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Tuesday 6th February 2007

Pavlova - or "how to lose friends and influence people"!
Today is February 6th, and that means "Waitangi Day", a day off and the closest thing we Kiwi's get to a National "New Zealand Day", so naturally it makes sense to celebrate with a Uniquely Kiwi Dessert!

Yes that's right...

The Mighty Pavlova!

There ain't one thing "true blue" or "Aussie" about this dessert... it's all KIWI! Plainly put, the Pavlova 'debate' has always been the bigger guy on the left (Aus) thinking he can steal our, the little guy's (NZ) lunch. Now come on, how pathetic is that, really?!

It's time for the facts!

It was only just down the road from my place, in Rangiora (North Canterbury) where an authentic recipe for Pavlova was published in 1933, 2 years before the first Australian claim.

The recipe was submitted by a Laurina Stevens for the Rangiora Mother's Union Cookery Book, it was called "Pavlova" - the correct name, the recipe was for one large cake and contained the correct ingredients, egg white, sugar, cornflour, and vinegar, and it had the correct method for cooking. This has been proven thanks to the research of Professor Helen Leach, of the University of Otago's anthropology department. Prof Leach also uncovered a 1929 pavlova recipe in a New Zealand rural magazine which had the correct ingredients and correct method of cooking, however it was unfortunately published under a pseudonym.

In truth many New Zealand rural cookbooks featured Meringue or "Pavlova like" Cakes during the later 1920's and early 1930's, whereas they apparently didn't really start appearing in Australian Cookbooks until the 1940's.

The Australians' earliest claim to the Pavlova, is based on a cake Chef Herbert Sachse baked at Perth's (Western Australia) Esplanade Hotel in 1935. He presented this "new" cake, which he named Pavlova, "because it was as light as Pavlova." However, in 1973, Sachse stated in a magazine interview that he sought to improve the Meringue Cake recipe that he found in the Womens Mirror Magazine on April 2, 1935. That recipe was contributed by a New Zealander! Recently in desperation, Sachse's Australian descendants have been clutching at straws inferring that he may have come up with the recipe earlier than that, since Anna Pavlova visited several years earlier - so does that mean he was lying in that 1973 interview?

Perhaps you can understand it kinda erks me a little as a proud Kiwi, when I purchased "Rick Stein's Food Heroes" book and saw he's also one of the many who has been misguided and called Pavlova "an Australian dessert." IT'S NOT!

There is one thing we can agree on, though, that it is named after after Anna Pavlova, the famous Russian ballerina who toured both Australia and New Zealand in 1926 and Australia again in 1929.

Kiwis not only have claim to this dessert, we actually make most of them, and ours are naturally better than Australian forgeries bearing the same name. But to be perfectly honest, it's my Auntie Yvonne who makes THE BEST one!

I've heard, through I admit only 'hearsay', that apparently only few Australians can make pavs. Well, I know very few Kiwis who can't!

Here in NZ they feature at every pot luck meal, BBQ and summer or winter celebration. However, I hear you usually have to go to a restaurant and pay through the nose to experience one in Australia. It's no surprise then, that Ex-pat Kiwis living in Australia come home to Mum's Pav!

Another thing. I'm not sure how, why or when this started, but I'm seeing this more and more internationally and again it's rather irritating ... you just can't call any baked egg white and sugar dessert a Pavlova! That is a no no. I'm afraid any old meringue variation is just not a "Pavlova". To be a true KIWI Pavlova you MUST include vinegar in your recipe and the result MUST be crusty on the outside, yet soft and marshmallowy on the inside.

If, sadly, you overcooked yours, or let it dry out, well I'm sorry but all you have now is just a plain old large meringue! We didn't invent meringue, so please don't call it a Pavlova!

Of course you can garnish and top your delicious, crunchy on the outside, marshmallowy on the inside Kiwi Pavlova, with whatever you like. Whipped cream and kiwifruit (known as Chinese Gooseberries in the 1920's - oops did we steal that one?!) are very traditional, as they were said to represent the green silk cabbage roses that draped the tutu Anna Pavlova wore during her performances during the 1926 tour of New Zealand and Australia. Berries are a natural choice and my personal favourite as seen here, but passionfruit, pineapple or mangoes are all good choices too.

Pavlova come in many sizes. You can make 6 or 8 and even the legendary 12 egg white Pav is common. However, a Pavlova really doesn't keep well after it has been creamed and garnished - it will start to weep, the cream will turn 'hard' and it also tends to take on any strong flavours from your fridge. I therefore prefer to make a smaller 4 egg white recipe for our family. You can easily double the recipe if you're feeding a crowd, or you're feeling extra indulgent.

Finally, if anyone (Australian) feels the need to dispute the information in this post, forget it! I'm right... you ARE wrong! Get over it! It's my blog! Go pick on someone your own size! Get yourself a cuppa and a Lamington (or a Tim Tam!) and calm yourself down. After all, I didn't totally humiliate you by bringing up Phar Lap or Crowded House ... oops!

Besides, I have total editorial control and the power to moderate and even edit (evil laugh) all my comments - so personally I wouldn't waste your time arguing with me! hehe (gentler but still pretty evil manic laugh)

My sources:




To recreate the delicious All Kiwi Pav you see here you will need...

  • Pavlova!
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1¼ cup of castor sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of cornflour (aka: corn starch / wheaten starch)
  • 1 teaspoon of white vinegar
  • 300 ml / ½ pints of cream, softly whipped
  • Raspberries, strawberries, blueberries
  • White chocolate curled with a peeler
  • Icing sugar to dust
  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C (370°F).
  2. Beat the egg whites to a foam, add the salt and beat until soft peaks form which fold over when the beater is removed.
  3. Slowly beat in the castor sugar a little at a time.
  4. Keep beating until the mixture is stiff and the peaks stand strong when the beater is removed.
  5. Lastly add the cornflour and vinegar and just mix until just combined.
  6. Line an oven tray with baking / silcon paper.
  7. Spread the meringue into approximately a 20cm circle, smooth the top flat or swirl with a spoon if desired.
  8. Lower the heat and bake in a cool 80°C (180°F) oven for 1 to 1½ hours.
  9. Turn off the heat and leave in the oven overnight to cool completely.
  10. Just before serving top your pav with softly whipped cream and decorate with a selection of berries, or other fruits, white chocolate curls and icing sugar.
  11. Serves 4 to 6

Enjoy this gorgeous All Kiwi Creation!
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