This basil pavlova recipe, from my friend Isabelle Smith, is a wonderful variation on the classic. Basil is a great partner for summer fruit and also turns the meringue the most delicate pale green.
PREP TIME 20 minutes, plus cooling
COOK TIME 1 hour
400g caster sugar
25g basil leaves
7 egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar
2 tsp cornflour
2 tsp white wine vinegar
300g summer berries (use fresh currants, raspberries, Alpine strawberries or whatever you have to hand)
300ml double cream
2 tbsp Grand Marnier, or more, to taste
1 tbsp icing sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 150C/130C fan/gas 2. Line two baking sheets with baking paper and mark each one with a 20cm circle. Flip the paper over so that the pencil marks are on the underside.
2. Put the caster sugar and basil in a food processor and whiz until the basil is reduced to fine specks and the sugar has turned light green.
3. In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites with the cream of tartar to form soft peaks. Add 350g of the basil sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is stiff and glossy. Whisk in the cornflour and vinegar. Once all the sugar is incorporated, you should have a beautiful pale green meringue mixture.
4. Divide the basil pavlova mixture between the prepared baking sheets and spread out within the marked lines to form discs. Bake for 1 hour or until the meringue is firm and slightly golden on top. Then, without opening the door, turn off the oven and leave it to cool. Meanwhile, put the berries in a bowl, stir in the remaining basil sugar and leave to macerate.
5. Just before serving, put the mascarpone into a bowl and whisk briefly until softened. Add the cream, Grand Marnier and icing sugar then whisk together until soft peaks form.
6. Once the meringues are cooled, carefully lift them off the baking paper. Place one disc on to a serving plate then spoon over the mascarpone cream, swirling it out to the edges. Spoon over some of the berries and top with the second meringue disc, then the remaining berries.
This is ideally suited to being grown in a pot. To thrive, basil needs as much heat and sun as possible, so move the pot around to keep it in the perfect spot as the summer progresses and the sun gets higher. Heat will concentrate the oils in the plant, intensifying the flavour and also scenting the air around it with the smell of a Mediterranean summer. Sweet Genovese is a great variety for the kitchen, with its intense flavour and aroma.
Buy Aaron’s fabulous new book with a 20 per cent discount
Grow Fruit and Vegetables in Pots: Planting Advice and Recipes from Great Dixter will be published by Phaidon Press Ltd on 7 February, price £24.95. To order a copy for £19.95 with free p&p until 2 March call 01603 648155 or go to mailshop.co.uk.