I have always been one to celebrate the changing of the seasons – particularly when it comes to the abundance of fresh new produce that arrives at local greengrocers and fruit markets. The tender spears of asparagus that herald Spring; plump mangoes and cherries in Summer months; crisp apples and sweet pears in Autumn; and those wonderful root vegetables during the depths of Winter.
To my mind, those good things are to be prized and held in reverence, along with the hardworking farmers who grew them. In Hungarian, this kind of esteem is known as becsülés.
In Australia, cherries have a very short season, usually from November to February. This year, they are a little late due to the unseasonably cold, rainy weather experienced in the growing regions of Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia.
While yields are lower than usual, this year's crop of fruit is plumper, sweeter and better than it's ever been, according to Tom Eastlake, president of the Cherry Growers Association of Australia.
Having purchased and devoured about three kilos of cherries already, I can attest to this. Take it from me folks, the 2016 cherries are bloody delicious! Please don't hold back on buying cherries this year. Support the cherry growers and they'll be around next season, and the season after that, too.
And what better way to laud cherries, the jewel of Summer fruits, than to serve them atop a festive chocolate pavlova. This recipe is from my friends at the Sydney Markets. Enjoy.
CHERRY & CHOCOLATE PAVLOVA
For the pavlova:
6 egg whites
1½ cups caster sugar
¼ cup cocoa
2 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tbs cornflour
For the cherries in syrup:
500g plump cherries
¼ cup caster sugar
¼ cup water
300ml thickened cream
1 cup vanilla bean yoghurt
grated dark chocolate
To make the pavlova, preheat oven to 150°C fan-forced. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Draw a 22cm circle onto paper. Using an electric mixer, beat eggwhites in a clean dry bowl until soft peaks form. Add sugar, 1 tbs at a time, beating constantly and occasionally scraping down sides of the bowl. Whisk for about 8-10 minutes until sugar dissolves and meringue is thick and glossy. Sift over cocoa and cornflour, drizzle with vinegar and gently fold until combined. Spoon mixture onto the circle on the baking paper, shaping sides to form a mound. Bake for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to 120°C fan-forced and cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes until top is firm. Turn off the heat and leave the pavlova in the oven with the door slightly ajar until it cools (for at least 4 hours or overnight).
Meanwhile, make the cherry syrup. Halve and pit 300g cherries. Refrigerate remaining cherries until ready to serve. Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan, stir over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil. Add halved cherries and return to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes until tender. Place into an airtight container and chill until ready to serve.
To serve, whisk cream in a bowl until firm peaks form. Gently fold through the yoghurt. Spoon the mixture over the pavlova. Top with the reserved cherries. Drizzle with the cooled cherry syrup, then sprinkle with chocolate and serve immediately. Serves 8.
Preparation time = 30 minutes. Cooking time = 1 hour 45 mins + cooling time.
Note: This delicious delicate chocolate pavlova crumbles easily when sliced. For ease, if preferred, buy a ready-made pavlova and fill and top it with the home made fillings.
Your turn now, dear readers. Tell me, do you love the changing of the seasons? Do you celebrate the arrival of fresh new season's produce as I do? And will you be buying cherries this summer?
I'm Liz, a.k.a Bizzy Lizzy,
the writer, cook and traveller behind
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.