“Ahem. That’s a joke, ah say, that’s a chicken joke, son.” (Foghorn Leghorn, my second favourite cartoon character.)
Consumption of whole eggs – fried, boiled, poached, scrambled, as an omelet, in a cake/quiche/burger/fried rice/caesar salad, you name it – is as popular in Australia as in pretty much any country around the world, with the possible exception of France (but I would say that, wouldn’t I?)
When it comes to using just one part of an egg – the white or the yolk – it was traditionally the former with which Australians first learned to prepare something to eat. And that something is known as a pavlova.
There was a time when making your first pavlova was akin to a rite of passage for young Australians; less so these days, due to the rich ethnic and culinary diversity of our nation in the 21st Century. However, it is still a crowd-pleaser at a social gathering, especially when there is a plentiful supply of the favoured fruits – passionfruit, strawberry, kiwi fruit and banana; tinned peaches are also popular in some households.
I have no memory of my mother making a pav, as it is known affectionately. She had easy access to a good quality version from a local cake shop, so she just whipped the cream and added the fruit. So, despite my enthusiasm for cooking, it would be well into my fifth decade before I made my first pavlova and then, only through the intervention of serendipity.
Around the end of the 20th Century, I belatedly discovered the pleasures of eating fresh asparagus AND I ate my first dish of eggs benedict. The latter led me back to my French cookbook and a recipe for hollandaise sauce, which is also a perfect partner for asparagus. Two egg yolks were required. Fine. I had cooked plenty of souffles, so I was competent enough to separate two yolks from their whites and then gently convert them into a pretty decent sauce.
What was to be done with the two egg whites? I opened my copy of The Cook’s Companion, went to the eggs section and came across a recipe for meringues. Two whites, a lot of rapid beating, 100g of sugar and a dash of vanilla essence, more beating, small mounds spooned onto a lined baking tray, 40 minutes of gentle baking and there were six little gems ready to be partnered with, say, cream and strawberries macerated in brandy. My greedy neighbours in the small block of apartments where I lived were agog!
Before long, I did get to make a pavlova or two, for which at least four egg whites are required, which fitted in neatly with making a custard – another new addition to my repertoire – that used four egg yolks.
Maggie and I made a home together a few years later and I introduced her to the whole hollandaise/meringue two-sides-of-a-coin thing. We have tweaked the meringue half of the deal, adding 50g of hand-crushed almond flakes, folded in VERY CAREFULLY at the last minute, as fat is the arch-enemy of beaten egg whites. And Maggie divides the mixture into eight piles, which gives us four evenings of dessert and reduces the average sugar hit.
The bearnaise sauce that featured in my previous post also involved two egg yolks. So, we made meringues yet again. (Maggie is quietly pleased that the supply of egg whites will now be less dependent on the availability of asparagus spears worthy of homemade hollandaise.)
Here is my plate from last night, with beautiful berries, grown in the Yarra Valley by the D’Angelo family, and small portions of vanilla ice-cream and light sour cream atop the meringue. Eye candy anyone?