There's an ongoing debate on the origins of the Pavlova. Australians claim that the dessert was created in Perth in honour of Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, while New Zealanders will ascertain that the dessert originated on their shores years earlier. Either way, Pavlovas are easy desserts that truly enhance the flavours of the season.
The Pavlova begins with a meringue base. There are a number of ways to make meringue, but simple is best, so that is the recipe I will give you. Also, since the Pavlova is usually eaten with a fork or spoon, the meringue does not need to be bone dry, which is a good thing if you happen to be experiencing a hot and humid summer.
Next comes the cream. Whipped cream is traditional, but you can substitute thick yoghurt, or a combination of the two. Many recipes call for a sweetened whip cream, but I feel that it is a bit of an overkill since the meringue is already quite sweet. You can also top the meringue base with a fool, and call it a day. Rhubarb fool is of the season, and also quite fitting: since the 'original' Pavlova was topped with sweet-tart passionfruit, brilliant rhubarb would act as a shout-out to the tropical fruit. However, at this time of the year, the choice is endless, and you are only limited by your imagination.
Classic French Meringue
Yields about a dozen nests
90g/ 3 egg whites
150g-180g/ ½-¾ cup sugar
With an electric or stand mixer, beat egg whites until they begin to form a dense froth.
Gradually add the sugar, until everything is incorporated.
Beat the eggs to the stiff peak stage: when you pull the beaters out of the egg whites, a well-defined peak should form. Also, the eggs should be glossy, and show little or no remnants of sugar.
With a spoon, drop dollops of meringue onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or foil.
Flatten the meringues, while forming a slight dimple in the centre.
Place in a 100'C/210'F oven, and leave to dry for about 2 hours, or until dried to taste.
Leave to cool completely before spooning whipped cream onto the centre of the meringue nests.
Top with fruits of your choice and serve.
Bone dry meringues will keep almost indefinitely in an airtight container, but everything else will keep for about a week, if the weather is not too damp. You can play around with different sugars for different effects and flavours, but do not alter the quantity too drastically, otherwise you will affect the density and sturdiness of the meringue. You can use a piping bag to form meringue nests that Martha Stewart would approve of, but it is quite unnecessary.