It is astonishing how dishes move in and out of fashion. My grandparents would not be able to identify most of the food we eat today and, closer to home, much of what was commonplace in my childhood now rarely, or never, graces the table of an Irish home. In that context, I want to talk to you this month about trifle.
I was reared in a household where plain fare was our lot. Like most families at that time, we had dinner in the middle of the day and always had homemade soup followed by meat, potatoes and seasonal vegetables. For most of the year, we also had hot desserts, such as milk or steamed puddings, bread and butter pudding or perhaps stewed fruit and custard. However, on high days and holidays, trifle was always served, sometimes made with jelly but more often than not, with custard. We never tired of it, and indeed fought like proverbial dogs over the second helpings.
Later in life, it was my fate to marry a woman, who had a detestation for custard and so for many years, trifle never made an appearance; it was thus a pudding completely unknown to my children. However, with my wife’s passing some ten years ago, it has slipped back on to the family menu and there, as far as I am concerned, it will stay. Mind you, no one is suggesting that it should not be served. On the contrary, it is a great favourite and well it should be. It is a thoroughly delectable dish.
There is nothing sophisticated about trifle. It does not smack of haute cuisine and indeed I can see culinary noses curling at the very thought that it continues to maintain an existence. Others may have already jumped to the conclusion that I am about to share with them the secret of how to make a wonderful, new form of trifle, that will impress. No, I am not! I am merely sharing with you how my mother made this pudding and in doing so, I have no intention of being defensive, or of seeking to persuade you that this is the only way of making this traditional dessert. However, this trifle is simple and quick to make. It will also be popular with all, particularly the younger members of the family.
Trifle (Serves 8)
8 trifle sponge cakes
100ml sweet sherry
850ml (1½ pint) custard
300ml whipped cream
First make the custard and set it aside. I use the powdered variety but you could make your own, if you wanted to.
My mother bought the trifle sponge cakes, as indeed do I, and they can be purchased in any decent supermarket. If not available, try a shop-bought Swiss roll as an alternative.
If you wanted to go upmarket, you could again make them yourself, but this would be troublesome, and I am not at all sure it would make that much difference in the end.
Split the sponge cakes horizontally and spread generously with the jam.
Place four of the sponge cakes on the base of a trifle bowl and sprinkle them with half the sherry.
Finely chop a banana on top before repeating the exercise again.
Pour the hot custard – reheating it as necessary – over the sponge cakes and, wriggling a knife, make sure that it soaks right down into the bottom sponge cakes.
Allow the trifle to cool completely before covering it with the whipped cream decorated with the glacé cherries.
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