Cheap Eats:

It’s been a few years since I last gave a slide show and talk on Australia for Mensa, but I did it often enough—covering the adventures experienced during four different trips Down Under—that I’m sure there are still folks in the group who associate me with Australia. At least I hope so, because that association is finally emerging in a less ephemeral form. No longer will missing a presentation mean you’ll have to miss the tales and images I’ve brought back from my wanderings in the sunburnt country.

At last, the tale of my initial, six-month, solo trip around Oz has seen the light of day. If you go to and search for Waltzing Australia, you’ll actually find a book. Of course, I’d love it if you’d buy it, but even if you choose not to buy, I’m hoping you’ll still search. Apparently, in the world of Amazon, you gain attention if lots of people search for your book. (No money, just attention. Only sales get you money, alas.)

If you also want to see some images from the trip, as well as from other trips, you can visit the blog I’ve created to support the book: I’m hoping to make this into something comparable to the bonus tracks on a DVD. It will include extra material, photos (no publisher puts color images in a first book, so these will only appear on the blog), information on other trips to Australia, as well as other destinations, and whatever else I think might be of interest.

One of the things certain to appear on the site would, of course, be recipes from various trips to Australia and elsewhere. But Mensa readers get to see them first! During my first trip, I had several encounters with a really lovely Australian dessert called a Pavlova, named for the great ballerina.

New Zealand also lays claim to this dessert, and there is no definitive proof as to who really created it first. The main difference between Pavlovas in the two countries would be the topping: in Australia, you’d most likely see passion fruit, while in New Zealand, kiwi fruit would be a more common topper. (And it’s kiwi fruit, by the way, not kiwi—kiwi is a bird, or a nickname for New Zealanders—Americans may not care, but Kiwis do.) A nice combo of blueberries and sliced strawberries would be attractive and tasty, but would make this a Pavlova Americana. Enjoy.



4 large egg whites

1 cup superfine sugar

1 tsp. white vinegar

2 tsps. cornstarch


1 cup heavy whipping cream

1½ Tbs. granulated sugar

½ tsp. vanilla extract

fruit (see Notes below)

Place oven rack in center of oven. Preheat oven to 250°F.

In a large, clean bowl, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until they hold soft peaks. Start adding the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat until the meringue holds very stiff peaks. Sprinkle the cornstarch and vinegar on top of the meringue and beat a bit more, until stiff again.

Now you make your meringue cake. Opinions differ as to how to approach this. You can put down a sheet of baking parchment and draw a 7-inch circle in the middle. You might also get a pastry bag and pipe a circle and then fill it with a perfectly even rope of meringue. I just guesstimate the circle size and spoon the meringue onto the baking sheet, spreading it into a circle of about the right size. Do what works best for you (that is, pick a method that makes it likely you won’t write this recipe off as too complicated). Also, baking parchment might make it easier to get the meringue off the pan. I have used it. I have also just sprayed a cookie sheet lightly with baking spray, and I’ve had it slide off with no trouble.

Anyway, whatever method you choose, you now have a circle of meringue, looking rather like a single cake layer and a little more than an inch deep, on your baking sheet. Put it in the oven and bake it for 1 hour 15 minutes, or until the outside is dry and takes on a very pale cream color. Turn the oven off, leave the oven door slightly ajar, and let the meringue cool completely before removing from the oven.

Set the meringue aside until just before you plan on serving the dessert. Then, whip the cream until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and vanilla, and beat to incorporate. Spread the whipped cream across the top of the meringue. Decorate with the fruit you’ve chosen, and serve.

Serves 6 to 8.


If you’re using passion fruit, you’ll need 10. For kiwi fruit, four or five should do the trick. For berries (blueberries, raspberries, sliced strawberries, blackberries), you need about a cup.

The meringue can be made a couple of days in advance. Once it is completely cool, put it in an airtight container and keep it someplace cool and dry.

It’s important that you don’t complete the dessert until you’re ready to serve it. The acid in the fruit will break down the whipped cream and the whipped cream will make the meringue soggy. If you don’t want to serve all 6 to 8 servings at once, you can either cut up the meringue and just add whipped cream and fruit as you serve it (not so great on presentation, but the taste is the same), or you can make a couple of smaller meringues.

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