Nothing can improve a good old-fashioned sherry trifle
The Government has published a series of recommended recipes for the Coronation in May, and they’re a trifle annoying. Not the complicated Asian-style rack of lamb by national treasure Ken Hom, and not the Coronation Aubergine by national-treasure-in-waiting Nadiya Hussain (although her choice of vegetable is curious). No, it’s the pudding that’s got my goat.
The “Strawberry and Ginger Trifle” may well be delicious – designed by highly rated Dundee-born chef Adam Handling, it has the right credentials. But the dish sadly ignores much of what most people love about making trifle, especially for such a memorable, communal occasion as a coronation.
For a start, like most recipes from chefs, it’s unsuited to cooking at home. It belongs in the paving slab-sized recipe books stacked by the entrance to Michelin star restaurants, the kind that tell you: “Forget it, mate, this kind of cooking is way over your head. Give up and book a table instead.”
Unlike the recipes by the Telegraph’s own treasure, the award-winning Diana Henry, Handling’s is also written in the kind of sketchy, back of an envelope way that makes the instructions for a Bake Off technical challenge seem positively mollycoddling. A mere trifle you say? Hah! More like a three-day commitment.
To make the strawberry jelly, for instance, requires you to “bloom the gelatine in an ice bath” – hardly straightforward cooking terms – and then add strawberry juice (nope, no help on how you’re going to make that) and malic acid. Yes, malic acid. Just the sort of ingredient I’ll find in the Tesco bakery aisle.
Then there’s the custard – made with 16 “St Ewe” egg yolks. Quite apart from the fact that many supermarkets have been limiting how many eggs we buy, who is St Ewe? The patron saint of posh egg producers?
The final blow is that the trifles are assembled in single servings – at least I think they are, as the three roasted strawberries and 90ml jelly he suggests putting in the bottom of a glass won’t go far between the 10 people it’s meant to serve. The whole point of this Coronation party shebang is surely to bring us together to share a meal from big platters and bowls, Sunday roast style – not prissy, alcohol-free single servings.
What was wrong with the good old-fashioned English sherry trifle? A slosh of Bristol Cream is part of a trifle’s DNA. Offer teetotal options by all means, but don’t strip the sozzled soul out of a great British tradition. As for the rest, the parkin, the ginger custard, the candied pistachios, the roasted strawberries, they would be delicious in Mr Handling’s restaurant, I’m sure, but isn’t what we want in a trifle a glorious boozy, squelchy confection of familiar sponge, vanilla custard and fruit?
The joy of trifle is in its simplicity: it’s all in the name. Adaptability and flexibility too, a dessert exercise in tolerance and mutual respect that the new King would doubtless get on board with. I don’t like jelly in my trifle, but I’d fight for your right to a good dose of Rowntree’s wobble-wobble in yours.
For some, only homemade custard will do, but truthfully, a carton of readymade beaten up with a tub of mascarpone is the fastest route to happiness I know. A layer of cream on top is compulsory, though: that double richness is part of the rich, sweet joy of trifle, with the damp, nubbly soaked sponge and the tang of fruit.
Something like Diana Henry would produce, in fact. So go on, my venerable colleague. Your country needs you.