RUBY POACHED PEARS, CHOCOLATE, MULLED WINE JELLY & CREAM
A good pavlova like this is really easy for a dinner party, as you can make all the elements ahead and simply assemble it at the last minute, ready to wow your guests. Feel free to vary the toppings, but this is my favourite festive combo.
3 HOURS PLUS COOLING & SETTING MERINGUE
4 large free-range egg whites
200g golden caster sugar
PEARS & JELLY
1 bottle of fruity red wine
½ teaspoon ground allspice
100g runny honey
6 small just-ripe pears
6 sheets of gelatine
200ml double cream
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 tablespoon golden caster sugar
100g Greek yoghurt
2 tablespoons blanched hazelnuts or pecan nuts
50g quality dark chocolate (70 per cent)
♥ Preheat the oven to 130C/250F/gas ½. Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of sea salt in a free-standing electric mixer until they form stiff peaks, then, with the mixer still running, very gradually add the sugar. Turn to the highest setting and leave to mix for 8 minutes, or until the sugar has fully dissolved (rub a pinch of the mixture between your thumb and forefinger – if it feels smooth you’re good to go). Line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper, dollop the mixture in the centre, then spread it out into a circle 25cm in diameter, using the back of the spoon to flick up peaks and make troughs. Bake for 1 hour 20 minutes, then turn the oven off and leave the meringue in there until the oven is cool, even overnight.
♥ To poach the pears, pour the wine into a pan on a medium-low heat and add the allspice and honey. Finely grate in the clementine zest and squeeze in the juice. Bring up to a good simmer while you neatly peel the pears, using a speed-peeler. Place the pears in the wine, cover with a damp piece of scrunched-up greaseproof paper and simmer on a low heat for 25-30 minutes, or until the pears are tender, turning halfway. Gently remove them, then pour the wine into a jelly mould. Soak the gelatine sheets in cold water for a few minutes, then drain, squeeze out the excess liquid and stir into the wine until dissolved. Cool, then set in the fridge.
♥ To make a Chantilly-style cream, pour the cream into a bowl, add the vanilla bean paste and sugar, whisk by hand until it forms soft peaks, then fold in the yoghurt. For the topping, toast the nuts in a pan on a medium heat until golden, then smash up in a pestle and mortar. Snap the chocolate and melt in a heatproof bowl over a pan of gently simmering water until smooth and glossy.
♥ To assemble, gently dollop the cream over the meringue, then add spoonfuls of the jelly (you only need about half, so save the rest for another time, or serve alongside). Halve the pears, removing the cores, then slice into fans, leaving them attached at the top, and arrange delicately over the jelly. Finely grate over the clementine zest, scatter over the nuts, drizzle with melted chocolate and serve.
NUTRITION PER SERVING
365 kcal; 14.9g fat (8.9g saturated); 4.1g protein; 41.6g carbs; 41.1g sugars; 0.3g salt; 2.7g fibre.