Today is our final instalment from Cookes Food, and what would an Australiana-inspired menu be without the iconic Aussie Pav!?  Sophie’s take on this much loved summery dessert includes and unexpected twist – a sprinkle of freshly ground pepper!  Its smoky flavour works surprisingly well with the sweetness of the strawberries and meringue… go on, I dare ya! – Lucy

Mango and Berry Pavlova (with a peppery punch!) by Cookes Food.  Photo – Brooke Holm.

I think the best thing about pavlova, and what makes it inherently Australian, is that it looks like a mistake that someone has tried to cover with some cream and a pile of seasonal fruit.

As a chef who cannot bake, I am particularly drawn to these types of desserts, as even when they are bad they are perfection – as long as the outside is a little flaky and crisp, and the inside is like moist marshmallow, there is no need to worry.

If you split it or someone takes a greedy pinch from the side it’s okay, just fill with cream and a few strategically placed berries. I’m not personally a fan of uber sweet desserts, so I add no sugar to the cream, and sparingly sprinkle the strawberries with freshly ground pepper.

Keep in mind that you can’t just start throwing pepper willy-nilly on every fruit dessert, however, in this case the balance of sweet and sour strawberries with the smoky, hot black pepper is a wonderful surprise.

Ingredients

8 egg whites
500g sugar
4 tsp cornflour
1 vanilla bean (all pods scraped out)
1 ½ cups thickened cream (add a little of the vanilla)
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 punnet of strawberries
1 mango
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1 pinch sea salt

Method

Preheat your fan forced oven at 180 degrees. In a clean dry bowl add the egg whites and a generous pinch of sea salt. The sharp flakes cut through the whites and make it fluffier. Mix for 5 minutes.

Add the sugar fairly slowly, by half cups. Continue whipping until the sugar has dissolved – test it by pressing a little of the mixture between your fingers to see whether the sugar is still undissolved. Add the vanilla and mix again. Remove the whisk and with a metal spoon, turn through the vinegar and cornflour.

Place in a 30cm cake tin, lined with baking paper, fill to about 1cm below the rim. Place in the oven and immediately turn the oven down to 150 degrees. Bake for 30 minutes. Reduce heat further, to 120 degrees, and bake for a further 45 minutes. Remember to never open the door, as the hot air will be released and it won’t be as good. Once the 45 minutes are up, turn the oven off and leave it in the oven for 1.5 hours. While your pavlova is cooling down, prep the strawberries by slicing them however you like.

The perfect meringue base, by Cookes Food.  Photos - Brooke Holm.

To assemble – the world is your oyster! Our way is to slice the mango into thin slices and set aside, we like small discs for the strawberries. Un-tin the pavlova (we turn ours out upside down) and spread with the vanilla cream – if you use thickened cream, you don’t have to whip it and you get a much more luxurious result! Next, lay the strawberries in the middle and the mango around the outside. Sprinkle the pepper over the strawberries, serve and plate up. I assure you all bowls will be left clean!

For more foodie inspiration, we highly recommend checking out the Cookes Food event portfolio - these lovely ladies and their talented team create the tastiest morsels for all kinds of events in and around Melbourne!

Instgram in the kitchen with Cookes Food!  Photos - Brooke Holm.