Friday, December 26, 2014

Easy Peasy Strawberry Trifle

A local church in our neighborhood has a sign proclaiming that Christmas doesn't come from a store but a baby laying in the manger!  We know ours comes from the depths of my oven. A meal planned in excruciating detail, on the heels of a massive thanksgiving feast!! For the most part, it is not about the food, though I stand in a way too long line to buy the rib roast. The entire cooking venture is a heartwarming affirmation of family values, of everyone doing their bit as the evening comes together.

A good old Brit Sunday roast is this year's meal of choice. The rib roast, lovingly coated with a blanket of thyme butter and left overnight, now sizzles and splutters in a roaring hot oven. We hustle and bustle, the usual two-step of food prep, feeling like energizer bunnies. Oven space is a much coveted affair. The last half hour is saved for Yorkshire puddings. They rise in muffin pans, gloriously puffy, misshapen mounds of egg, milk and flour, reminding Glenn of dinner at Aunty Raynah in Hertfordshire.

We make a quick and easy trifle, using Brown and Polson's custard powder or Bird's custard powder. No separating eggs, no  watching them curdle. This from-the-box pudding always comes out smooth, bright yellow and ready to use in a jiffy. The taste is a hug from the past, the easy comfort of dessert heaven at my grandmas. It was custard with fresh fruit, with stewed apricots and apples and of course, trifle. Way back then, local bakeries made an intensely buttery cake which we devoured. Now Entemanns Butter Loaf is a favored choice. 

Heirloom dinnerware is dusted. Silverware is polished. Wine is breathing. Shauna excels in Christmas napkin folding

We start with cauliflower soup drizzled with crispy shallots and lemon oil. What follows next feels like a Downton Abbey repast sans butlers!!! A very propah browned rib roast sits surrounded by potato gratin, blistered carrots, roasted Brussels sprouts, mounds of Yorkshire puddings, peas and onions in creme fraiche, spinach and shiitake mushroom stuffing and the gravy boat! Dessert is a trifling matter!!!

Serves 6

1 pound Strawberries
1 store-bought Sponge Cake
2 cups Shortcut Custard (recipe below)
1/4 cup fresh Orange Juice
2 tablespoons Cointreau

Shortcut Custard
2 cups + 2 tablespoons whole or 2% Milk 
2 heaped tablespoons Custard powder
2 teaspoons Sugar

Start by making the custard. Heat milk in a saucepan over medium heat till it is scalding. Take it off the flame.

Mix till smooth the custard powder with 2 tablespoons of milk. Add this to hot milk and stir until completely dissolved. 

Return milk to the stove and heat on a low flame for a minute for custard to thicken.

Take custard off the stove top and add sugar, stirring well. 

Cool custard before using. Place cling film on surface of custard so that custard doesn't form a thick skin. 

Start assembling trifle when custard is cool.

Wash, dry and hull strawberries. Slice crosswise into thin slices.

Line 6 ramekins with cling film, making sure you have an adequate overhang of film. There should be enough to enclose the ramekin tops.

Unwrap sponge cake and slice into 1/2inch slices. Cut slices into rounds the size of the ramekins with a cookie cutter.

Mix orange juice and Cointreau in a bowl.

Start with a layer of overlapping strawberry slices on the bottom of the ramekin.

Spoon 2-3 teaspoons of custard over strawberries.

Press a round of sponge cake over custard.

Drizzle a few teaspoons of orange juice and Cointreau liquid over cake.

Arrange another layer of overlapping strawberry slices. 

Repeat with custard, cake rounds and orange juice mixture. 

Wrap trifle with the overhanging pieces of cling film.

Repeat with other five ramekins. 

Refrigerate for 3-4 hours.

Unmold ramekin on a plate. Remove the cling film carefully and serve.


I use Brown and Polson's Custard powder. Bird's Custard Powder is another good product. You could use any vanilla pudding recipe. Or you could make custard from scratch. Can't say I have ever done that. B & P have been a family stalwart for as long as I can remember. It is available at many Indian Grocery stores.

Store bought Entemanns Butter Loaf is a real time saver! Just unwrap and slice.

If you have strawberries, custard and cake leftover, assemble them into one big trifle. 

This year Florence joins us at our table. She fits seamlessly into family banter. Christmas means reaching out to family and friends near and far. The telephone and Facetime jingle jangle simultaneously. When we sit down to dinner on china that belonged to my parents, I raise a toast to them as December 25 was their wedding anniversary. The table is laden with all the dishes from their original wedding set. Washing up will not be a trifling matter after all. 

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