Ending on a Sugar High
A self-portrait story
The Last Taste of Summer with Ravneet Gill
Ravneet’s recipe for strawberry, almond & local honey pavlova
Makes a 10 inch pavlova, serves 6-8 people
Time: 1.5-3 hours + cooling time
4 egg whites (at 30g each)
200g caster sugar
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp vanilla bean paste/extract
300ml double cream
1 tbsp seasonal local honey
Pinch of sea salt
300g strawberries, hulled and
chopped in half
60g skin on, roasted almonds, chopped
A few sprigs of thyme
Extra honey for drizzling
- Preheat the oven to 120°C (100°C fan) and prepare a baking sheet linked with baking paper.
- Place the egg whites, white wine vinegar and vanilla (if using) in the clean bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Whisk at a medium speed for 7-10 minutes, past the frothy stage, until you see soft peaks form. (Alternatively, you can also make this in a mixing bowl with a hand-held electric whisk).
- Start adding the sugar to the whipping egg whites, a tablespoon at a time. Gradually increase the speed of the mixer as you do so. By the time you add the last of the sugar you should be whisking at a medium/high speed.
- Continue whisking for 2-3 minutes until stiff peaks form and the meringue is thick and glossy.
- At this point, add in the cornflour, mixing slowly at first and gradually increasing the speed until it is all mixed in. Stop here – you don’t want the meringue to deflate.
- Shape the meringue into one large mound on your pre-prepared baking sheet.
- Bake the pavlova for 2-3 hours, you will know it’s done when you can lift it up clean from the paper.
- Remove the meringue from the oven and leave it to cool completely before serving.
Lightly whip the cream with the honey and pinch of salt until it’s lightly whipped and can hold its shape.
Top the pavlova with the cream, the strawberries and finish by sprinkling over the roasted almonds, a drizzle of honey and some picked thyme.
“I was very bad at it in the beginning to be honest,” laughs pastry chef Ravneet Gill as she discusses how she discovered her passion for baking. Growing up with a wicked sweet tooth, she attempted to make her first dessert as a teenager. “I think it was rose-water flavoured biscuits, they were delicious and I couldn’t believe I’d made them!”
It was somewhat inevitable then, that a passion for biscuits as a child ultimately led to a full-fledged career as a pastry chef juggling multiple projects. Having trained at Le Cordon Bleu and cut her teeth in the kitchens of St John, neighbourhood favourite Llewelyn’s and the Indian restaurant Jamavar, Ravneet is a baking columnist for The Telegraph and author of two cookbooks, The Pastry Chef’s Guide and Sugar, I Love You.
In 2018, she also founded the food community platform Countertalk which aims to highlight good work environments in hospitality, connect people in the industry and host food events. And if all that wasn’t enough to keep her busy, you’ll also recognise her from TV as one of the judges on Junior Bake Off.
In between “eating lots of ice cream”, Ravneet shares one of her favourite summer recipes, and what else she’s been cooking up this season.
How do you find inspiration for new recipes?
I think through different things that I’m eating or things that I think about eating, consider textures that would work well together. I like going out to eat a lot and trying things.
Baking is often seen to be a very precise process. Do you agree with this?
I always say that at first you need to do it by the book. You need to learn and try different things. Once you’ve got the feel for what things should look like and taste like, then go rogue! Put down the scales for a bit and have fun but you’ve got to do the first bit you know.
You have now published two cookbooks, what would you say is the difference between them?
The first one, The Pastry Chef’s Guide, was very much a manual, and it's meant for people who wanted to take pastry a bit more seriously, learn their way without going to a school. The second one, Sugar, I Love You is a bit more playful and slightly more homely.
What have you been baking a lot over the summer?
For some reason at the moment I’ve been making lots and lots of tarts. I just got a new oven so I’ve been testing lots of different kinds. I’ve got a few recipes I’ve been doing recently for fund-raising events – no churn ice cream and lots of things with mango, like mango rice pudding.
Do you see trends come and go with desserts?
I love that 80s things are coming back into fashion, the Jubilee really brought back the trifle which is so fun! We used to be focused on cupcakes or whoopie pies, but now I think the focus is more on things that
are simply delicious.
How do you integrate aesthetics into what you’re making?
To be honest, I don’t think about it that much. I’m not big on going over the top, whenever I’m plating up food, I just think the ingredients shown off the best way is the nicest thing. I don’t like too much fuss.
What are some quick and easy ways to improve the presentation when you are hosting?
A nice tablecloth and fun, eclectic plates on the table make a massive difference. I often put loads of things in different sharing bowls and plates, with nice glasses and candles. I actually have a thing where I don’t like any two plates the same so I always have lots of different ones. Wherever I go, I like to buy a plate, I got ones recently from Mexico. It’s a bit mad, I’ve got way too many!
What has been the biggest challenge in your career?
The biggest challenge has definitely been the resilience of sticking it out, staying in kitchens and working my way up.
How are you balancing your different companies and
Actually, I would say that my number one new thing is that I don’t have any balance. If all my work projects are going well then I know I’ve dropped something in my personal life and vice versa. But that’s ok, I’ve learnt to be kind to myself now.