So… what can you do in seven years? Depending on who and where you are, you can:
- build one million Audi A3 cars
- win the Tour de France 7 times (if you are Lance Armstrong)
- fight a war
- have bad luck (if you break a mirror)
- develop an itch
Or alternatively you can write 1,000 blog posts, take thousands of pictures with four different digital cameras, meet dozens of amazing, talented, passionate people (including your long lost sister-from-another-mother!), cultivate a serious addiction to buying single place settings of pretty cutlery, and develop an inability to allow any morsel of food to pass your lips before photographing it.
Yup, you can become a food blogger.
Seven years ago today, I put up my first recipe post (boerewors and butternut risotto) late one Sunday night. I had no digital camera so there was a fuzzy webcam picture to illustrate the post; html, jpeg, SEO and CSS were just a host of meaningless acronyms to me; and my entire page was a not-so-subtle mustard yellow (!). Today, I am shooting with my second digital SLR; I have ditched the mustard yellow; and for the past three days, I have been one of the presenters of From Plate to Page, the first hands-on food writing and photography workshop in Europe, and people actually came to hear my advice on writing about food. Baby, you’ve come a long way in seven years!!
I am always in awe of those bloggers who manage to plan far enough ahead to bake a cake and put up a proper birthday post full of highlights of the year in honour of their blog birthday. And even after seven years, I am still not organised enough to do this… but I knew that I had to put up something sweet to honour a milestone in a world where many blogs don’t make it past the first six months!
I have written about granadilla (or passion fruit) Pavlova previously, for Barbara’s A Taste of Yellow event – but on that occasion I was pressed for time and I used meringue nests bought from the supermarket. Now some store-bought ingredients are hard to distinguish from their home made versions, but let me assure you 100% that supermarket meringues are not on this list. Store-bought meringues can never attain the crispy/chewy heights of deliciousness that home-made ones can, so when I recently made passion fruit pavlova again for an article in the South African Times magazine, I decided to make the meringue bases myself. Store-bought meringues take on a ghostly white appearance, as if they are fresh snow in a slightly more solid form, with uniform ridges that are a dead giveaway of mass production. By comparison, home-made meringues are a lightly caramelized colour, full of cracks, lumps and bumps – more like a living thing than a mass-produced sweet. But the biggest difference is on the inside. Whereas the store-bought meringues crumble to fine dust in your fingers and melt instantly away on your tongue, the home-made variety may come coated in the same layer of brittle sweetness, but inside they are chewy and gooey and altogether more substantial, like an unexpected surprise gift. The secret to achieving this texture is to start the baking process at a higher temperature but to reduce it immediately when you put the meringues in the oven. In return for very little attention to detail, you will be rewarded with meringues that are not only prettier but far more intriguing than their store-bought cousins, and the tart granadilla pulp makes a wonderful partner to the sweet meringue.
PASSION FRUIT PAVLOVA (makes 2 large nests, enough for 4 people)
2 large egg whites
112g caster sugar
1/2 tsp cornflour
1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
pinch of cream of tartar (optional)
175ml double cream
pulp from 3 fresh granadillas
Pre-heat the oven to 180C and cover a large baking sheet with baking parchment. Whisk the egg whites until they just form stiff and shiny peaks. Add the sugar gradually and mix whisk really well between additions. Continue whisking for another 3-4 minutes after all the sugar is added, until the meringue forms stiff and glossy peaks. Whisk in the cornflour and vinegar.
With a pencil, draw two circles of about 10-15cm in diameter. Spoon the egg mixture onto the baking parchment and use a palette knife to spread a thick layer of the egg mix in the circle. You can also make a depression in the centre and build up a ridge around the circumference of each circle if you want nests.
Put the baking sheet in the oven and immediately turn down the temperature down to 120C. Bake for 1½ hours, then turn the oven off and leave the meringue in the oven until completely cold. (Don’t worry if the meringue looks cracked – that adds to its visual and textural appeal!)
Peel the baking parchment off the meringues and place on a serving dish. Whip the cream together with sugar until soft peaks start to form. Halve the granadillas and scoop out the pulp. Spoon half the cream onto the centre of each Pavlova and serve immediately.