I'm feelin' pretty pleased. And happily contented. The above picture is my idea of heaven. And that bit of heaven has gone straight to my stomach. Fortunately, I've done lots of mowing lately (push mower of course), so I'm feeling slightly fit. And this of course is my excuse to indulge a little. I can afford it; so I tell myself.
But what I'm feeling really pleased about is how I threw my pavlova together. I used no recipe. I figure I've made enough to just go for it. I've been doing a fair bit of this lately. Not referring to recipes that is. I can't remember the last time I used a recipe for a butter cake or a sponge. I just do it. And they have never been better.
Years ago I was in a place where trying to perfect dishes and putting together cookbook recipes has sometimes overwhelmed me. I think I was missing 'instinct'. By golly, I've loads of instinct in other areas (my girls can vouch for that), so why not in cooking?
After a lifetime of practise, I feel truly comfortable and confident in my ability to cook. Finally. The cookbooks do still come in handy (the preserve books have been getting a workout lately), but I don't oggle at the pics and study recipes like I once did. I roughly recall from 1980ish, a couple of days never went by without me referring to one of the Australian Women's Weekly Cookbooks. Heck, hours spent drooling over them to be honest. Times have changed. My collection of the AWW cookbooks is not far short of one hundred and I can only imagine the dust collecting on them now. Not looking.
It's been a long road of practise and blunders and success that's made me today's cook. And today, I see what's in my fridge, freezer, the pantry, the garden and the fruit trees which determines my ingredients. Then I visualise a dish. Once I've decided on what to make, the preparation and the method seem to flow easily. And best of all. It's fun. I even look positively toward cleaning the dishes! But that's another story, another post.
How about you? How often do you refer to cookbooks? Do you rely on them to cook? How long would you be able to cook for yourself or for your family without using a cookbook or any cooking reference? You may surprise yourself. A little kitchen instinct can take you a long, long way.
Pavlova: Based On Years of Practise and A Little Instinct.
seven egg whites (cause that's what I found in my fridge)
approx 1 1/2 cups castor sugar
generous teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 teaspoons of cornflour
2 teaspoons of white vinegar
cream of tartar
Using an electric mixer; whisk the egg whites with two generous pinches of cream of tartar. Years ago I loved watching Geoff Jansz on 'What's Cooking". I'm talking sometime in the late 1990's. Geoff always used to go on about adding cream of tartar to egg whites to help stabilize them. I've always remembered his advice and I religiously do it.
After a couple of minutes, increase your speed to the highest setting; add half the castor sugar; carefully - don't just dump it in. Beat for about five or six minutes; then add the remaining sugar and vanilla extract. Continue beating for another five or six mins; use your spatula to make sure that any sugar granules on the side of the bowl are properly incorporated.
When your mixture looks stiff and glossy, add the two teaspoons of cornflour followed by the vinegar. Mix for another minute. Done.
Take a baking sheet that has been lined with baking paper. I very lightly grease with olive oil spray and dust with extra cornflour. Give the baking sheet a good whack to release excess flour not sticking to the paper. Brush this off. If you like you can draw a round circle on the sheet; but I don't. Besides I don't want my food in contact with lead pencil. Or you can draw underneath the paper and stick this side directly onto the baking sheet. It will be easily visible on the other side.
Plonk your pavlova mixture into the centre of the baking sheet and shape as desired. I do feel it's important to not keep it smooth. Create ridges around the edges and it will hold better than if you level the whole thing out smoothly. My experience is that you'll get some cracks on the pav and they're always worse and harder to handle if the pav is smooth.
Place into a cold oven. Not preheated. At least that's what I do. Crank up the oven at a low temp. I turn it on to 110degrees celicus with the fan force. One and a half hours later; turn off the oven. Don't open the door. It's best to let cool in the oven overnight - or for several hours preferably.
If not using immediately, remove the paper or if you like or simply cut the paper around the pav and leave it on. Put into an airtight container and store in a dark cupboard.