Years ago when I used to live in Japan, I did a very strange and stupid thing. At the time it was fashionable to have brown hair and this trend was called "chapatsu" (or "brown hair"). My hair has always been the darkest black it could be and in school photos it would show up with a blue sheen to it. This thrilled me because everyone assumed that I had dyed my hair blue and I got some sort of unwitting credo for having blue streaked hair when I hadn't done anything as daring. Plus I could never get into trouble for it because it was natural.
Anyway, I turned to the pharmacy where I bought a chapatsu hair dye. And yes in hindsight, I can hear the theme to Jaws already. All I can say is a) don't go to the pharmacy for hair dye if you've never dyed your hair before and b) don't buy a box of hair dye with instructions in a foreign language.
The not so comely result was that I ended up with dry, orange hair like straw. It was hideous at best and a few days later I went to a proper hairdresser to get it fixed. The worst part of all was that the blue had disappeared from my hair and has never returned since. So if I can offer any advice it is: if it ain't broke, don't change it!
Speaking of things that I don't change, my classic pavlova recipe is one that I simply cannot stray from. It took me years to develop as I've been baking pavlova since I was a teenager and this recipe a sum of all of the pavlova methods that I had tried over the years.
It's my go-to recipe and is low maintenance and produces a crispy shell and a spongey, soft interior. Making pavlova makes me happy because this works every time. I used to make pavlova when I lived in Japan often when I would get particularly homesick and when I think of classic Australian desserts, it's always the pavlova.
This makes use of the last of the season's mangoes. Every December I look forward to mangoes appearing and we always eat so many every summer. I've given a recipe for home made mango and passionfruit curd which you can of course double or triple which means that you can always have a jar of sunshine in your pantry come winter.
Making a triple layer pavlova is actually quite easy and I simply doubled the original recipe and made three layers. I baked these the night before and the morning that I was serving it, I whipped the cream and spread the curd and the fruit. Like all pavlovas, this is best made just before serving although assembly is straight forward - much more straight forward than a regular layer cake as there's no trimming necessary or icing on the sides. It's just a bit of sandwiching together and some fruit on top!
So tell me Dear Reader, do you have a recipe that you never stray from? And have you ever dyed your hair yourself? How did it turn out?
Triple Layer Mango and Passionfruit Pavlova
An original recipe by Not Quite Nigella
Serves 18 people
- 300g/10.6ozs egg whites at room temperature (approximately 10 egg whites)
- 2.5 cups of caster or superfine sugar
- 2.5 teaspoons of white vinegar
- 2.5 tablespoons of cornflour/cornstarch
- 600ml/21.2 fl ozs. of thickened cream (you can also whip up coconut cream if you chill it first)
- A few drops of coconut essence
- 3 tablespoons of caster sugar
- Mango curd* see recipe below
- 1 mango
- 2 passionfruit
- Mint leaves to decorate
Step 1 - Preheat oven to 200C/392F. Mark three 20cm/8inch circles on three sheets of baking paper. Make sure that mixing bowl and beaters are thoroughly clean (I always wash them with detergent and very hot water beforehand and leave it to air dry). If there is any fat or oil on these your pavlova will not beat up stiffly. Apparently, you could also rub the beater and bowl with a cut half of lemon although I've never done this.
Step 2 - Separate yolks from whites, ensuring that no yolk goes into the whites at all. Beat with electric mixer on low at first then increase speed gradually until it starts to get fluffy. Add vinegar and cornflour and roughly 1/4 of the sugar until the mixture turns dry looking. Then another 1/4 of the sugar gradually and then the remaining sugar in two lots and beat until stiff and sugar has dissolved. Test by inverting the bowl, if the meringue does not move then it is ready.
Step 3 - Spoon onto the three prepared sheets and using the written border and using a palette knife or spatula, smooth the top and make stripe patterns on the side.
Step 4 - Reduce heat to 130C/266F. Bake the pavlovas for 1 1/4 hours. Once its time is up, leave it to cool in the oven (to reduce cracking).
Step 5 - Whip cream, coconut essence and sugar until you get soft peaks and then keep whipping a little more so that it can stand the weight of the other tiers - keep an eye out on it so that it doesn't whip up too much because then it turns into butter which is not a bad thing but not very useful for this recipe :).
Step 6- Place the first layer of the pavlova on the serving plate and pile a third of the whipped cream onto the base and spread out leaving an inch border as the weight of the other tiers will push out the filling a little. Spread the mango and passionfruit curd on top of it and then repeat with the remaining two layers.
Step 7- Slice the cheeks from the mango and then slice thin layers from the cheeks. Cut these into ribbons and swirl on top of the cream and curd. Cut passionfruit in half and drizzle the seeds on top of the pavlova. Use the extra passionfruit to create juice drips by making a small half inch cut and then squeezing out the juice and dribble down the edges.
Mango & Passionfruit Curd
- 5 egg yolks
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 125g/4 ozs butter cut into cubes
- 1 cup pureed mango flesh (about 1 large mango)
- 2 passionfruit
Step 1 - Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Set on low to medium heat (I set it on 4 out of 10 where 10 is the hottest temperature). Add the butter and heat slowly until the butter melts.
Step 2 - When the butter has melted add the mango and passionfruit. Stir using the whisk or a spoon. It takes about 15 minutes for it to thicken up and stirring every so often is good. It thickens on cooling and I remove it from the heat, put the lid on it and let it thicken from there. When cool, placed in sterilised jars.