I’ve lived my life often unmoved by the tradition of Valentine’s Day… avoiding cupids, love hearts and any tedious ‘l’ word talk. Maybe it’s because I don’t like to think of love as a seasonal, fleeting feeling – only brought on by the first breath of February. Or maybe it’s because I refuse to comply with normalcy, a blank denial to act in expectation and accordance with the rest of society. Either way, Valentine’s was always a tradition I did not indulge in.
Recently though, I have begun to understand and appreciate the ritual of celebrating love. This leads me to food. Funny that. How everything always leads back to food. The art of cooking is a manifestation of love, part of our universal romantic vocabulary – something we all share in common.
When you cook for someone special, you bare your whole soul… you care deeply about what you create then lay down at the table. It’s the act, the expectation, the feeling of happiness and utter selflessness that permeates in the final product that reveals a truly magical feeling and taste.
These Persian Meringue Nests have been in the back of my mind for months. I recently purchased a large quantity of Persian fairy floss to trial late back in December and finally decided to use it last weekend.
Light, delicate and fragrant, Persian Meringue Nests with Rhubarb Curd are utterly delicious and make for a simple yet romantic dessert. The meringue nests have a brilliantly crisp exterior and a soft, chewy, marshmallow like interior that is lightly flavoured by a hint of rose.
A tart rhubarb curd flavoured by nothing more than pink peppercorns and rose is then spread into the meringue cavities. Though the fragrance of rose and peppercorn here is subtle, barely apparent. A mouthful secret between both you and meringue.
A generous amount of musk flavoured Persian fairy floss along with some dehydrated pomegranate kernels and organic rose petals is then sprinkled over the meringue nest tops for a delicate garnish. Delicate, enticing and ethereal.
Persian Meringue Nests with Rhubarb Curd are pure, simple and slightly fragrant – both in sight and in taste. The rich musk like meringues and tartness of the curd balance out in sweet unison. Share these meringue nests with someone you love, whether it be a significant other, close friend, or all by yourself.
I served these Persian Meringue Nests to close out a decadent dinner of wild mushroom risotto. And in that moment, I thought how lucky I am to have someone I love. Someone to cook for. Someone, who like me, loves to eat, celebrate and appreciate.
- 8 egg whites, cold
- 2 ½ cups caster sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon rose water extract
- 1 bunch rhubarb, trimmed, coarsely chopped
- ¾ cup caster sugar
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 tablespoon rose water extract
- ⅛ tsp. pink peppercorns, lightly crushed
- 4 egg yolks, lightly whisked
- 125 g / 4.4 oz. unsalted butter, softened and cubed
- Roses and crystallized petals, dehydrated pomegranate kernels, persian fairy floss / for decoration
- To make the meringues, preheat an oven to 90 C / 200 F. Line 2 baking sheets with paper and set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer on medium to high speed, combine the egg whites, sugar and salt, roughly 5 minutes. The mixture should be very thick and grainy. Remove the bowl and place it over a double boiler set over medium to low heat. Stir with a rubber spatula until all the sugar has dissolved, roughly 15 minutes. Brush the sides down as you go to make the sugar is melted and no grains remain. Once melted, stir in the rose water extract.
- Once the mixture is completely smooth, put it back into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat with the whip attachment on high speed. Beat until the egg white mixture is thick, glossy and the bowl is room temperature when touched.
- Use two spoons to create meringue nests on the lined baking sheets, making indents in the centre of the mounds. Bake the meringues for 1 ½ hours. Turn off from the heat and allow the meringues to sit in the oven for 30 more minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
- For the curd, place the rhubarb in a saucepan. Add ¼ cup of the caster sugar, water, rose water extract and crushed pink peppercorns. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until the rhubarb has softened completely. Use a stick blender to then blend the mixture into a smooth puree.
- Set the mixture over a double boiler. Add the egg yolks, butter and remaining ½ cup of sugar and whisk well to combine. Cook, whisking over low heat for 15 minutes or until the mixture has thickened and holds a trail. Set aside to cool to room temperature before covering closely with plastic wrap and chilling in the fridge prior to assembly.
- Once the meringues and curd are both cool, fill the meringues with the rhubarb curd. Decorate according to personal preference – I used Persian fairy floss, crystallized roses, rose petals and pomegranate kernels.