Rosie Birkett on Pavlova, Lena Dunham and the London foodie scene
Rosie Birkett shares her recipe for chocolate and cherry pavlova and talks us through her life in food...
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When did you initially become interested in food?
Since I was a little girl, I’ve loved eating and being close to ingredients. I grew up in Kent foraging for cobnuts, mushrooms and elderflowers with my dad, who also grew all of our own veg. We had chickens and trout in the river and fruit trees, my favourite of which was a big cherry tree next to the conservatory. I used to bounce on its long branches and sit up there happily, watching the wildlife in the garden and gauging on sweet cherries that stained my face, hands and clothes purple. I always looked forward to summer and the start of the cherry season.
What was your childhood ambition?
I had so many. At different points I wanted to be an actress, an astronaut and a fashion designer.
Who’s your hero?
My mother. She’s the strongest, kindest, most brilliant person I know.
If you could choose, what would your last supper be?
A massive fruits de mer with champagne, followed by fish and chips. Followed by cheese.
Favourite places in London for;
Food: Lyles in Shoreditch.
Drinks: Verden, Clapton.
Relaxation: Rochelle Canteen.
Best view: The top of Springfield Park.
Shopping: Chatsworth Road.
Exploring: Hampstead Heath
Best meal you’ve ever had?
Impossible to say. I’ve been lucky enough to eat some incredible food all over the world and I can’t choose!
What do you cook when you can’t be bothered or in a rush?
Something on toast or pasta.
Town or Country?
Both are crucial – I love and need both of them.
Do you have a favourite recipe from your book A Lot on Her Plate?
The octopus carpaccio is one of my favourites. The slices of octopus look like rose petals – and octopus is one of my favourite ingredients, it’s so delicious.
How do you start your day?
With a cup of tea in bed.
Who do you like following on Instagram?
Laura Jackson and Alice Levine, Elly Pear, Gizzi Erskine, Georgiepuddingandpie, Lyles London, LoveLeluu, Mina Holland, Violet Cakes London, and Freddielookatme.
Sweet tooth or salty cravings?
Salty. I’m a bag of chips with lots of salt and vinegar kind of girl.
Who would be your dream dinner party guests?
All my friends, along with Ricky Gervais, Steve Coogan and Lena Dunham.
What’s your favourite thing about London?
Its diversity and array of incredible food.
Commuting anywhere at rush hour.
Rosie Birkett shares her recipe for chocolate cherry pavlova…
Black Forest Gateaux vibes
100g dark chocolate, melted and cooled
4 medium egg whites
220g caster sugar
1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
100g skinned, roasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
450ml double cream
500g cherries, pitted
1 glass marsala or cherry liqueur
10g dark chocolate, for grating
Begin by macerating your cherries. Place them in a bowl and cover with the marsala, toss them through the wine until they are thoroughly coated and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 170 and line two baking sheets with baking parchment. Whisk the egg whites in a spotlessly clean bowl or stand mixer until soft peaks form, then, without stopping whisking, gradually add the sugar, a little at a time, whisking constantly until thick and glossy. Whisk in the vinegar. Pour the melted chocolate down the sides of the bowl, turning the bowl to distribute it evenly, and then fold it through with the nuts, until the meringue is marbled with chocolate.
Spread a circle of the chocolate and hazelnut meringue – about 20-25cm diameter on each baking sheet. Bake for 35-40 minutes (don’t worry if it cracks, it will still taste delicious), until they peel away easily from the parchment. Remove from the oven and carefully lift the meringues and parchment onto wire racks to cool. Peel the parchment from the meringues and then, using a wide palate knife carefully lift on onto a serving platter or cake stand.
Whip the cream to just soft peaks, being very careful not to overwhip, and then drain the marsala from the cherries into the cream and fold through, along with half of the cherries. Spread just over half of the mix on the bottom layer of meringue, top with the other disc of meringue, the remaining cream mix and then the leftover cherries. Grate over the dark chocolate and serve. This is, in my opinion, even better the day after so feel free to make it ahead and refrigerate.
For more recipes or information on the British cherry season, visit Seasonalberries.co.uk.