Fashion and Pigeons [Strawberry Curd Pavlova]

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Sunday evening I was to meet a new friend for a Pimms downtown. On went my eight dollar aubergine ankle-length floral lace maxi dress (what a find), my favourite black blazer, grey Converse sneakers and a long gold chain with pink stone pendant. Grey slouchy bag. Always for cas’. Perfection. So 90s.

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North on Market Street. West on Front Street. I chanced to put my hand to my head to fix my hair and a pigeon pooped on me. I had never had an outfit literally poo-pooed by the viewing public.

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I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. But my hand was in the right place at the right time. The slop landed squarely on my knuckles. I was able to wipe it off on the side of a building and continue on. Perfection.

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Strawberry Curd Pavlova

For the strawberry curd:

225 g fresh strawberries, hulled
6 egg yolks, strained and beaten
150 g granulated sugar
115 g chilled butter, diced
salt, to taste

Put strawberries in a blender. Pulse on high speed until the strawberries are finely pureed. Set the strawberries in a bowl that fits snugly over a pot of simmering water, or in the upper bowl of a double boiler. Add sugar. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Gradually add the butter, stirring constantly, until melted and incorporated.

Ladle a small amount of the strawberry mixture into the eggs. Quickly stir to incorporate. This will help to temper the eggs so that they do not scramble when you add them to the hot strawberry mixture. Add the eggs to the strawberry mixture. Whisk constantly until the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. The curd is done when it coats the back of a spoon.

Strain the curd into two sterilized jars. Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

For the pavlova meringues:
*adapted from Joy of Baking

120 g egg whites
200 g superfine sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp white vinegar
1/2 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup powdered sugar
salt

Preheat oven to 250F (130C) and place rack in center of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed until they hold soft peaks. Start adding the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat, on high speed, until the meringue holds very stiff and shiny peaks. Beat in the vanilla extract. Sprinkle the vinegar and cornstarch over the top of the meringue and, with a rubber spatula, gently fold in.

Using a large spoon, dot the prepared baking sheet with 6 even piles of meringue. Make the piles into nests by swirling the bowl of a wide soup spoon in the centre of each pile.   Sprinkle each nest with a bit of salt. Sift powdered sugar over the nests. This helps the crusts to dry in the oven.

Bake for 60 to 75 minutes, or until the outside is dry and is a very pale cream color. Turn the oven off, leave the door slightly ajar, and let the meringues cool completely in the oven. The outsides of the meringues will feel firm to the touch, if gently pressed, but as it cools you will get a little cracking and you will see that the inside is soft, like a marshmallow.

Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

For the assembly:
strawberry curd (recipe above)
pavlova meringues (recipe above)
500g fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
2-4 tbsp sugar
1-2 tbsp verjus
salt, to taste
basil leaves

Put strawberries in a medium mixing bowl. Adjust their sweetness and tartness with the sugar and verjus. Add a pinch of salt. Cover and allow the berries to macerate for 1 hour.

Spoon the strawberry curd into the well of each meringue. Top the curd with macerated berries and a few basil leaves.

Serves 6.

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