The trifle is the grand old dame of transportable dessert. It lives in glasses or a bowl, which is obviously a tremendous help. The trifle artform is riven with controversy. How much booze is too much? Under what circumstances is jelly forgivable? In 2011, I took this trifle to Darwin for Nigel Scullion, the idiosyncratic and rather charming Northern Territory senator whose early exploits (getting handcuffed to a pole in St Petersburg during a fishing conference, wearing only his underpants) smoothly gave way to a career as a Cabinet minister. To deal with the exigencies of domestic air travel, I made mini-trifles in swing-top jars, with very satisfactory results. Lemon myrtle perfumes the syrup, which soaks the sponge and does double service as a jelly layer with some mango chunks. (In my book, jelly is frequently forgivable.) Fresh lemon myrtle is excellent, if you can get it. Otherwise, use the powdered stuff – just don’t bring it to the boil, or you’ll kill the flavour.
Makes 6 individual trifles, or 1 large trifle
300 ml (10½ fl oz) cream, whipped
100 g (3½ oz) macadamias, chopped and lightly toasted
4 large eggs – total weight 250 g (9 oz)
250 g (9 oz) unsalted butter
250 g (9 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
250 g (9 oz) self-raising flour
LEMON MYRTLE SYRUP
330 g (11½ oz/1½ cups) caster (superfine) sugar
10 lemon myrtle leaves, chopped, or 2 teaspoons ground lemon myrtle
5 egg yolks
110 g (3¾ oz/½ cup) caster (superfine) sugar
300 ml (10½ fl oz) thin (pouring) cream
300 ml (10½ fl oz) milk
5 gold-strength gelatine leaves, soaked in cold water for 2 minutes
1 large mango, cheeks sliced
First, make your sponge. (Perfectly fine to buy one, of course, but there is something a bit fabulous about the old-fashioned sponge recipe that calls for regimented equal proportions of egg, butter, sugar and flour.) The trick is to weigh your eggs, then weigh out exactly the same quantity of butter, sugar and flour. Cream butter and sugar together, beat in the eggs, then fold in the sifted flour and bingo! Lovingly consign your cake batter to a greased and lined 35 x 25 cm (14 x 10 in) cake tin and bake in a preheated 180°C (350°F) oven for about 25 minutes until golden brown and done-looking – it shouldn’t leave any sticky stuff on a skewer when you poke it in its middle. (Don’t keep opening the oven and poking to test, though: start testing after 20 minutes, and then only if it’s looking very brown.) Let the sponge cool, and try not to worry if it collapses. The great thing about trifles is that it doesn’t massively matter.
Now make the syrup. Put the sugar and 750 ml (26 fl oz/3 cups) of water in a small saucepan, then bring to the boil and simmer until reduced by a third. Turn off the heat, add the lemon myrtle and let it steep until completely cooled. Strain the infused syrup through a fine sieve; if you’re using lemon myrtle powder, line the sieve with muslin (cheesecloth).
Next: the custard. In a heatproof bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until pale. Heat the cream and milk together in a heavy-based saucepan until just starting to boil. Slowly pour the hot cream into the bowl, whisking ferociously the whole time. Pour the whole lot back into the pan and stir constantly over low heat until the custard thickens. Scrape the custard into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pressing it onto the surface to prevent a skin forming.
For the jelly, warm 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) of the lemon myrtle syrup, without letting it boil, then add the squeezed-out gelatine leaves and stir until it has completely dissolved. Lay the mango slices in a shallow dish
(I use a rectangular lasagne dish), pour over the jelly and stick it in the fridge until the jelly sets.
Okay – now for the fun bit. First, make a base of sponge in your trifle bowl or jars: cut out rounds if you’re using jars, and don’t be afraid to cut your sponge in half if it is too tall. (Ha! As if sponges ever suffer from anything but flatness.) Soak the sponge layer, using the remaining syrup. Now spoon in a layer of custard, followed by one of mango jelly. If you are doing a jarred version, you should be able to get a nice flat round of mango jelly that matches the size of the sponge. Continue layering until you run out of either ingredients or space.
Pop it all in the fridge to ruminate – overnight is terrific, but at least a few hours is mandatory. To serve, slather with whipped cream and a sprinkling of toasted chopped macadamias.
A NOTE ON GELATINE
I like to use leaf gelatine, as I find it gives better and more reliable results. If you want to substitute gelatine powder, 3 teaspoons should be about right here – but follow the packet instructions for setting 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) of liquid, as gelatine is notoriously variable in its setting strength.
If you’ve chosen jars, then pack them in a basket for a short journey, or nestle into an Esky (cool box) if you have further to travel. Take the whipped cream and toasted nuts separately and garnish just before serving.
Recipe and images taken from Special Delivery by Annabel Crabb and Wendy Sharpe, published by Murdoch Books. Buy the book here.
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