SWEETNESS AND LIGHT Coffee Pavlova.
It is every barperson’s worst nightmare. There you are, standing behind the bar, minding your own business, a few rounds of lager here, refilling a stout there, when in bursts a stampede of tourists: “Twelve Irish coffees, please.” No! Please, no!
Scalding the glasses. Brewing the coffee. Adding the whiskey and the sugar. By 12. The cream, dear God, the cream. It must be the absolute right consistency, pouring easily over the spoon, crowning the coffee with a velvety unctuous cloud. One wrong move and it sinks under the liquid, releasing an oily sludge and creating a very ugly drink indeed.
Your hands are all sticky with the sugar and the whiskey. You’re sweating anyway. Invariably, one of your customers will knock their Irish coffee over the bar and onto the floor. Twelve pairs of shoes will then traipse that all over the floor.
Reader, I have been that barman.
Smell the coffee
In younger years, life was simple and coffee came from a jar. One spoon of coffee, just add boiling water, a spoon of sugar, a drop of milk and that was that. Nowadays we have such a range of coffee variations.
There are exceptional coffee roasters here in the west of Ireland. Bean West in Westport sells a wonderful signature blend, Arabica Intenso, or will create bespoke blends for clients. Carrow Coffee Roasters in Beltra, Sligo, specialises in lightly roasting beans sourced from Congo, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Brazil, all fragrant, fair-trade and addictive.
I grind my beans at home, pop ground coffee in a cafetiere with freshly boiled water and plunge. Treat of the day. That said, I still drink fondly the odd cup of instant brew. As for Irish coffee, still too traumatised to go there!
I do, however, really enjoy an Irish-coffee Pavlova for dessert. It’s very easy to make and if you don’t drink alcohol, just leave the whiskey out – a cappuccino meringue is just as good. Some marriages are just made in heaven.
What you need
- 2 free-range egg whites
- 125g sieved icing sugar
- 2 tsp instant espresso coffee (regular instant will do in a pinch, but it won’t be as good)
- 300ml cream
- 2 tbsp whiskey
- 1 tsp cocoa powder (optional)
What you do
Preheat the oven to 180°c. Line a flat baking tray with greaseproof paper. Draw a 20cm circle in the middle. To mix the meringue; place the egg whites and all of the icing sugar, bar two tablespoons, into a spotlessly clean bowl. (If there is the tiniest spot of grease in the bowl the meringues will not peak.)
Beat with an electric whisk until the mixture resembles snowy peaks – just keep whisking, don’t lose faith! Mix the instant espresso coffee with the remaining two tablespoons of icing sugar and gently fold into the peaked meringue.
Using a palate knife, place the meringue in the circle on your baking tray. Turn the oven down to 150c and bake for about an hour. Keep an eye on it, as oven temperatures vary. When it’s done, turn the oven off, leave the meringue inside until it cools down totally. For the topping, whip the cream until firm, then stir in the whiskey if using. Sieve the teaspoon of cocoa powder over the top. Serve with … coffee!
Red Cabot is interested in food, nature and small things. He sells his food at Westport Country Markets in St Anne’s Boxing Club, James’s Street car park, Westport, every Thursday, from 8am to 1pm.