turned out by being inverting onto another sheet of foil. The foil on the underside of the meringue should be very carefully removed. Set aside in a dry place and allow to cool completely.
For the filling
11. If using bottled cherries these should be drained of their juice, checked carefully for stones (pits) as not all are removed during manufacture, and allowed to dry on plates covered with kitchen paper.
Fresh cherries should be carefully checked over, washed, halved, their stones removed and set aside in a cool place.
12. Gently beat the crème fraîche with the caster sugar and rosewater. (Use immediately or set aside in a cool place until the roulade is assembled.)
13. Within an hour or two of eating at most, place the meringue layer on a work surface with the longest edge layer nearest you. Spread the mascarpone evenly over the meringue leaving a 4cm/(just less than) 2 inch band along the nearest edge free of cream.
14. Before rolling, scattering over the halved and stoned fresh cherries.
15. Holding the edge of the foil closest to you, carefully roll up the roulade away from you until all the cream and cherries are folded inside. The exterior will crack as it is rolled. Leave the roulade rolled in the foil until serving (it will hold together well in the fridge for a couple of hours maximum).
16. Just before serving, unwrap and gently position on a serving dish guided by a palette knife or cake slice. Dust generously with icing sugar and serve a few more cherries by the side, if you wish and if available. (A large jar of cherries is more than needed for the roulade so there will definitely be some extra.)
17. A little pouring cream adds extra luxury.