Hatches, Matches, Dispatches

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I’m currently organising my daughter’s Christening. We would have done it sooner but the end of last year was a difficult one to say the least for us as a family.

Our Dad passed away.

Quite unexpectedly actually, even though he was suffering amyloidosis and myeloma. He contracted sepsis and pneumococcal meningitis and wasn’t strong enough to fight it. Although he fought a good fight.

We were all there-he held on so every relative that wanted to be there could be there. It was as though he’d timed it that way. Everyone had just finished work for the weekend and even the hospital car park had spaces! Just like Dad-organised right to the end.

We watched him go. It was such a bonding experience with every person that was there. We were crying, we were smiling, we were pragmatic, we were irrational, we were hopeful, we were despairing, we were so many things but we were all there supporting each other. It wasn’t scary or frightening, he just drifted off to sleep.

Our grief was immeasurable but what helped was talking. We spoke about Dad constantly, taking comfort from a poem by Henry Scott Holland. ‘Death is nothing at all’

Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without effect. Without the trace of a shadow on it

We looked through old photos and remembered all the great times we had. That his life was so much more than the last fortnight in hospital and the last two years that he’d been unwell. To celebrate him as well as mourn him.

So instead of organising a christening, we were organising a funeral.

And it was spectacular. Full of pomp and circumstance. Standing room only and an abundance of flowers that left other members of the usual Sunday congregation wondering who this recent addition to the graveyard was. A fitting send off for an exceptional man.

And now, we’re making more memories in this Church that all of our children have been christened in and I was also married in. And I find great comfort knowing that Dad is there too. In fact, we’ll be able to see him from the font.

Dad’s Pavlova recipe

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Photo credit: Dad xx

Ingredients:

4 large egg whites (older eggs or previously frozen egg whites will give you more volume)

225g (8oz) caster sugar

1 level tsp cornflour

1 tsp white wine vinegar

For the filling:

300ml (½ pint)whipping or pouring double cream, whipped

About 350g (12oz) fresh fruit.

Method:

  • Line a large baking sheet with non-stick paper.
  • Whisk the egg whites on high speed in a very clean bowl until they form stiff peaks.
  • Add the caster sugar a spoonful at a time, whisking all the time.
  • When the whites look shiny and thick, mix the cornflour and vinegar together and pour into the meringue. Stir everything together to combine.
  • Pile the meringue onto the baking sheet, building up the sides slightly.
  • Slide the meringue on to the grid shelf on the floor of the Roasting Oven with the cold sheet on the second set of runners for about 3–5 minutes until lightly golden. Transfer to the Simmering Oven for 1–1½ hours or until easy to lift off the paper.
  • Allow to cool on top of the Aga for about 30–45 minutes to dry out remembering that the middle should be soft. Peel away the paper and place on a serving plate.
  • Whisk the cream to soft peaks and spoon onto pavlova. Arrange or scatter the fruit on top.

CONVENTIONAL OVEN

Cook in an oven preheated to 150°C/Fan 130°C/Gas 2 for an hour, switch off the oven and leave the pavlova in the oven until cold.

Top tip: For some reason this recipe works better with imperial measurements.

Make this dairy free: Substitute the cream for coconut milk.

  • Chill tin of coconut milk in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight. Make sure it’s full fat.
  • Open tin of coconut milk, taking care not to shake it. The coconut cream will have solidified. Scoop out the solid coconut cream into a mixing bowl.
  • Beat coconut cream using electric mixer with chilled beaters on medium speed; increase to high speed. Beat until stiff peaks form. Taste and add caster sugar if desired.
  • Pile on top of pavlova and serve immediately. It tends to make the base a bit soggy otherwise.

We’re listening to: Parting Glass (Live from Wembley) by Ed Sheeran.

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