In 2007, my husband and I found ourselves wandering through Boston. We were honeymooning there, and although we had each visited the city before, separately, we didn’t know it well. We wandered between the wharf and Newbury Comics, visited Paul Revere’s Old North Church and hopped the train to Cambridge, and every suppertime we found our way back to the same Irish pub we’d discovered on our first evening there. This homey Irish pub, with its lilting live music and the most generous cheese plate ever, comes to mind around St. Patrick’s Day, when it seems right to turn up the Celtic music and dream of the Emerald Isle.
I’m not sure if that pub in Boston featured Pavlova on the menu. I was so content with melted Brie and soft, fresh-baked bread and fresh fruit that I didn’t order dessert. But if I had discovered Pavlova during that Boston vacation, I would have ordered it every night.
As it happened, I didn’t discover Pavlova until this spring. I asked my friend Sorina, whose husband is Irish, if she had any festive Irish food recommendations for St. Patrick’s Day, and she sang Pavlova’s praises.
And no wonder. It’s a magical, melt-in-your-mouth meringue cake, and in the world of desserts, it’s fairly light: crisp meringue with a marshmallow-like center, fresh fruit and (okay, the not-so-light part) whipped cream.
Irish chefs learned this magic from either New Zealand or Australia (they fight over who made it first), where it was created in honor of Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, praised for her “graceful weightless movement.” The dancer was beloved in Ireland, too, and Irish painter John Lavery’s paintings of the famous dancer are said to capture “her miraculous, feather-like flight, which seems to defy the law of gravitation.”
Legend has it that the chef who invented this cake (whether he was a New Zealander or an Australian), presented it to the ballerina, telling her it was “as light as Pavlova.”
It turns out this magically light meringue made its debut on the Wolff’s Apple House blog a few years ago when Phoebe Canakis of Phoebe’s Pure Food shared her amazing Berry-Topped Pavlova recipe.
This St. Patrick’s Day, it’s time to revisit this beloved Irish dessert. Give it a new twist by topping it with minty strawberries! Just make a simple syrup and soak sliced strawberries in it. Then, decorate the top of the Pavlova with these amazing mint-infused strawberries, and let the Irish celebrations begin!
- ¾ cup packed mint leaves, chopped
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup water
- 1 pound strawberries, sliced
- Bring mint leaves, sugar and ½ cup water to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer 2 minutes. Strain simple syrup into a bowl.
- Soak strawberries in mint syrup for 3-5 minutes.
- Top pavlova with strawberries and add more strawberries to each serving.