• The Portuguese pavlova rivalling its Oceanian neighbours. (Swiss Gourmet Deli)Source: Swiss Gourmet Deli
This historic Portuguese pavlova is a giant, caramel-infused meringue pudding that has been making mouths water in Brisbane for around 30 years.
Yasmin Noone

6 Jun 2019 - 1:19 PM  UPDATED 27 Jun 2019 - 11:46 AM

Pavlova conversations have always required a touch of international diplomacy, especially when certain questions are asked, like, 'which country does it best: Australia or New Zealand?'

Well, now you can expect dessert-time discussions to get a tad more awkward as another country gets thrown into the delicious egg-white mix: Portugal. 

The Portuguese pavlova (also called molotov or molotoff) that's sold at the historic Swiss Gourmet Deli in Brisbane's West End is a giant meringue pudding that will blow your taste buds to Europe and back.

Did we mention it's huge?

"It's made with egg whites, just like an Australian pavlova, but it has caramel mixed through it," says the Portuguese born co-owner of the family-run deli, Maria Marinelli, who also cooks the deli's pavs.

"It's quite a technique that you use to make it. You can't over beat the egg whites otherwise it will get too much air, and when the dish comes out of the oven it will sink like mud. But then again, you can't under-beat the egg whites either."

"Every customer who comes in and tries it, always tells us how much they like it."

Maria recalls being taught to make molotoff by her neighbour – a renowned cake-maker – back in Portugal when she was eight years old. "We used to whip the egg whites by hand. In those days, they bought sugar in bulk in a big bag. They used to stand me on top of that sugar bag so that I could whip the egg whites over the sink."

Once the eggs are whipped to the perfect consistency, caramel is added before the mixture is poured into a large ring tin and placed in the oven to cook.

To serve, caramel and roasted almond sauce is poured over the top of the cooked pavlova. A container of sauce is provided with every pav sale. The giant pav sells at $36.50 and can be cut into 12 large serves.

This pav is distinguished by its oozy caramel sauce.

The resulting taste is a 22-centimetre-high European egg-based delight. Deli co-owner and Maria's husband, Peter Marinelli, tells SBS he prefers his wife's Portuguese pavlova over the traditional Australian pav.

"Every customer who comes in and tries it always tells us how much they like it," Peter says. "It is so different and big!"

The green-countered deli, that's brimming with shelves of European jars and traditional cured meats, also sells small pavs, Portuguese tarts, rabandas (Portuguese French toast), queijadas, custard cannolis, pates, continental cakes, Portuguese chicken wraps, salads, crepes, quiches and Italian hoagie rolls.

"We thrive on home cooking. We make all the fresh food we sell from scratch so that they taste like your grandmother’s or aunty’s cooking." 

The Swiss Gourmet Deli started trading in the 1950s. When Peter bought it the shop in 1987, it stocked Swiss cheese, Italian sweets, continental meats, coffee, gourmet chocolates and sandwiches. One year later, traditional Portuguese foods were introduced into the shop's offering, when Maria started working there.

Peter, an Italo-Australian recalls that he discovered Portuguese pavlova for the first time when he visited the country in 1989. "Before then, I thought the pav was from Australia and New Zealand. But when I saw that style of pavlova, I thought, 'hang on, the Portuguese have been making their pavlova for a very long time'."

Food folklore suggests the Portuguese variety was created in 1855 during the Crimean War. The 164-year-old dessert is certainly an ideal match for the small but historic family business that’s continually sold the Portuguese pavlova for around 30 years.

"This is a traditional deli: there's not too many of them left in Australia now," says Peter about the deli that still trades under the name he bought it under (even though neither he nor his wife are Swiss).  

"Since the deli first opened in the 1950s, I am the owner who has had it the longest, for 32 years. I’d like to see this deli going for another 100 years. 

"I won't be around then, but my boys are working here now and enjoying it. Hopefully, they will end up having kids as well who also work in the deli. That would be some achievement."

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