When I was about twelve, my mom had our bedrooms re-carpeted. I adored all the books of carpet samples that littered the house and spent hours poring over them, trying to imagine how each might look in my room. In the end, I announced my choice: a pale pink shag-pile carpet. Luckily, my mother was wise to the ways of a teenage girl – she smiled, nodded… and ordered me a nice, neutral cream carpet – something that I would thank her for 8 years later when I was deep in my Goth phase and would have been deeply mortified by a pink carpet.
Pink is the colour of crocheted baby booties; of candyfloss; of the sweet innocence of childhood; of fluffy toys; of uncomplicated emotions, inexperience and naiveté. In colour therapy, constant over-use of pink is said to make us immature, silly and girlish, abandoning our adult responsibilities. (It is also the colour that they paint some rooms inside of psychiatric institutions to calm patients down to meek, mild biddability – but that’s a whole other story!). Do these sound like characteristics you would like to celebrate? No? So then why, oh why, is the internet innundated with pink fairy cakes, drinks, desserts and other pink flotsam and jetsam this week in celebration of Valentine’s Day? Do we really want to celebrate this day dedicated to love, the most passionate of human emotions, looking like a pre-teen girl’s wardrobe exploded on our screens?
Red? Now the colour red is a whole other story. Red is a stimulant colour so powerful that studies show that red can have a physical effect, increasing the rate of respiration and raising blood pressure. Red is the colour of blood coursing through our heart, or blood spilt as Cupid’s arrow hits home. Flashing red lights denote danger; red carpets denote adulation. It is the colour of revolution and of roses; of celebration and mourning. Red is both Cupid and the Devil, straddling the divide between danger and delight. Now wouldn’t that be a more appropriate way to celebrate a day of love, an emotion that can evoke such bitter conflict, and such sublime reconciliation?
Entirely by premeditation, the two fruits I chose for my Valentine’s dessert are both ruby red – and coincidentally they are both considered to be aphrodisiacs. The pomegranate with its multitude of seeds has long been considered a symbol of fertility, and recent recent scientific studies have shown that consuming pomegranate juice can in fact send testosterone levels spiking and increase the libido in both men and women. The fig is one of the world’s oldest cultivated fruits (it appears in the very first book of the Bible) and has long been thought to resemble male testicles when intact and female genitalia when cut open, thereby securing it a permanent place in the pantheon of sexy fruit. I think few of us can deny that there is something distinctly anthropomorphic about the fig, from its velvety skin to the easily-bruised vulnerability of its flesh, to its concealed blood red interior – and as it turns out it is packed with nutrients that pep up your libido (manganese, magnesium, vitamin E, zinc, iron and potassium).
I also happened to have a bottle of rose petal syrup handy which I bought bought from a charming young man last March at the Neighbourhoods Market in Cape Town, and had been dying to use. Throw in some swirly meringue nests for sweetness, and some cardamom pods for spice and voila – I had my Valentine’s dessert. So let”s wave goodbye to the vision of Valentine’s day that looks like an adolescent girls’ wardrobe; and let’s spice things up a little in the red hot luuurve department with this altogether more grown up edible expression of love.
Other bloggers practising their pavlovas:
- Bron Marshall’s summer berry pavlova
- Jane-Anne’s lemon curd & raspberry pavlova
- Jenn’s individual berry pavlovas
- Denise’s mini pomegranate pavlovas
- 4 ripe purple figs
- 75ml rose petal syrup (can also use pomegranate molasses)
- 75ml rosé wine
- 3 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
- 150ml double cream
- 1 Tbsp caster sugar
- 4 Tbsp pomegranate arils
- 2 individual meringue nests (homemade is best, but store bought is fine)
- Wash the figs and slice them in half from top to bottom. Heat the rose petal syrup, rosé wine and cardamom pods in a small saucepan and when it starts bubbling, add the fig halves, cut side down. Allow to simmer gently for 5 minutes, then turn them over and allow to simmer for another 5 minutes before removing from the heat. Allow to cool.
- In a clean, dry bowl, whip the cream together with the caster sugar until soft peaks form. Stir 2 Tbsp of pomegranate arils into the whipped cream.
- Place the meringue nests on separate plates. Place one or 2 fig halves in the base of each nest and spoon over a little of the poaching liquid. Divide the cream in half and spoon half into each nest.
- Sprinkle half the remaining pomegranate arils over each pavlova, arrange the remaining figs around the meringue nests, and spoon over some more of the poaching liquid.
- Serve immediately, with a glass of champagne.
If this recipe has put you in the mood for love, this February you can treat your beloved to a quick weekend break to Grootbos private nature reserve, a luxurious private reserve overlooking Walker Bay, South Africa – an area known for both whale watching and wine. Only 2 hours from Cape Town, Grootbos features 27 luxury suites set among the incredible biodiversity of the Cape Floral Kingdom. You can enjoy guided eco walking tours and horseback rides, or simply laze on the nearby beaches of Hermanus, before heading back to the reserve for a gourmet dinner. The reserve is running a Month of Love special all through February, including special discounted accommodation rates and a free spa treatment with all bookings of 2 nights or more. I’ll be visiting them for my birthday next month and I cannot wait!