The Scots word Yule comes from the Old Norse Jól, a celebration of the winter solstice. Jól was celebrated as a big feast, toasting for the passing of winter, for harmony, fertility and happiness in the new year.
After the Reformation of 1560, John Knox, founder of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, banned the celebration of Christmas in Scotland. This became enforced by law in the 1640 Act of Scottish Parliament. It wasn’t until four hundred years later in 1958 that 25 December finally became a Scottish holiday.
To make up for all those years, I’ve made a showstopper dessert! It’s a recipe I return to every Christmas that brings a festive look to the dinner table. The meringue will be crispy on the outside, soft and mallowy on the inside, and it contrasts perfectly with the tartness of the pears, the billowy cream and the crushed pistachios. You can make the meringue and pears in advance, but make sure you prepare the cream just when you are going to construct and serve the pavlova.
Ingredients for the pavlova
For the meringue
- 6 egg whites
- 350g (12½oz) caster sugar
- 1½ teaspoon cornflour
- 1½ teaspoon white wine or cider vinegar
- 40g (1½oz) pistachios
For the mulled pears
- 1 bottle (75cl) red wine
- 500ml (2 cups) water
- 1 orange, pared, zested and juiced
- 1 lemon, pared and zested
- 5 cloves
- 2 cinnamon stick
- 125g (4½oz) caster sugar
- 150g (5oz) blackberries
- 6 pears (Bosc pears are a perfect choice), peeled and with stalks on
- 400ml (1⅔ cup) double cream
- 25g (1oz) pistachios, crushed
Method for making the pavlova
- Let’s make the meringues first. Preheat the oven to 120°C fan (285°F). Draw a 20cm (8”) circle on a sheet of baking parchment.
- In a bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Add the sugar a spoonful at a time, whisking until you have a stiff and glossy meringue. Then, whisk in the cornflour and vinegar until combined. Swirl the pistachios through your meringue.
- Carefully spoon the meringue onto the circle on the baking parchment, and use a palette knife to flatten to top.
- Bake for 1 hour, then turn the oven off and leave the meringue inside for at least 2 hours to dry out as it cools.
- Now for the mulled pears. Pour the wine and water into a pan. Add all the other ingredients, except the pears and blackberries, put over a low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 20 minutes.
- Return the pan to the heat, adding the pears and blackberries. Bring to a simmer and submerge the pears for 45 minutes. Turn them every 10 minutes. They should be ruby red and just cooked. Remove from the pan and set aside to cool.
- Sieve the poaching liquid. Put back to the boil, reduce until a thick and syrupy, then cool.
- Place your meringue on a plate. Whip the double cream until soft peaks form and layer over the meringue. Stand the pears on top of the cream in a circle, pour the syrup over and let it drizzle down the sides of the meringue. Finally, sprinkle the pistachios over the top. Serve the pavlova immediately.
More about the Hebridean Baker
Inspired by family recipes and traditional Scottish bakes, Coinneach launched the Hebridean Baker in 2020. 21 million video views (and counting!) later, Coinneach has motivated his followers around the world to bake, forage, learn Gaelic, have a dram or two of whisky and dream of visiting the Scottish islands.
Born and raised on the Isle of Lewis, he shares the Hebridean Hygge lifestyle in his debut cookbook, The Hebridean Baker: Recipes & Wee Stories from the Scottish Islands. With wholesome, traditional recipes, stunning photography and a generous sprinkling of stories of island life and culture, The Hebridean Baker book offers a true taste of the Outer Hebrides.
You can purchase the book now from Stòr, the official Historic Scotland online shop. In our previous blog, you can check out Coinneach’s recipe for Aunt Bellag’s Clootie Dumpling.