Nigella: I make the pavlova’s billowy base in advance.
To do this, I start by whisking egg whites. What I’m waiting for is the stage at which they form satiny peaks, then I patiently beat in my caster sugar one spoon at a time. Patience is not one of my outstanding qualities but it’s necessary here. I derive great satisfaction from watching the meringue slowly become glossier.
Once the mixture is stiff and shiny, I turn meringue into pavlova-base-to-be with the addition of two ingredients. First, cornflour. Usually this is combined with vinegar in a pav, but this being a lemon pavlova, I’m using lemon juice, as well as the finely grated zest, which is where all the flavour resides.
Then it’s a case of just folding everything gently together.
Now a little culinary crafting. I dab the four corners of a sheet of greaseproof paper with the mixture I have left on the whisk, which will act as a glue to stop the sheet slipping on the baking tray.
I adore how the snowy marshmallow spills onto the sheet in all its alpine glory. I’m aiming for a regular circular shape or as regular as I can get it, which means a lot of flattening and smoothing but I find this rather restful.
It'll take about an hour to cook, and then it can be left to cool in the switched-off oven. I'll wait till just before my friends arrive tomorrow before piling it up into a pavlova proper.
The pavlova base is cooled – well, it's been cooled for a while and resting. Cracks will appear, but don’t worry! This happens and besides, as ever, I flip it over. I always do this because I love the way the tender part of the pavlova base, like a marshmallow, hits the smoothness of the cream.
But actually, I am departing from tradition here because what goes on next is not cream but lemon curd. I’m happy to use lemon curd from a jar, providing it is good and zingy, and if not, you can always add some lemon zest and lemon juice.
Don’t be alarmed if some of it drips down the side of the meringue base. I rather love that. Push it to the sides. It will drip more as it stands. And I shall drape the curd with the cream, whipped but not too whipped!
Coax it to the edges ...
I have got a lot of almonds I have toasted, by which I mean I’ve tossed them about in a dry hot frying pan until they are this colour. You need a lot. This isn’t just decoration, it’s so that you get a good amount of crunch. I always think of this a bit like, erm, an upside-down lemon meringue pie.
And finally, some lemon zest … and I just can’t wait to sink into this lemony lusciousness!