Christmas in Darwin can be excruciatingly hot. And humid. Plus we generally start our main Christmas meal around midday. Thankfully, it often rains. Yes, thankfully. When the humidity mounts and mounts, and it’s so hot you think you may become liquid enough to glaze a ham, the thunderclaps and the clouds let loose. The cool that ensues is heavenly relief.
In an attempt to avoid overheating from the inside as well as the outside, we typically eat a lot of cold food. Seafood, ham, salads, and antipastos. The showstoppers, however, are nearly always desserts.
First up, Pavlova. Australians and New Zealanders have been debating who invented it first since it came into existence, and will probably continue to do so for the rest of its existence. Either way, it is delicious. It’s hard and crackly like a meringue on the outside, but soft on the inside. Or it’s supposed to be. It’s quite a temperamental dish, but done right; it is worth all the struggles. For me, a Pavlova is best topped with summer berries and cream. But you can top it with whatever tickles your fancy. Whether that’s: chocolate flakes or sauce, passionfruit, kiwi fruit, mango, cherries, pomegranate, slices of stone fruit, or something else entirely.
The other recipe in this post is more one our house uses in the lead up to Christmas: for school and work parties, for presents, for fun. Christmas season truly begins when Nannan’s recipe for rumballs, or chocolate truffles as we called them because of their lack of rum, is brought out of hibernation. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s delicious. Like the Pavlova, you can cover them in just about anything: desiccated coconut, chocolate sprinkles, crushed up nuts, melted chocolate, salt, cocoa powder, and anything else that will stick.
Without further ado, here are the recipes!
A Pavlova needs to cook at a relatively high heat to begin with, to create the meringue shell, and then at a low heat to make sure the centre remains soft. If syrupy droplets form on the surface, it’s overcooked. If liquid oozes, it’s undercooked. As a general rule, if I see it browning (a little bit is okay) or cracking, I turn the temperature down. It comes down to practice. Do not fret just enjoy the process.
With the yolks you could make custard, ice cream, fruit curd, or scrambled eggs.
PREPARATION TIME: 15 MINS
COOK TIME: 1 ¼ HOURS
COOL TIME: 1 HOUR
TOTAL TIME: 2 ½ HOURS
RECIPE ADAPTED FROM STEPHANIE ALEXANDER’S THE COOK’S COMPANION
4 egg whites, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
250g castor sugar
2 tsp cornflour
1tsp white-wine vinegar
few drops of vanilla extract
300ml thick cream, whipped
Preheat oven to 170OC Fan-forced (180OC or 350F non fan-forced). Line a baking tray with baking paper, then draw a 18cm circle on the paper with pencil (tracing around a plate is easiest). Place the paper on the tray circle-side down.
In a clean bowl, whip the egg whites and the salt to form stiff peaks. Add in the sugar gradually, and whip until satiny peaks form. You should be able to tip the bowl upside down and the mixture will stay in. Fold in the cornflour, vinegar, and vanilla.
Mound onto the paper, inside the circle. Smooth the sides and the top. Gently bang the tray on a flat surface to remove air bubbles.
Place in the oven, and reduce the heat to 140OC FF. Keep an eye on the Pavlova, if it starts cracking turn the temperature down 10OC, or more if the cracking is severe, leave it for ten minutes, then turn it down more if needed. We ended up cooking ours at 80OC FF for the last 45 minutes, and were constantly reducing the heat in the first 30 minutes. A little bit of cracking is almost inevitable so don’t worry too much.
Once cooked, turn off the oven and leave the Pavlova to completely cool in the oven. Once cooled, put it on a plate and top with delicious things. Serve straight away, and enjoy!
TIME: 15 MINS
2 cups sweet biscuit, I use 1 packet of Marie biscuits
1 ½ tbsp cocoa powder
1 cup desiccated coconut
400g sweetened condensed milk
(optional, 1 tbps rum)
Crushed up nuts (macadamias, pistachios etc.)
Anything else that tickles your fancy
In a food processor, crush up biscuits, and then add cocoa, coconut, condensed milk and rum (if using) and mix well. Roll into balls of any size (I prefer smaller, bite sized ones), and coat in toppings.
Best fresh, but can be kept in the fridge for a few weeks.