A couple of years ago, I packed up my frantic London life and set off for the countryside. Along with the move, I launched my blog, The Feast, to document my obsession with food. I’m an unschooled home-cook, with no greater knowledge than other home-cooks across the country. On Lindsay’s Feast, I share my culinary wisdom and (mis)adventures. Whether it’s meeting local producers, swishing across the pond to learn the finer points of wine-tasting, or quite simply battering around my own kitchen attempting to make meringues. I have an excessive sweet-tooth and have never been known to turn down a pudding.
Over the years I’ve lived in Hong Kong, Spain and South Africa, and each place, along with its food, has become a little part of who I am. I now live in a tiny cottage in a bustling Hampshire village. While I may endlessly complain about the rain and threaten to emigrate to the southern hemisphere at least twice a week, this cottage, with its miniscule kitchen and lop-sided stove, is starting to feel very much like home.
The festive season is finally upon us and I’m looking forward to a month of indulgence. Along with the classics like mince pies and panettone, I’m also making Rosemary and Gin Baked Plum Pavlovas. The plums work very well with rosemary and I love the festive kick of gin in the syrup. I often associate Pavlovas with the summer months, but they’re so beautiful and make such a statement on a Christmas table. The Pavlovas and plums can be made ahead of time and assembled just before serving, taking the stress out of entertaining.
For the plums:
- 400g fresh plums, halved and stoned
- 30ml Mirabeau Dry Gin
- Juice and Zest of 1 unwaxed orange
- 3 tbsp soft brown sugar
- 2-3 fresh rosemary sprigs
For the pavlovas:
- 4 large egg whites, room temperature
- 225g caster sugar
- 1 tbsp cornflour
- 1 tsp white wine vinegar
- 300ml double cream
- Fresh fruit such as figs, blackberries or physallis
- A handful of chopped pistachios
To make the plums, preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan). Arrange the plums on a baking tray. Combine the gin, orange juice and zest in a small jug and pour over the plums. Scatter over the sugar. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until the plums are soft, but not completely falling apart. Pour the juices into a small saucepan and gently reduce to a syrup. Be careful not to leave it too long otherwise it becomes too jammy. Leave the plums and the syrup to cool completely.
To make the pavlovas, preheat the oven to 110C (90C fan). Place the egg whites into the bowl of a freestanding mixer and start to whisk on a low setting. Once the egg whites are light, white and forming peaks, slowly add the sugar one
tablespoon at a time. Add the cornflour and white wine vinegar and continue to whisk until its glossy and forming stiff peaks. If you rub a little of the meringue between your fingers, you could no longer feel any of the grains of sugar.
Dot four blobs of the meringue on the corners of a baking sheet and place a sheet of baking parchment on top. The blobs should hold the baking parchment in place. Spoon 6 big blobs of meringue onto the baking parchment, making sure they are evenly spaced. Use the back of a teaspoon to create a nest. I prefer a more rustic look, but you can also pipe the meringue into nests, for a more uniform look.
Place the meringues into the preheated oven for 45 minutes to an hour. The base of the meringue should be hard, but the centre should still be marshmallowy. Leave to cool completely.
When you’re ready to serve your Pavlovas, whip the cream to form soft peaks. Be careful not to over whisk. Spoon the cream into the Pavlova nests, place a couple of plum halves on top, along with the sliced figs and berries. Drizzle over the plum syrup and scatter over the pistachios. Serve straight away with a refreshing gin & tonic.