What are you thankful for from 2017?
In 2017 I looked back and was thankful for my job and the education that my parents funded for me. The income I’ve earned from my job allows me to pay rent in a wonderful part of Sydney, pay for my food, social activities with friends and family, clothe myself, and allows me luxuries including a new mobile phone, Netflix, the Internet, a gym membership. On my travels to Vietnam in October this year, it put into stark comparison the socio-economic divide between people. While so many of us think about what we are lacking in our lives and moan about how the grass is greener on the other side, I think we do not spend enough time being thankful for what we have and the opportunities that we have been given.
In 2017 I looked back and was thankful for my relationships – I am grateful that I continue to be in a relationship with a wonderful woman who I can now legally commit to should we choose to, and I am grateful for the friendships that I have reached out and maintained over the year – namely girlfriends from high school and university where we previously took it for granted how frequently we saw each other, but now with different jobs, living in different parts of Sydney and other responsibilities – sometimes organising catch ups can fall by the wayside.
I’m thankful for the new relationships I’ve made – for example, for the end of the term I caught up over casual drinks with a couple of the ladies from my Zumba class at Crows Nest Dance Centre and for the first time in the two years I had been teaching, had the pleasure of properly introducing myself. I learned about their lifestyles, careers and families, why they took Zumba, and beamed with pleasure when they exclaimed how much they enjoyed my classes. It’s always so lovely to receive good feedback.
And mostly, in 2017 I was thankful for my body for keeping me healthy, springing back after any bouts of sickness, and energised. I’ve been putting it through its paces recently at my new gym with higher-intensity classes than I’ve ever done before, but rewarding it with well-flavoured food of course 😉 And what better time to reward it than over Christmas!
Christmas Day dinner for the last two years we’ve had it has been a quiet affair at ours, with just Night Owl’s mother joining us. Dinner was beetroot-cured salmon gravalax as per last year’s recipe with creme fraiche, dark rye bread and two types of homemade pickles, tempura squid with homemade tartare, boiled new potatoes with lots of butter and dill, and a refreshing watermelon and feta salad.
Dessert I knew I wanted to make a pavlova, and so I rolled out this heavenly delight. I saw the original recipe in Gourmet Traveller and only adjusted it so as to just put thickened cream on top, rather than a mixture of 300 to 250ml thickened cream to creme fraiche. I know you folks and how it can be a hassle to buy two separate items at the supermarket, so just cream is more than fine. Is there any better way to finish off a fine 2017?
You will need:
For the pavlova:
150g (about four) eggwhites;
220g (1 cup) caster sugar;
1 + 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar;
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste;
1 teaspoon cornflour;
Finely grated rind of 1/2 lime, plus extra to serve;
500ml thickened cream;
Thickly sliced mango and passionfruit pulp, to serve.
For the passionfruit curd:
150ml passionfruit juice;
Finely grated rind and juice of one lime;
6 egg yolks;
110g (1/2 cup) caster sugar;
1/2 titanium-strength gelatine leaf, softened in cold water for five minutes;
90g unsalted butter, coarsely chopped at room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 150 degrees Celcius. Trace a 20cm-diameter round on a piece of baking paper and place pencil-side down on a lightly-oiled oven tray. Whisk the egg whites and a pinch of salt in an electric mixer or with a handheld mixer to soft peaks (4-5 minutes). With the motor running, gradually add sugar and whisk until firm and glossy (2-3 minutes). Whisk in vinegar and vanilla, fold in cornflour and rind, and pile onto the tray within the circle, forming a large dome with a flat top.
Place in the oven, reduce oven to 120 degrees Celcius, and bake until crisp but not coloured (one and a half to one and three quarters hours). Turn off heat and cool completely in oven with door closed (at least six hours or overnight). Pavlova will keep in an airtight container for a day.
Don’t worry about the top cracking – you’re going to pile on cream and curd and delicious fruit anyway!
You can make the passionfruit curd while the pavlova is cooking.
Whisk the passionfruit juice, lime rind and juice, yolks and sugar in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water until thick and pale (10-15 minutes), then remove from heat. Squeeze excess water from gelatine, whisk into passionfruit mixture, then whisk in the butter, a little at a time until all incorporated.
Refrigerate until chilled and set (3-4 hours). Curd will keep refrigerated in an airtight container for five days. Whisk to loosen slightly just before serving.
Whisk the cream to soft peaks in a bowl. Spread on top of the pavlova, then the curd, then sliced mango and passionfruit pulp. Scatter with extra lime rind and serve.