Pavlova: A Kiwi History

The Pavlova, a soft meringue with a crunchy outer layer and always covered with buckets of cream and fresh fruit. It’s a firm Kiwi favourite, especially over the summer months and there’s always at least one featured on the New Zealand Christmas dessert table. But this one delicious dessert has divided two nations, with Australia trying to claim that the recipe came from their side of the Tasman, while New Zealand is adamant that it is a kiwi dessert and that we can prove it.

A ballerina named Pavlova


There is one thing that New Zealand and Australia can agree on, and that is that in the 1920’s, Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova visited both countries. The argument that has spanned generations, is over who was the first to create this delicious dessert for the ballerina. The Kiwis claim that when Anna visited Wellington in 1926, a hotel chef created the Pavlova in her honour while citing that the dancer’s tutu was inspiration for the white meringue and cream combination. While over the ditch, the Aussies reckon that Bert Sachse, a chef in Perth created the dessert, but it is believed that his recipe dates back from around 1935. Australia also claim that they have a Pavlova recipe dated 1926, the same year as New Zealand’s recipe. So much contention over one little dessert!

The Brits jumped into the argument


With the end to the argument over the Pavlova nowhere in sight, there have been many research papers written on the origins. And guess who it always leads back to? Yes, the Kiwis. Even the latest edition of The Oxford English Dictionary has explicitly outlined that the Kiwis had the first written recipe in 1928, well before Bert put his one out. So, even with Australia and New Zealand’s mother country jumping in on the argument, this has not ended the quarrel. For while they credit New Zealand with the first written record of the recipe, they list the Pavlova’s origin, ambiguously, as “Australia and N.Z.” Come on!!

Who cares anyway?


Well, if you ask any Kiwi “who invented the Pavlova?” the majority will answer back very quickly “it wasn’t the Aussies!”.  This disagreement is felt by both nations, but New Zealanders hold it closer to their hearts, for the relationship between Australia and New Zealand is like that between brothers. New Zealand being the younger brother, not wanting their older brother to take all the glory for their work. So for New Zealanders, the case of the first Pavlova is closed in their eyes. 

If you want to try a delicious combination of crisp meringue, smothered in cream and fresh fruit, then look no further than the Kiwi Pavlova recipe below, courtesy of every Kiwi’s favourite cookbook - Edmonds Cook Book.    


How to make a Kiwi Pavlova


Ingredients

6 egg whites

Pinch of salt 2 cups caster sugar 1 ½ tsp vinegar 1 ½ tsp vanilla essence 1 ½ tsp Edmonds Fielder’s cornflour Whipped cream and fresh fruit (Strawberries & Kiwifruit, of course!)


Method

  1. Preheat oven to 150oC. Line a baking tray with baking paper and draw a 20cm circle on the baking paper. Turn over the baking paper so that the pencil line doesn’t transfer to your pavlova.

  2. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites with the salt until stiff, then add the sugar very gradually while still beating. Keep beating for 5 minutes to dissolve the sugar.

  3. Slow the beater speed and add the vinegar, vanilla and cornflour.

  4. Pile the meringue in the centre of the circle and use a spatula to spread it out to the edge of the circle keeping it as round and even as possible. Make a slight dip in the top.

  5. Bake for 45 minutes, then leave to cool in the oven overnight.

  6. Using two spatulas, lift it carefully onto a serving plate and fill the central depression with whipped cream and fresh fruit. Enjoy!!

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