This pavlova is a serious pudding, not a health food. The meringue is fudgy with brown sugar. The fruit topping is vanilla and honey scented and textured with fig seeds. The cream layer is a blend of whipped cream and greek yogurt. It’s really good though, so I thought you wouldn’t mind the brief deviation from all that nutritiousness.
The pavlova was supposed to be the caramel apple pavlova from the Riverford Farm cookbook. We had friends coming to dinner and I promised myself that I’d stick to the recipe, just this once. And then when I made the meringue the night before the dinner I figured swapping in a little bit of muscovado sugar couldn’t hurt, but that I’d stick to the plan with the caramel apple topping. And then our friends had to cancel because of the heavy snow we’ve had…
Inspired among other recipes by Stonesoup’s version of Maggie Beer’s fig pavlova I made a winter fruit compote with plums and dried figs, spiced with vanilla, cinnamon, star anise and honey. A compote based on dried and (gasp!) canned fruit neatly skirts round the problem of the lacklustre fruit available in the UK at this time of year and gives the whole dish a decidedly seasonal feel. You can use fresh fruit by all means but just think about it; nutritionally you’re not really missing out, it is environmentally sound at this time of year and you won’t be infuriated by fruit that doesn’t ripen in time for your guests. Mixing whipped cream with a helping of lower-in-fat greek yogurt is a worthwhile twist that gives a contrasting sour note in the middle of all that sweetness.
Recipe for Spiced Winter Pavlova
For the meringue
4 egg whites, medium eggs
150g caster sugar
100g light muscovado sugar
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon cornflour
Half a tsp vanilla extract
For the compote
6 soft dried figs
300g canned plums (drained weight)
1 vanilla pod
1 cinnamon stick
6 black peppercorns
2 tbsp floral honey
1 star anise
A cup of water
For the cream
150 ml double cream
150 ml reduced fat greek yogurt
Whisk the egg whites until they become stiff and glossy. Keep whisking and slowly add the sugar to the egg whites a couple of tablespoons at a time. Once the sugar has all been incorporated, fold the vinegar, vanilla extract and cornflour into the egg/sugar mixture.
Cover a baking tray with a sheet of baking parchment and draw a roughly 9 inch (25 cm) diameter circle onto it. Use this as a guide to dollop the meringue into a roughly circular shape with a very slight dip in the middle. Bake at 120 C for 90 minutes and then switch the oven off and allow the meringue to cool in the oven for at least half an hour or overnight.
Score the vanilla pod lengthways with a sharp knife to release the seeds. Put the water, honey, vanilla pod, cinnamon, peppercorns and star anise in a small saucepan and simmer for half an hour (long enough to reduce the volume by about half). Slice the figs into roughly three slices per piece. Stone the plums and cut into quarters. Add the figs and plums to the spicy liquid and cook on a low heat for 15 minutes. Allow to cool.
The meringue and compote can both be prepared in advance but whip the cream just before serving for best results.
Whip the cream in a large bowl until it thickens. Fold in the greek yogurt.
To assemble, spread the yogurt/cream mixture evenly over the top of the meringue. Spoon over the fruit and drizzle with a little bit of the syrupy juices.