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Australia v. New Zealand: the Great Pavlova Debate

ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli (Image from here)
ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli
(Image from here)

Tomorrow Australia and New Zealand recognise ANZAC Day; arguably one of the most important days in the year for most of us Australasians. It’s a day for us to reflect and remember.

I wrote about the significance of ANZAC Day for Aussies and Kiwis this time last year. (You can check it out here if you’d like a refresher! There’s even a pretty good ANZAC biscuit recipe!)

So, given tomorrow’s auspicious date, and the fact that I have already written of the importance of ANZAC Day, I kind of feel it would be almost un-Australasian not to give you some sort of post that relates to the mate-ship and sibling-like rivalry that exists between Australia and New Zealand. If I were a cricket fan, I could talk about the famous underarm bowling incident of the One Day International in 1981. But I’m not. If I felt more passionately about it, I could argue that because Neil Finn hails from Te Awamutu, Crowded House is obviously a Kiwi band.  But I’m happy to share (in this matter). So that brings me, still near the top of the pile, to the great Pavlova debate. Namely, in which country did the first giant, cream and fruit filled meringue concoction originate?

To follow, without halt, one aim: that’s the secret of success. (Anna Pavlova)

Suddenly, I’m salivating…
(Image from here)

One thing is clear – the dessert was created to commemorate the great Russian prima ballerina, Anna Pavlova when she toured both New Zealand and Australia in 1926. There is, however, considerable debate around whether it was New Zealand or Australia that first created the dessert in question.

Now, I wasn’t around in 1926, so I shall have to rely on that site of all things true and accurate – Wikipedia. Apparently, ‘Keith Money, a biographer of Anna Pavlova, wrote that a hotel chef in Wellington, New Zealand, created the dish when Pavlova visited there in 1926 on her world tour‘. I have heard that this chef may have originated from Australia. This could be pure supposition.

Professor Helen Leach, a culinary anthropologist at the University of Otago in New Zealand, has compiled a library of cookbooks containing 667 Pavlova recipes from more than 300 sources. Her book, The Pavlova Story: A Slice of New Zealand’s Culinary History, states that the first Australian Pavlova recipe was created in 1935 while an earlier version was penned in 1929 in a rural magazine.’

I quite like former food critic, Matthew Evanstake on the whole issue….

People have been doing meringue with cream for a long time, I don’t think Australia or New Zealand were the first to think of doing that. (Matthew Evans)

In the spirit of the mate-ship of ANZAC Day, I propose that we share bragging rights to the creation of the pav’. What do you think?

Now, traditionally, a Pavlova is a meringue dessert with a crisp crust and soft, light inside. It is made by beating egg whites to a very stiff consistency before folding in caster sugar, white vinegar, cornflour, and sometimes vanilla essence, and slow-baking the mixture. Amazingly similar to meringue, really!

Just to be a wee bit different, today I share with you the lovely Bill Granger‘s recipe for brown sugar pav’. Trust me when I say it’s a winner. LM and I fought over it the last time we had it at Bill’s (and we don’t fight over food). It’s served with a yoghurt cream mix which makes the whole thing a fabulously caramel-ly offering with some oh-so slightly tart scrummy stuff on top. Bill serves his with strawberries. I prefer mine with rhubarb…

Bill's Brown Sugar Pavlova
Bill’s Brown Sugar Pavlova
(Image from here)

Pavlova with brown sugar and strawberries
(serves 8-10)

Bill likes his meringues to be old-fashioned and gooey in the middle, rather than bright white and explosive. Pavlova is traditionally a summery dessert, but this one, with its warmer colouring, also works beautifully in winter, with Bill suggesting torn figs instead of strawberries.


6 egg whites
¼ tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla extract
230g caster sugar
80g soft brown sugar
1 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp arrowroot
2 tsp white vinegar

To serve 
300ml whipping cream
150g Greek yoghurt
500g strawberries, hulled and halved
1–2 tablespoons honey


1 Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6. Draw a 20cm circle on a sheet of baking paper and place the paper on a large baking tray.

2 Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar and vanilla until stiff peaks have formed. Add the caster sugar and brown sugar, a tablespoon at a time, beating until all the sugar is incorporated and dissolved and the mixture is thick and glossy. Stir in the cornflour, arrowroot and vinegar.

Pile the mixture into the circle on the paper and spread gently into shape with a spatula. Put in the oven and reduce the temperature immediately to 130°C/Gas ½. Bake for 1hr 20min, then turn off the oven, prop the door ajar and leave the Pavlova inside until completely cooled.

4 To serve, lightly whip the cream and yoghurt together and spread over the Pavlova. Toss the strawberries in the honey and then arrange over the top. Serve immediately.


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Comments (20)

I am disappointed that you make no reference to the ONLY acceptable toping – pure undiluted passion fruit!

LM asks, “Are you using a new handle?”.

Everyone has an opinion. I still prefer rhubarb, but if I’m ever making this sugar-laden concoction for you, I will make sure to use pure undiluted passion fruit!

Yum…. although as a Brit I don’t feel fully qualified to comment on the debate, as such I will sit on the fence and happily eat Pavlova from whichever nation should offer!

BCD – it is hard to beat a good pav’! ANyway – you’re in Syders. That means you can do a pav’ run to Bills any time you want! 🙂

Sharing’s a good idea – though I can see Bill’s caramel-y version might start another war, especially with rhubarb topping – sour is imperative, in my book, which is why I’d go with “u” about passionfruit on the traditional ‘white’ pav! Hope the weather holds for tomorrow 🙂

I suspect you and “u” would get on well. (and, for the record, he’s my Dad!)

Howdy do WLG- from NewZild aka Aotearoa

Soon to be Sunshine Coast Queensland 🙂

I know it is un-Australian, but I’ve never been a huge fan of the pavlova although I do love eating the cream and fruit from the top and I have to admit that they look delicious 🙂

I think there are things that are more un-Australian, 2BD. Like a failure to appreciate the music of Paul Kelly’s ‘To Her Door’ or ‘Before Too Long’, perhaps?

One of the things I miss having discovered my lactose issue, I miss cream …

I had this for the first time in the UK. I thought there was something wrong with it the first time I had it because of the diverse textures, but then found out that is the way it was supposed to be. With lots of good strawberries, it is really nice but I’ve had some frightening versions at banquets ! Yours looks delicious and inspires me to give it a go myself (never made it).

Mmmm – I rather suspect I know what you mean about a ‘banquet/buffet pavlova’. Pav’s don’t lend themselves to sitting in the open air for long periods – they need dry conditions. A mushy, soft pav’ is a (shudder) disaster!

I’m drooling! I drooling! My husband knows how to make the Pavlova. I just discovered this after showing him your post. Good golly. Guess what he’ll be doing this weekend?! (He spent a great deal of time in both Australia and New Zealand. He’s on “U’s” passion fruit team. Apologies!) Interesting post! I love the historical tidbits, of course! T.

T – Bonjour!
You are always so positive and warm. I love it when I see that you’ve popped in and commented on a post. ‘U’ has very specific food likes and his love of passionfruit is well known in my family. I stand by my preference for rhubarb BUT the brown sugar addition in this recipe is inspired, as is adding yoghurt to the cream. Let me know what you think! 🙂

How delicious. I’m ignoring the debate and concentrating on the food!

EXCELLENT plan, Lady Fi! 🙂

i love pavlova especially Kiwi fruit

Comments are closed.