Spiced Blackberry, Pear and Apple Pavlova

  • For the meringue
  • 230g caster sugar
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • 4 egg whites, at room temperature
  • For the fruit filling
  • 4 pears, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 2 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick, snapped in half
  • Couple of twists of black pepper
  • 1/2 bottle of Marsala or good red wine
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 4 tbsp soft light brown sugar
  • Seeds of 1 vanilla pod (save a third of the seeds for the cream filling), or 4 drops of vanilla extract
  • 2 large handfuls of blackberries
  • For the cream filling
  • 300ml whipping or double cream
  • 20g icing sugar a few seeds from vanilla pod (saved from above) or 1 drop vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 140°C, Gas Mark 1. Line a large baking tray with baking paper.

2. Put the sugar and lemon juice in a large bowl. Add one egg white and whisk for a minute - the mixture will look hard, but don't worry. Add another egg white and whisk for a few minutes before adding the remaining whites. Then whisk for 4-5 minutes until the meringue is stiff and shiny.

3. Dollop the mixture in a circle on the baking paper about 20cm round, making the sides slightly higher than the centre. Bake in the bottom of the oven for 1-1 1/2 hours, or until the meringue is firm and crisp on the outside but still soft and 'pillowy' inside.

4. If you can, wedge the oven door open a tiny bit with a damp tea towel; this allows the moisture to escape and dries out your meringue more quickly.

5. You don't want too much colour - it may begin to turn a very, very pale beige, but that is it. Once cooked, turn off the oven and leave the meringue inside until completely cool.

For the fruit filling:

1. Put all the fruit filing ingredients except the blackberries in a medium saucepan set over a medium heat. You can throw the vanilla seeds and the pod into the mix. Bring the liquid to just boiling point, then turn it down to a poach (a poach is when there is only one or two bubbles breaking the surface of the liquid).

2. Cook for about 15 minutes, until the fruit is soft but still has a bit of a bite. Add the blackberries and remove the pan from the heat, leaving the fruit to cool in the liquid.

For the cream filling:

1. Put the cream, sugar and vanilla into a large bowl and whip. The cream is whipped enough when it just starts to hold its shape in the bowl and does not run when the bowl is tipped. It is best to very slightly under whip, as the cream will thicken when left to stand.

2. Drain the fruit through a sieve or colander, reserving the liquid if you want, to have as a hot toddy.

3. To assemble the pavlova, place the meringue on a serving plate. Dollop the cream mixture all over it, leaving a 4cm border all the way around. Pile the drained fruit all over the cream and serve.

Recipe courtesy of Lorraine Pascale, Baking Made Easy HarperCollins, 2012 (£20)

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