If love had to be represented by a fruit, I think strawberries would do the job really well. For one, they are rarely available. Next, most of the ones you do find are bruised and may even have one or more happy worms within, not something to be happy about unless you are a worm yourself. You hear everyone raving about them, the juiciness, the sweetness, the looks, but when you bite into one, you realize they are just blah. Highly over rated. And lastly, they turn out to be more expensive that lots of other simpler fruits. (I am of course talking about the strawberries available here in Bangalore, perhaps they are much better elsewhere? Or is that what everyone thinks?)
Anyway, I am not a fan of the fruit, but qya loves them. (Young and carefree, what does he know?) When he spotted strawberries on our last shopping trip, he squealed happily and batted his eyelashes at me just the right number of times, convincing me to give the fruit one more chance. We turned over a couple of boxes in every angle possible, ascertained that there were no wriggly friends visible and brought them home.
Hoping that these strawberries would somehow be good, I bit into a good looking one. No, no, the same as always, it was lacking in character. I sprinkled on some sugar and squeezed in some lemon juice. Hmm, that was good. Mixed it with some cream. Yum. I should make some pavlova, I mused and fill it with the strawberry cream. And that was one of the best things I had done in recent times.
For the meringue:
4 egg whites
220 grams castor sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 teaspoons cornflour
1 teaspoon vinegar
For the filling:
4 teaspoons granulated sugar
Juice of half a lemon
zest of 1 lemon
400 gram cream (I used medium fat cream)
1/4 cup powdered sugar
For the meringue:
Preheat oven to 170 degree Celsius. Draw 3 circles about 10 cm in diameter on a parchment paper and place it on your baking tray.
In a clean and dry bowl, whisk egg whites till soft peaks forms. Add castor sugar, one tablespoon at a time, whisking well after each addition so that the sugar is dissolved in the egg whites. After all the sugar has been added, continue whisking for a couple of minutes more till stiff peaks form and the mixture is glossy. Rub a bit of the mixture between your fingers to make sure it is smooth and all the sugar has dissolved. Add vinegar, essence and cornflour and gently fold through.
Spoon three equal mounds of the meringue onto the circles drawn on the parchment paper. Shape the meringue with the back of a tablespoon making a depression in the centre to hold the filling and pulling up along the sides. (Alternately, you can just drop heaped tablespoons of the mixture onto the paper and shape each one with a tablespoon to make small pavlovas.)
Reduce the oven temperature to 100 degrees Celsius and place the oven tray into the oven. Bake for 1.5 hours. Once done, turn off the oven and leave the meringue inside for about 4-5 hours with the door slightly ajar.
Spoon in the filling and serve.
For the filling:
Slice five strawberries thinly. Sprinkle over two teaspoons of granulated sugar and mix in the lemon juice. Leave aside.
Puree the remain strawberries with lemon zest and two teaspoons granulated sugar.
Whip the cream until thick. Add powdered sugar and continue whipping. Fold in sliced strawberries.(Reserve a few slices to decorate.) Mix in the pureed strawberries.
I was proud how I made the far from perfect strawberries work. And unless they are rotten "on the inside", do give yours a chance too.