Pavlova time! My ‘fool-proof’ recipe

Lovely sun, luscious strawberries … it’s the perfect time for pavlova!

Sweet, dessert, pudding, whatever you like to call it, is the topping-off of a good meal. Carefully chosen to balance the type of meal preceding it, it can be a delight … and so very, very tempting, because one thing they nearly all have in common is a high carbohydrate content.  Still, don’t you find that  no matter how filling the main meal was, there still seems to be room for the sweet treat? (in our pudding stomach ) 🙂 And my favourite – the Pavlova – is no exception so I offer it to you again.phpG50cumAM.jpg 2

Kiwi Blossom on our plants

This one, made last week, was loaded-up with double cream, local strawberries and the very last of our own Kiwi fruit! Yes! Our own Cornwall-grown Kiwi fruit ... kept in an outdoor vermin-proof shed – 500 odd of them lined up in egg-trays – but these were the very last. There was one tray left – but the heat of the last couple of weeks had pushed most of them over the edge (too ripe). Not bad really, considering that the blossom is just opening on the kiwi plants!

It is believed that the dessert we know as the Pavlova was created in honour of the Russian ballet dancer Ann Pavlova when on a tour of New Zealand in the 1920s (though Australia hotly contests this, claiming to be the nation that hosted this culinary naming)

It is one of my favourite desserts and a long time ago I found a virtually fool-proof method of making them which has become much appreciated in the family as when I make them I usually make 3 bases at a time (well, if you have the oven on you may as well fill it up, and they do keep quite well in a sealed cake tub) and this means more than one meal-time gets this treat.  These Pavlovas are also brilliant for when you have a horde of people round – each one cutting into 8 generous servings. Best when the fruit is in season – so choose in-season brightly coloured soft or softish fruit when you can (hard fruit, like sliced apple, just doesn’t sit as well with this dessert)

Ann’s Pavlova ( or Vacherin  – not the cheese!)  

This  looks like meringue but it is really an adaptation I have made of a Vacherin – which is a type of meringue made with icing sugar (usually whisked once, but over hot water – my method seems to work just as well and be less of a bother)

Makes a 9 inch Pavlova base or 40 half mini meringues

2 egg whites
4 oz of sieved icing sugar.


1, Whisk the egg whites until in stiff peaks.
2, Sieve the icing sugar and add to the whipped whites.
3, Whisk again until the mixture returns to stiff peaks
4, Either scoop into a piping bag and pipe small meringues onto a  greased baking sheet  (makes about 40 halves)
Or line the base of a 9” sandwich tin and grease the sides (or line a baking tray , draw a 9” diameter  circle, grease the sheet, spread or pipe the mixture over the area of the circle – adding a little more towards the rim).

Bake at 160 C or 140 C fan oven or Gas mk 3 (until palest fawn)

15- 20 mins for the small
1 ½  – 2 hours for Pavlova

Allow to cool gradually – I usually turn the oven off and allow it to cool before removing the pavlova bases.

To decorate use either 4 – 8 oz Cornish Clotted Cream or whip at least a quarter pint of Double Cream (taking care not to make too thick – nor runny) and spread evenly and thickly over the top.  Decorate with slices of soft / softish, fruits.

For mini-meringues. Whisk 1/4 pint double cream, place in piping tube with rosette nozzle. Pipe on one half – squeeze lightly as you stick the other half on.

Hope you find this recipe works well for you too!

Food is such an important part of our lives, it brings back memories, it can brighten our day or it can be a drudge and a scourge. How people eat and what they eat can help set scenes in novels too, can tell y0u a lot about the character without spelling it out. Take this excerpt from my novel Some Kind of Synchrony

The unexpected aroma of pizza, unmistakable in its amalgam of cooked cheese and oregano, stopped her for a moment, standing in her own hall, a rabbit poised for flight.  Then Andy appeared, filling the kitchen doorway.           

       ‘Thought I heard the door,’ he said and turned back into the kitchen.  Faith grabbed up the shopping bag and her handbag, pushed the door shut with the vigour it required, and followed him.  Two large size Pizzas stood on the table, one with the lid flopped back and a ragged wedge missing.  Andy held the remains of this piece in his fingers as he lounged against the worktop.  ‘Thought we’d have a pizza tonight – got the kids a video out too,’ he smiled, shoved the thick crust into his mouth and chewed contentedly, wiping his fingers on his jeans then folding his arms. 

I hope it’s painted a picture of Andy for you – to read the first three chapters of this book, and my others, free in PDF  just click here

What is your favourite dessert?

Are you enjoying the heat summer?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you and, fingers crossed, the glitches on the comments should be sorted out now – so i will know when you have written  🙂


Trouble With Numbers

I little while ago, in responding to a comment on one of my ‘Rants’, I mentioned that I was ‘dyscalcic’.  DSCF7514

For most of my life I just assumed I was ‘bad at maths’… however, when it comes to it I often understood perfectly what had to be done in maths. In fact, one of my abiding memories is meeting my friend Jenny, who had won a place at Grammar school, on the bus home and helping her understand what she needed to do to complete her maths homework. The fact that I frequently did not get my maths work correct, despite me checking it more than once, did not compute with my understanding of the method …

I could never remember my times tables, despite being at the sort of primary school that had us reciting every morning.  I would learn them, revising as I went to school, recite them.. then by lunch time I would have lost them again. I still do not know my times tables – but I have developed strategies for working them out. I use the 9 x tables trick of one number down from the times-ed number plus – whatever it takes to make nine. Even I can manage the 5 x, 10x and 11x and extrapolate from those, often adding on the extra. So, because the 5 x is easy I can manage most 6x this way quite quickly. So my biggest bug-bear; 7 x 8 will go 5×8 is 40 so 6x easily is 48, now just add another 8 = 56. Strategies.

I did a lot of ‘pairing to make 10’ work at one time (adding up columns of figures for a local village post-office) – so my ‘numbers that make 10’ is quite good. This means that I can add up a column of figures fairly well – though I will frequently have to do it more than once.

However, the biggest problem I have is in transposition. Put a list of numbers on one sheet and ask me to copy them onto another and at least one number would end up transposed incorrectly. Like when I used to write certain phone numbers in the back of my diary – copying them across each year and not realising a mistake until I phoned someone. For instance I might call using 350646  and get a wrong number, only to look back at the old diary to see the number should have been 350464!  I can now look back and see how easily I could have copied the sum incorrectly from the text book, completed the calculation correctly but, obviously, got the wrong answer when compared to the ‘answer book’. It would be an unusual teacher that checked to see if the sum had been copied correctly in the first place!

Dyscalculia involves frequent difficulties with everyday arithmetic tasks like the following:

  • Difficulty reading analog clocks  [I often look and recognise what I need to know (i.e. is it near the time I am keeping an eye on) – but ask me just after I looked what the actual time is and I will almost always have to look again to be able to tell you]
  • Difficulty stating which of two numbers is larger  [written numbers are ok – given a moment or two, obvious differences are ok, like when the starting numbers are the ones to focus on but numbers said that are similar and of a long duration in saying, ie, one million, five hundred thousand, seven hundred and forty six …. followed by a similar large number with, say the hundreds changed… I may not recall the first number accurately enough to tell you.]
  • Inability to comprehend financial planning or budgeting, sometimes even at a basic level; for example, estimating the cost of the items in a shopping basket or balancing a chequebook [Sometimes great  sometimes way-out – having somehow bunched a group of similar items and made them add up to too much or too little]
  • Difficulty with multiplication-tables, and subtraction-tables, addition tables, division tables, mental arithmetic, etc. [Yep – that’s me – See above re: times tables & mental arithmetic,  for example the other day I was working-out quickly how many items I needed to sell at £5 profit to cover a £100 pitch fee and came up with 200!  Yes, written down I can see it is stupid .. but I actually thought it was right for a few minutes!]
  • Difficulty with conceptualizing time and judging the passing of time. May be chronically late or early. [I hate to be late.. so am often early  – but have to set myself alarms to make sure I am. (when did this start – was it because I knew that I could not trust myself to know how time was passing) I always assume that when I get lost in time it is just my absorption in what I am doing… I admit I didn’t realise this might be something else?]
  • Problems with differentiating between left and right [Ask the OH if I have trouble with left or right … he calls my left –‘the other right’.  Thank goodness for Sat Navs!]
  • Inability to visualise mentally [No – not this one! I have extremely good mental visualisation – so good I can, at a push, do some mental maths this way – imagining the numbers written on the board]
  • Difficulty reading musical notation [I have been trying to learn to read music on and off since I was 13 – by the time my mind works out the relationship with the notation and the fingering/note the moment has passed]
  • Difficulty navigating or mentally “turning” the map to face the current direction rather than the common North=Top usage  [Well that is just logical isn’t it ?? – to turn the map so that you are traveling the same way along it … Thank goodness for Sat Navs AGAIN!]
  • Having particular difficulty mentally estimating the measurement of an object or distance (e.g., whether something is 10 or 20 feet (3 or 6 meters) away). [No, not this one either – goes with the overheated mental visualisation]
  • Often unable to grasp and remember mathematical concepts, rules, formulas, and sequences [Sequences! What is the next number in the sequence? ALWAYS totally baffled me!}
  • Inability to concentrate on mentally intensive tasks. [Unable to concentrate on mentally intensive NUMBER tasks – doing my taxes is a nightmare and so tiring!!]
  • Low latent inhibition, i.e. over-sensitivity to noise, smell, light and the inability to tune out, filtering unwanted information or impressions. Might have a well-developed sense of imagination due to this (possibly as cognitive compensation to mathematical–numeric deficits)  [Well developed sense of imagination – tick (Hey – I’m a novelist!) And – actually, rather over-sensitive to particular smells, and can find myself focusing in lense-like on certain visual patterns in nature in particular]
  • Mistaken recollection of names. Poor name/face retrieval. May substitute names beginning with same letter. [Oh! And do I do this? So often it is embarrassing – though I have developed strategies for getting over the awkwardness of this in everyday life… and even more if I meet a person out of the usual context. And woe-betide me if they have changed hair colour! (which I do seem to notice first and remember most about people oddly enough)]                                                                         (diagnostics courtesy wikipedia)

Fourteen ‘diagnostics’ – and I fit 12!  (no I won’t attempt a percentage on that thanks)  so not an official diagnosis but too good a fit to be accident and it explains a lot.

Now when I went to school there wasn’t even dyslexia – let along dyscalculia –  so I just became ‘poor at maths’. I struggled to get a GCE grade C in maths, yet got my A Level* in Physics. Back in a more enlightened time this is what got me over the maths hurdle entering teaching. (*other  A levels were Biology and English) When I re-trained for Primary teaching after the youngest boy was in the juniors, we were introduced to the idea of maths strategies!  I was ahead of the game – and I believe I was a more effective teacher of Maths for having struggled with numbers myself.

In retrospect, I think I am glad that no one told me I had a ‘problem’ because it made me work hard to find ways around the difficulties. However, it does help now to explain the struggle I have had with numbers all my life … and still do!

Is Dyscalculia new to you?

Have you lived a life with a hidden problem and just made the best of it?

You know I love to hear from you – do share.



I love a list, me.

If I have a lot to do —- or am organising something … or need to take a multifarious number of items with me somewhere …. or ….yes, even for shopping….. I make a list. And, not so long ago, when I was under a lot of pressure I found that making lists was the only way for me to get things done that I had committed to, to make sure I didn’t let other people down. I hate letting people down and beat myself up big time if I ever do.

What was worse was forgetting to do things and, with my mother suffering from dementia, I can tell you that forgetting to do things starts to feel worrying! Lists were my way of achieving the myriad of small but important things that had to be done over and above running what had become a tiring and complicated life.

However, through this I have discovered the Joy of Lists!  I had discovered that lists are life-affirming. Lists can give you a sense of achievement, they can boost your self-esteem, they can make sure you get things done!

I start the day by writing a quick list of things I know I want to do in the day – say, while drinking my morning tea. I then glance down the list and number the items in order that I think they need to be achieved. Sometimes this is self evident as some things must be done before others… sometime it is a game to play against yourself. Which one do I least want to do? Perhaps make that the second (rather than the last) on the list. Do not make it the first … you may never get going at all. Second or third means you have got yourself going.. you have CROSSED OFF one (or two) items on the list … you are on a roll … you can tackle and defeat the things you didn’t want to do more easily that way.

If you are anything like me you will add to the list as the day goes on .. or even turn the page over and add something to the next days list. Writing ‘make a list’ as number one.. and crossing it off as soon as you get to the end of the list is perhaps going a bit far … 🙂

Currently everyday my list contains ‘Correct 1 ch of SKOS min’ – which actually means ‘Correct one chapter of Some Kind of Synchrony, at least, for the paperback version’ which is undergoing a final scrutiny – line by line – before being prepared to be the next Ann Foweraker novel to be published in paperback!

I find a day guided by a list is often the most productive day. There is also a sense of achievement in having worked through all the tasks on the list, reinforced every time you cross one off! That is The Joy of Lists 🙂

Are you a list maker?

Do you find it helps in more ways than one?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you.


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