To me, the appearance of Alphonso mangoes in the shops signals the arrival of the very earliest part of summer. During May in our house we devour this unrivalled fruit, with its creamy texture and heady perfume.
They are simply delicious on their own (my husband believes there is no other way), but I’ve blended the Alphonso here with the flavours from one of my favourite yogurt dishes from Gujarat – saffron, cardamom and pistachio – to provide the filling for a marshmallowy meringue.
You can get everything ready in advance earlier in the day (and the meringue a few days ahead), but assemble the pavlova only a couple of hours before serving.
For the Meringue:
3 tsp cornflour
2 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 egg whites, at room temperature
pinch of salt
250g caster sugar
For the Filling:
2 tbsp pistachios (or flaked almonds)
2 tsp milk
a few strands of saffron
20 cardamom pods
160ml whipping cream
400g plain yogurt
3 tbsp icing sugar, sifted
5 fully ripe Alphonso mangos
freshly picked dry, unsprayed edible flowers (optional)
Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan 170°C/375°F/gas mark 5.
Scatter the pistachio nuts for the filling on a baking tray and roast lightly for three or four minutes. Cool slightly, chop and set aside.
Reduce the oven temperature to 140°C/fan 120°C/275°F/gas mark 1.
Line a baking tray with baking parchment and draw a circle on it (mine was about 24cm in diameter). Turn the paper over so the pencil mark is underneath.
To make the meringue, in a small bowl, mix the cornflour, vinegar and vanilla extract.
In a very clean, dry, grease-free bowl, place the egg whites and salt. Using a food mixer or a bowl and a hand-held electric whisk, whisk until soft peaks form, then continue to whisk, adding the sugar a large spoon at a time, alternating with the cornflour mix.
Spoon the meringue into the circle on the tray, hollowing the centre and building the sides higher.
Bake for one hour, then turn the oven off, leaving the meringue inside until cold. You can store it now in an airtight container for a few days.
Warm the milk in a small pan and add the saffron. Set aside.
With the point of a knife, split the husk of each cardamom pod and empty the seeds into a mortar. Grind to a powder, then sift to remove the husks.
In a bowl, whip the cream to soft peaks and fold in the yogurt, cardamom, saffron milk and icing sugar.
When ready to serve, place the pavlova on a cake stand or plate. Spoon in the deliciously scented yogurt cream.
Peel, then cube or slice the mangos and arrange on top. Scatter over the roasted pistachios. I also sprinkled it with alkanet flowers from my garden.
(Recipe from Seasonal Baking by Fiona Cairns, published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson £25 © Fiona Cairns)