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Sunday, December 14, 2008

a little sweetness in grey december

When we found out Q was expected to arrive in December, we were a little sad for him. You see 6th December is the best day of the year for every child in The Netherlands. It's the birthday of Sinterklaas. Presents arrive in sacks on the eve and there will be a feast of treats and sweets, limericks and sing song with the whole family.

So Q will not get the birthday parties he deserves, we thought. To be born towards the end of December will put him in the same predicament, since it will be Christmas.

But then we also thought, Heck he is our son and of course he will be different! He will get his birthday parties, sinterklaas and Christmas treats and he will have all the sweets and presents like the little prince that he is. And everyone in the Netherlands will be celebrating his birthday!
This year since it is his First birthday, we had a small quiet family affair with the grandparents. It started at tea with a little sweet spread of typical sinterklaas treats like pepernoten and gevulde speculaas, some bon bons, pindarotsjes and truffles from the local chocolatier and red eggs. And then the present sacks arrived! Sacks because of course Nabila got some presents too... and surprise surprise... so did Mommy and Daddy!

Nabila requested a chocolate pavlova for her brother's first cake. I was a little worried initially since my pavlova is usually made with strawberries and/or tropical fruits and since I make it a rule to cook with only seasonal products to get the best taste, I thought it won't be a good idea. But she insisted and I thought Q can have his own little pavlova (with a lot less sugar), Greek yoghurt and tropical fruits. It will be the perfect healthy treat for him... and his precious shiny 8 teeth.

Strawberries can't be found anywhere during the last three days prior the birthday. We checked everywhere... all the way to Germany! Frozen strawberries would be too wet I thought so on the day of the birthday, I set out to the city's vegetable supplier and picked up some kiwi, cherries, plums and mangoes. I added some frozen raspberries of the past summer harvest from our own little backyard... and we did have a delicious little tropical treat on a grey and wet December afternoon!

Chocolate Pavlova with tropical fruits

2 tsp cornflour
2 tsp vinegar - I used Maille Raspberry Vinegar
2 tsp vanilla extract
5 egg whites - use large eggs around 55-60g each
300g Castor sugar
50g grated chocolate - 50-70% cocoa solids
1 TBSP cocoa plus 1 TBSP for dusting

For the toppings
500ml double cream
500g tropical fruits/strawberries
25g hazelnut - toasted
50 grated chocolate

1.Preheat the oven to 140C/Gas1/fan oven 120C. Line a baking sheet with non stick parchment.
2. Mix the cornflour, vinegar and vanilla extract together.
3. Whisk the egg whites till stiff then gradually whisk in the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, adding the vinegar mix as you go until you have a thick, glossy heavy mixture.
4. Put half the mixture in another bowl. Stir in chocolate and sift in the cocoa. Fold together carefully.
5. Swirl the cocoa mixture into the meringue carefully and as briefly as you can.
6. Spoon the meringue onto the parchment making a 23cm round disk. Make a slight dip in the middle for the topping and swirl the edges to form some peaks.
7.Lightly dust the edges with cocoa powder.
8. Bake in the oven, unopened for an hour. Then leave to cool in a closed oven for another hour. I usually make this late at night and leave it for the entire night.
9. Just before serving, whip the cream with a bit of sugar and pile it on top of the meringue. Cut the fruits of your choice and arrange prettily on the cream.
10. Sprinkle with toasted hazelnuts and grated chocolate.