Summer fruit pavlova nests: a perfect party dessert

Vanessa Greenwood: As good weather arrives, make the most of the abundant fruit

Meringues can be made up to a week in advance and stored in an airtight container until needed

Meringues can be made up to a week in advance and stored in an airtight container until needed

 

The prospect of luscious summer berries coming into season is something any maritime climate should celebrate. As an oceanic wave of mild summer months roll over us, we can look forward to an abundance of strawberries, followed by raspberries, redcurrants and blackcurrants.

Tangled briars heaving under the weight of bursting blackberries will ultimately signal the last gasp before all prospects of a heatwave get shelved until the following summer.

So let’s celebrate with meringues, fresh summer fruits and chilled whipped cream, the perfect dessert for any summer party.

What I love most about meringues is that you can make them up to a week in advance and store them in an airtight container until you need them. These individual nests can be displayed on a platter at a buffet table or, served simply on individual plates. Make lots of teeny tiny ones for small kids in grass stained socks and pretty summer outfits. They’ll be far too busy marching between the bouncy castle and taking turns on scattered bicycles. For these, pop a single piece of fruit on a teeny cream filled nest .

Don’t you just love it when you have something to make with those leftover egg yolks, after making meringues. Here’s the perfect excuse to whip up some lovely lemon curd, which you can fold through the whipped cream filling.

SUMMER FRUIT PAVLOVA NESTS

Serves 6

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Ingredients
For the meringue
3 egg whites (reserve the yolks for the curd)
175g caster sugar
1tsp cornflour
1tsp white wine vinegar

For the lemon curd
40g butter
75g caster sugar
1 large lemon, zest and juice
3 egg yolks

For the fruit topping
300g summer fruits (any colourful berries and tropical fruits)
200ml whipped cream

Method
To make the pavlova nests
Preheat an oven to 100 degrees (gas one). Line one large baking sheet with non-stick parchment paper, outlining six circles (about 10cm diameter) with a pencil.

Place the egg whites in a spotlessly clean, grease-free mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, whisk on high speed until the egg whites form soft white peaks. Use a large spoon to gradually add the caster sugar until fully incorporated and the mixture is glossy and voluminous. Whisk in the cornflour and vinegar and keep whisking for about 10 minutes until the mixture holds stiff peaks.

Create meringue nests inside the drawn out circles. Do this either by using a dessert spoon to dollop mounds of mixture onto the circle and then creating an indent in the centre. Alternatively, transfer the egg white mixture to a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle and pipe the mixture into nests.

Bake on the lowest shelf of the preheated oven for one hour, resisting the temptation to open the oven door. Turn off the oven and leave the pavlovas inside the oven to cool fully. Once they are cool gently peel away the paper attached to the base and set aside in an airtight container until ready to use.

To make the lemon curd
Melt the butter in a small heavy based saucepan on a low heat. Once melted, stir in the sugar, lemon zest and juice until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat. Place the egg yolks in a bowl and slowly pour the hot mixture over the yolks, whisking as you do so. Transfer the curd back to the saucepan and stir over a low heat until the mixture has thickened. All to cool fully, then keep chilled until needed.

When ready to serve, place the pavlova nests on individual serving plates (or a large platter). Fill with whipped cream, then decorate with any selection of summer fruit and a drizzle of lemon curd. Serve immediately.

Variation
Ripe stone fruits such as nectarines, peaches and plums are also delicious served with meringues and cream. Try sliced pears drizzled with chocolate sauce.

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