Rivalry between these two countries is not limited to rugby. The famous pavlova dessert is said to originate from one of these Oceanic nations. But which one?
A lot of people always seem to argue about which country invented the pavlova, or at least introduced it first to the mainstream. Australians and New Zealanders both take ownership, yet the dessert is a popular dish and an important part of the national cuisine of both countries. Originally named after and dedicated to a Russian ballet dancer named Anna Pavlova (yes, really) during her visit of Oceania in the 1920s, but nobody seems to know precisely which country introduced the dessert before the other!
Pavlova is made by beating egg whites to a very stiff consistency before adding caster sugar, lemon juice, cornflour, and sometimes vanilla essence, and slow-baking the mixture, similar to a meringue nest. Once cooked, the pavlova has a crisp and crunchy outer shell, and a soft, moist marshmallow-like centre, in contrast to the meringue, which is usually solid throughout. The consistency also makes the pavlova significantly more fragile than meringue. Because the pavlova is notorious for deflating if exposed to cold air, when cooking is complete it is left in the oven to fully cool down before the oven door is opened.
Pavlova is traditionally decorated with a topping of whipped cream and fresh soft fruit such as kiwifruit, passion fruit, and strawberries. Factory-made pavlovas can be purchased at supermarkets and decorated as desired. It is a dessert most identified with the summer time, but is eaten all year round in many Australian and New Zealand homes.
I didn’t see many pavlovas when I was in Sydney, which was a shame, but I am very aware of how tasty they are. I did get to try a couple (portion-sized, not whole ones!) but it felt really weird going into Sydney cafés and asking just for a slice of dessert, without ordering mains.
Maybe I need to get to New Zealand some day soon to see how it compares over there!