A low calorie look at life, writing and cake.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The Valentine Pavlova and a diabolically delicious filling!


To celebrate the launch of Lynda Renham's latest romantic comedy novel,  ‘The Valentine Present and Other Diabolical Liberties,’ I have created a delicious, heart-shaped dessert. Not only is this a fitting celebration meringue for a fabulous new book - it also includes at least one of your five a day and is around a mere 300 calories a slice!
The Valentine Pavlova and a diabolically delicious filling!
For the topping:
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 2, 300°F (150°C) .

Measure the sugar and put aside, now put the egg whites in a large clean bowl and whisk until they form soft peaks. Stop! Before you set off, don’t get too whisk-happy because over-whisking will cause a major collapse! Girl, just keep whisking and checking until you can turn that bowl upside down without the snowy white fluff sliding out.

When the egg whites are at ‘upside down stage’ - whisk in the sugar slowly a large tablespoon at a time, whisking after each addition until all the sugar is incorporated. Now take a metal tablespoon and spoon the meringue mixture on to the prepared baking sheet, forming a heart-shape (you can draw this on your greaseproof paper or simply just think of the one you love as you dollop). 

Now using the tip of a skewer, make little swirls in the meringue all round the edge, lifting the skewer up sharply each time to leave tiny peaks. This will look like you know what you’re doing – even if you don’t! Then  place the baking sheet in the oven, immediately turn down the heat to gas mark 1, 275°F (140°C) and leave it to cook for 1 hour.

While it’s cooking, take out your copy of ‘The Valentine Present and Other Diabolical Liberties’ (on kindle or paperback) and read about lovely Harriet,
a cocktail of misunderstandings, three unlikely gangsters, a monkey and a demented cat. After an hour of laughing hysterically at the book you mustn’t forget to turn the oven off, but leave the Pavlova inside the oven until it's completely cold. You could even bake this the night before, take the book to bed and allow the meringue to completely cool overnight in the oven (you won’t be able to put the book down so will be up all night too).

Delia Smith says the secret of successful meringues of any sort is to let them dry out completely, which is what this method (stolen from Delia) does perfectly.

To serve the Pavlova, put the book down and lift it from the baking sheet, peel off the paper and place it on a serving dish. Then just before serving, spread the whipped cream on top, arrange the fruit on top of the cream and dust with a little sifted icing sugar.

Put the kettle on, serve cut into wedges and carry on reading ‘The Valentine Present...’ .

Delia says this recipe serves 6, but I’m greedier and my heart-shaped Pavlova serves 5 (and 3 of those are probably for me!)

Friday, 16 August 2013

My Supersize Summer

For thirty odd summers my goal has been to arrive at August in a state of - what women's magazines refer to as - ‘beach body readiness.’  However,  I have never reached this Nirvana... and my Summer holidays are usually more 'supersize' than super skinny. This  Summer is no different as that little black swimsuit is shoved to the back of the wardrobe in favour of a King size bedsheet masquerading as a sarong. But the upside of wearing a supersize sarong means I don't have to worry about those holiday bulges...

On holiday, while everyone bounces around doing water sports and beach volleyball in tiny shorts, I will watch and smile from behind a rainbow cone of ice cream.  I shall chew shamelessly on a large, crusty baguette and sip on something fruity as beach body fascists sweat through vigorous sit-ups in nothing but a thong and a frown. And I will marvel at their perfect bodies and even allow a little envy... but I will also wonder who's really having all the fun? As they pound the beach and breastroke 500 kilometres in the pool, they'll stop a moment to sneak a peek at the rest of us through their designer shades with barely concealed disgust... or is it envy? We all enjoy our holidays in different ways, and part of my holiday fun is not to deny myself the true pleasures of the season. And as those enviable 'beach bodies' feel the burn and ignore the cake, I will swirl my tongue round chunky monkey ice cream, wrap moist, eager lips around barbecued meat and enjoy chilled white wine with a European food mountain of nibbles. As we're off to the Sates I may even squeeze in a few American breakfasts - which to my deep joy translates for me as a full english smothered in Maple Syrup with a side of pancakes ... God Bless America!

So on holiday this year, while all those perfectly toned tums stand at the buffet table with tiny plates of green stuff I shall think; 'fair enough... you are 'beach body ready,' and you've earned it.' But here's the rub, to keep it like that you have to say 'no' while I wrap that king size sheet around me, take that plate and fill it with the most delicious, calorie-laden titbits. There'll be no denial, no portion control and no regrets as I leave that buffet. What kind of psycho eats salad anyway when there is burnt meat, stuffed potato skins and calorie-laden dips just begging to be eaten?

So if like me, you want to actually enjoy yourself by the pool this summer - forget the volleyball, grab that king size sheet and bring on the real pleasures of Summer ... and while you’re there supersize it!