Category Archives: Cook

Medley of Seafood

Medley of Seafood

I had one of THOSE days again. I pretty much went into panic mode about my occupational / living / geographical status.

Don’t get me wrong, being a lady of leisure and traveling all over the place is bloody, damn awesome. Particularly as I somehow managed to find a husband who will virtually beg me to spend a bit of money on myself and never makes me feel guilty that his was the career we chose to nurture while I get to sleep in late when I want to. But every now and then – between the lunches, and copious amount of reading and experimental cooking time – I suddenly realise “Holy crap, I don’t have a job. My husband is a contract worker. We don’t know where the next job will be. When don’t know WHEN the next job will be! We don’t know where we’ll be next week, let alone next month!! I don’t even know what to fill in when asked for my residential address!!! I don’t know what to fill in where Facebook asks what city I live in!!!! I can’t breathe!!!!!”.

But on days like this, there is one thing I can count on to quiet the voices, ease the pressure, still the storm and envelope me in a warm, cuddly haze of happiness: Food. Those dishes that evoke a happy childhood memory, or remind you of a special time and place with special people or, simply, remind you that no matter how crazy and unpredictable and scary your life might seem right now, you can always count on a few things to stay the same. The right meal can achieve all that. Your favourite spaghetti bolognaise recipe will taste today like it did last week or last year or the first time you closed your eyes and savoured that second mouthful (the first mouthful you just shoveled down of course, because it was just spaghetti right, how good could it be?). This is one of those dishes. A very special take on something resembling a bouillabaisse that reminds me of home and my mom. It is also one of the first things I remember making after I discovered that I rather loved cooking, so adding a bit of orange zest to some fish was very shoo-wow! Some people would get comfort from aunty’s cottage pie or granny’s chocolate cake or matron’s mash. I found it in a bowl of my mom’s seafood broth.

What dish do you choose when you’re in the mood for a bit of nostalgic psychotherapy? Google Analytics tells me there are loads of you out there reading my blog, but you’re all rather quiet. I’d love to hear from you! What passes for mash in Jakarta, Nottingham, Madrid, Glenorchy or Roodepoort?

From Elsa van der Nest’s fabulous book, Simply Entertaining.

Serves 6

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Exceptionally Lazy Rainy Day Prawn Pasta

Exceptionally Lazy Rainy Day Prawn Pasta

If you’re a three-hours-or-longer-Friday-lunch kinda person, the Chinese work ethic can take a bit of getting used to. It’s no wonder they’re taking over the world one “Made in China” label at a time – they work like machines. So my husband works really long hours. We hardly see each other on a work day and then he only has one in every twelve days off. Needless to say, rain days have become very precious to us, because he gets to stay home. We get so ridiculously lazy on these days. We COULD use them as a precious opportunity to spend some time together exploring all the fascinating new places around us. But when that call finally comes, confirming there will be no pick up that day, we inevitably turn to each other and, slightly embarrassed at our anti-wanderlust tendencies, timidly suggest simultaneously, “Movies?”. We will then proceed to spend the entire day in bed watching movies, only emerging to make tea or something to eat. On one such day, while one of the many typhoons that battered China’s eastern coast this summer was raging outside, I hit a personal low on the uselessness scale. I got up around four in the afternoon, still in my nightie, and looked in the mirror (probably to check for bedsores). The mirror is behind the bedside lamp and the globe is naked because the hotel uses these ridiculously ostentatious lamp shades that are all shade without the lamp bit. They are so covered in gold they don’t let any actual light through so I’d removed it. Anyway, I leaned into the mirror and accidentally burnt my boob on the globe! I pulled my nightie away and was horrified to discover I had burnt a blister right through the fabric! I was also a little confused as, while it had smarted a bit, it didn’t seen to be as sore as a big, brown blister warranted. Nonetheless, it was not lost on me that I could use my injury as a means of getting out of tea making duty for the rest of the day. So I put on my best quivering-lip face and, nursing my injured appendage, made my way to my husband to garner some sympathy. I was just rounding the corner of the bed, wondering whether limping a little would be overkill, when my blister fell off. We stood there staring at it for a few seconds until realization dawned: The blister was nothing more than an errant popcorn kernel, stuck there from wolfing down a bowl from a prone position hours earlier. So it was on this day – trying to make up for being caught at such an obvious deception just to get out of tea making duty – that this dish was conceived. Adam declared it to be one of his favorites. The inspiration came from my mom’s preferred way of doing prawns. The original recipe (from a Vroue Federasie cook book from yore) used lemon juice (and had a few different tweaks I don’t recall) which is an ideal substitute for when you’d rather drink your wine than cook with it. This pasta dish is perfect for days when you are so lazy, that anything you eat needs to take ten minutes or less to cook from start to finish. Maximum impact with ridiculously little effort.

Serves 2

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Guest Post: Swiss Miss

Guest Post: Swiss Miss

Guest post by Rachel Carlin

The magical number 7:  a movie with Brad Pitt; a trying time for relationships, and of course the time frame Jesuit priests need to make the boy a man.  This is also the length of time I had not returned to Geneva: place where I found my passion (early childhood intervention), was very happy (Flanagan’s Pub and Shaker’s Nightclub) and learnt to cook (Faith O’Neill).

Faith not only taught me to cook, she taught me to love food. She taught me that a recipe book is often better reading than the latest bestseller. She taught me to look at a recipe and adapt it to the many needs and dietary requirements of a growing family. But, the most important thing she taught me was the best way to say “I love you” is in a dish. The dish has to be like the emotion itself: consistent, easily recognisable as such, and the culinary cuddle you need on a bad day. Faith and Paul (Mr. Faith) showed the ultimate love when they allowed me, not only to join in what was essentially theirs, but let it morph and grow to fit one more (as love should) and so shit pie became ours. Shit pie was served on bad days, sad days and glad days. Faith dished up shit pie to my backpacking baby brother and reduced him to tears. I will admit to trying to make it once, but failed dismally as it just wasn’t the same without the lashings of red (cue in Paul).

Some misconceptions about shit pie:

  1. It isn’t a pie
  2. And in the same line it contains no shit
  3. It is not the colour of shit

Rather, it was devised by the fantastic Faith (lawyer, mother, culinary expert and awesome lady) pre-kid days in London. Legend has it, Faith opened the kitchen cupboards and announced :”There is just shit here” and proceeded to create one of my favourite dishes ever. She made it TWICE for me in a 9 day visit (four of those nights she was State side), that is how awesome she is. So, without further ado, I give you Shit Pie for 4 (uncle Sticky joined us the last night)

Ingredients

1 tin anchovies

Healthy shake of mixed herbs

2 onions thinly sliced

1 garlic clove minced

2 tins tomatoes (ideally peeled and cubed)

2 tins tuna in brine

1 small tin black olives (not Greek) pitted and sliced

A handful of capers

A squirt of Tabasco

Basmati Rice to serve

Lashings of red wine (for 4 at least 6 to 8 bottles)

Method

In a frying pan, add the anchovies, with the oil and soften and then add the onions and garlic.

Next add the tomatoes and herbs.

Reduce. ( 5 to 7 minutes)

Shake on some Tabasco to taste and add tuna, olives and caper.

And yip you are done.

Serve with rice and lashings of red.

Perfection.

Turkish (or possibly Moroccan) chicken with saffron and almond couscous

Turkish (or possibly Moroccan) chicken with saffron and almond couscous

I have been back in beautiful, sunny SA for a few weeks now.  It is insanely lovely right now. Really. Like living in an HDR photo. Or maybe it’s just my new polarised sunglasses? Either way it’s crazy green and ridiculously blue and just gorgeous! I’m not sure whether to say I’m visiting, touring or home, because I’m not completely sure where we go next really. No wonder the gypsies were always a little miffed at the world. But I am loving it! My life feels a bit like an episode of the Amazing Race (a show I now realise I could never partake in as I would most certainly go postal when dealing with the airlines, will in all likelihood brain someone with one of those little posts used to contain the queues at an airport and then spend the rest of my life in jail. Also, at 35 years old I have been informed by my father that with my back I may not horse ride or go-cart, so there goes half the challenges too.). We spent a few days in the Kruger Park (more on that later) and are now lazing next to the banks of the the Vaal with G&T’s whilst feeding the fish using rods. There has been little time for blogging. And when there has been, I have preferred to use it to read – Kaalkop by Nataniël to be precise so at least I am getting my foodie fix in. Do yourself the favour. Anyhoo, to make up for the lack of posts, herewith a recipe for chicken that my mom made on my last visit home. The original recipe is from the Lifestyle magazine in the Sunday Times but as I was so busy nattering and gulping down ice cold bubbly, I took no notice of what she did really. So I had to sort of chuck in the flavours I remember. The recipe called for a whole chicken stuffed with couscous and took hours to make. This one is done in a jiffy and with drumsticks. It is therefore probably not remotely the same thing, but is a close enough approximation none the less!

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 medium onions, chopped

3 tablespoons oil

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

1/2 cup of raisins or sultanas

1kg chicken pieces

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon coriander

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

125ml chicken broth

2 or 3 tablespoons honey, depending on how sweet you like it

a few saffron threads, steeped in 2 tablespoons of hot water (essential! treat yourself!)

couscous for 4

half a cup of whole almonds, halved

 

1) Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a pan. Season the onions with salt and pepper and slowly saute until translucent and just, just heading towards a pale golden colour. Add the garlic and cook for another two or three minutes.

2)Transfer to an ovenproof dish big enough to hold the onions and all your chicken. Scatter the raisins over the onions.

3) In the same pan, brown the chicken pieces and place on top of the onions and raisins. Deglaze the pan with a little water and add the juices to the dish.

4) Add the remaining oil to the pan and turn the heat down a little. Add the spices and fry until they start releasing their fragrance. Hum a Bollywood tune. Add the broth, honey and saffron, heat for a minute or two more and pour over the chicken. Bake at 180ºC for 1 hour.

5) Prepare the couscous as per the packet instructions (use a bit of chicken broth instead of just water), stir in the almonds and serve with the chicken. The almonds add a beautiful texture to the dish that I have become totally addicted to!

“Pap & Wors”

“Pap & Wors”

What is it about boerewors that makes it one of the first things South Africans abroad would list when asked what they miss most about home? Like maple syrup, mushy peas and rice noodles, this coriander spiced sausage is one of those dishes that evokes instant images of a nation while simultaneously getting a “meh” from the rest of the world. But for us, boerewors is short winters and long summers, relaxed braais in the sunshine, friends around a fire, cheering for the Boks (or lately, crying together about them) and tapping our feet to “Spirit of the great heart” playing on a loop in our heads. It’s on our whittled down list of 100 reasons why we stay despite the crooks, crime and corruption. Like Africa, it’s in my blood and impossible to forget when I leave it behind. And weirdly, when I am away from home I even start missing things I never even liked at home! Like pap tert. I can’t stand pap tert. But suddenly I really, really wanted pap tert & wors. In China. Needless to say, it’s not big there. But I could easily get everything I needed to create a close approximation without having to try and explain  pig intestines to the butcher. That would’ve been fun. This was the result: A kind of posher version of pap en wors (or at least as posh as meatballs can be). Our Tanzanian correspondent believes that this dish is an abomination. Pap should always be pap and should not be poshed up. I can only think of two reasons why she feels this way: a) she hasn’t tried it and b) her mother’s pap lasagne has ruined fusion South African cuisine for her forever. If it helps, then think of it as meatballs and cornbread. Better now, isn’t it? When done this way, the cornbread is very light and crumbly and the bottom bit soaks up the tomato and onion sauce. It’s like krummel pap en sous and that lovely little crunchy bit you get at the bottom of a pot of mieliepap that everyone fights over at the end of a meal! Personally, I thought it was genius.

Serves 4 with ease

 

Ingredients:

For the Ishibo (tomato and onion sauce)

If you can get your hands on a tin of Ishibo then, well, then you’re probably in SA and your car is being stolen from the supermarket parking lot. But chin up because at least you don’t have to chop up onions! If you don’t have Ishibo, fry a chopped onion until translucent, add a tin of chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper and simmer for thirty minutes. If the mixture become too dry, just add a little water. Set aside. Read the rest of this entry

Guest Post: The good girl’s guide to chicken livers.

Guest Post: The good girl’s guide to chicken livers.

By Rachel Carlin

It turns out Pringles are not the only thing that once you pop you can’t stop. Since popping my cherry, every time I so much as make a slice of toast, I am talking myself through it and seeing the process in print. As I firmly believe life is too short to ever eat bad food, or drink instant coffee for that matter, this “what will I blog next” question has taken over my life.

Living in the tropics, with manly man frequently off assembling big manly equipment, I am usually in the position to have chick food. This is not the corn and grain variety, or questionable substances if the sources of anti-battery farming are to be believed, but rather girly food, essentially salad. I am not one of these girls who has bought into the no carb after stupid o’clock diet. I have also never bought into one lettuce leaf and a murmur of carrot salad. So, I created THE SALAD OF CHAMPIONS.

A quick side note. My mobile phone provider gives 200, yes two hundred, free local texts a day. Texting is my communication mode. I seldom require a reply and have been known to reach close to 200 LOCAL texts in a day (this excludes bbm’s, whatsapp messages and international texts). Did I mention I run my own business?

So, due to this texting habit, I know what all my friends are having for dinner every night. And I am a bit competitive so I like to believe, even if it’s just in my head, that I am winning. It is sometimes challenging to remain loyal to TSOC, but I do. My dearest friend and next door neighbour was having chicken livers for dinner and coincidentally so was I. Sadly I knew hers would be the yummy restaurant variety with the cream and rich sauce lovingly mopped up with chapattis. Mine unfortunately would be the healthy variety, ten days until my trip to Switzerland and trying to store up negative calories to use on cheese fondue and hot chocolate being the driving force.

So here goes:

Chicken livers for good girls

2 garlic cloves minced.

1 onion thinly sliced Read the rest of this entry

Homemade granola

Homemade granola

Breakfast is a bit of a challenge in China if you’re not near a shop that sells expat goods. You can get the odd cereal, but they’re more into congee and noodles with their morning cuppa. Lucky for you, you’re a thrifty little homemaker, and all the ingredients to make your own granola are readily available. And you don’t need to be Martha Stewart to make this either. It takes all of 5 minutes to prepare, and then just let the oven do the rest!

 

Makes 3 cups

 

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups raw oats

pinch of salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon (or to taste)

1/2 cup of nuts (I used almonds)

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon sunflower oil

5 tablespoons honey

 

Method

1) Preheat the oven to 100ºC. (If you’re using a little toaster oven, which if you’re a temporary citizen you probably are, make it 120. Don’t be impatient and set it too high or you’ll burn the nuts. You don’t want burnt nuts). Scatter the oats in a baking tray. Sprinkle with the salt, cinnamon and nuts and stir through.

2) In a little bowl, melt the butter and add the oil and honey. Pour over the oats.

3) Stir the honey mixture into the oats. This is about the minimum amount of mixture you would need to get good coverage without it getting to fatty or sweet. Yes, I realise there is no such thing as “TOO fatty or sweet”, but it’s breakfast, so let’s try to start the day right, okay?  It won’t look like enough in the beginning, but just keep stirring till it’s all coated and trust that it is enough. If you want more butter and honey, add as much as you like.

4) Place in the oven and toast until golden brown and crunchy, about 90 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Homemade hamburger buns

Homemade hamburger buns

You know how sometimes you need a hug from that one person? Not just any person. A specific person. It seems in that moment like it’s the only thing that will make you feel better. You might get a hundred hugs from other people, but it just isn’t the comfort and snugglyness you are looking for and it just feels a bit, well, flat really. Well I feel the same way about hamburger buns. I’m very particular, and when I’m craving a soft, squishy, yeasty bun nothing else will do. Now as any red-blooded bread-o-phile will know, indulging our particular passion in China is easier said than done. The Chinese like their bread on the sweet and cakey side and even though a growing number of patisseries are now starting to cater for those who like a more chewy, yeasty bread, they normally take the form of baguettes or ciabattas. Hamburger and hot dog buns are still a rarity. Fortunately, you can find everything you need for baking your own rolls at most supermarkets. If, like me, you have given up on finding yeast, fear not! I found it in the aisle next to the peanut butter and mayo. Go figure.

This recipe makes the perfect hamburger bun. To my taste anyway. Like that essential hug they are firm with just the right amount of give to make them squishy, they smell wonderful and they aren’t crusty. Erm. Okay, the similarity probably ended with smelling lovely. This recipe was shamelessly copied from Serious Eats, without changing a thing (other than replacing the dry milk with 4 heaped tablespoons of Cremora as I did not have milk powder on hand). For these burgers I made a few pure beef patties, a creamy basil pesto sauce and some mixed root vegetable fries. Who says money can’t buy happiness?

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On hairy crabs: My dismal failure

On hairy crabs: My dismal failure

I was going to do it. I really, really was. Last night was the night I was going to buy, render unconscious and cook the flavour of the month: shanghai hairy crabs. These burrowing crabs, also known as mitten crabs, are so named for their furry claws that look like mittens. Come Autumn, these crabs hit the streets. Not in their finest gear, ready to party the night away, but fighting for space in green nylon bags in every smelly wet market and on various street corners throughout the city. People get totally crab bedonderd round about now. And naturally, I had to partake in the festivities! Live like the natives and all. So yesterday, full of bravado, I headed for the wet market ready to hunt down and bring home all the makings of a fine Shanghai meal. Well. If the first thing out of your mouth when you see your dinner is “Awwwwwww”, you know it’s probably going to be McDonald’s for you. I mean, they’re just so cute! They really look like little green alien babies, trying to keep their claws warm in little furry mittens. Once a crab has the dubious honour of being selected as chow, the stall (2 polystyrene coolers and maybe a scale) holder deftly grabs it out of the bag, folds in the legs and binds the whole thing with twine so that it can’t make a quick getaway. The entire process takes all of 5 seconds. I asked the friendly, elegantly dressed customer next to me how much they cost and she said RMB6 for one. (At least, I think that’s what she said? It was either that or “Sharp, my bru”, the hand signal for which is the same as 6 in China). That’s less than a dollar a crab. Damn, that’s cheap! They’re looking tastier already. And a local had told me the price, so there would be no laowai tax imposed. Being ripped off was another concern. (I am the world’s worst haggler. Once, in a market in Bangkok, I had already “negotiated” the price for a dress and upon handing the money over, the guy actually gave me a few baht back with a pitying look on his face!). But that was now taken care of. There really were no more excuses left, so it was time to choose which crabs I wanted. Now, here stories will differ depending on who you ask. The other customer would say it is all my imagination and she didn’t see a thing, but I swear, the first crab I picked up looked up at me with dark, sad eyes (just like Puss-in-Boots if his eyes had been on stalks), and it’s lower lip started quivering, tiny bubbles frothing out of it’s mouth like a death rattle. A tiny, furry claw reached out to me as if to gently touch my cheek, and I swear I could hear a little chorus of voices pleading “You are our only hope.” I gently placed the crab back where I found it, muttered something about it still being a long way to Qingpu, and shuffled off with my tail between my legs.

Fortunately, there’s a McDonald’s right at the bus stop on my way home.

But no worries! I awoke with new gusto this morning. A steadfast determination to make these crabs my bitch. The way I figured it was thus: The sooner I ensure the untimely demise of 6 of these crustaceans, the sooner I will be relieving them of their misery. Right? I mean, at least they won’t land up in a live hairy crab vending machine, destined to wait it out in a 5 degree fridge till someone with a few yuan comes along and pulls the lever, right? Right. This would be a good thing. I would be doing my share to make the world a better place. I decided that instead of braving the sad faces in the wet market, I would head to my nearest supermarket. Here the crab is kept cold, so they’re already in a state of semi-hibernation, and so would be less likely to make a last stand. Sure enough, hairy crab was the first thing I saw as I got to the fish counter. (It was also almost four times the price for the same size as the previous day’s leading me to wonder whether the helpful shopper really was just saying “Sharp my bru.”). Already trussed up and nestled in still rows on a bed of ice, it was easy to tell myself they were already dead. All I had to do was see who the little boys are and who the little girls are to ensure I get three of each. You see, the battle of the crab sexes is a hotly debated topic in Shanghai, with long arguments over decimated piles of crab over which sex has the sweetest meat and richest roe. The females usually win out, but I had to try for myself. So, all self congratulatory because I know to look for these differences before making my purchase, I picked up a crab and flipped it over… The crab was not dead. It was not even sleeping. Two little black eyes stared up at me as a wayward leg came loose from the twine. Flailing it’s furry mitten around wildly the little chap (or chick, I didn’t even get a chance to look) shouted “She’s saved me! I’m free!” before it tried to air swim away. Okay, not really. But it might as well have for how it made me feel like I’m the world’s worst human being, single-handedly responsible for the sad depletion of our oceans. I tucked the little leg back in the twine, put him back on his ice bed while muttering an apology to him, his brethren and their lady friends, and slunk off to the butchery.

So I am left shamefacedly writing this post, drowning my sorrows in a glass of whiskey while my husband cooks the neatly packaged pork rashers I bought as a substitute. I guess drunken shrimp is off the menu then.

Guest Post: A Trifling Matter in Tanzania

Guest Post: A Trifling Matter in Tanzania

When my favourite married-on girl cousin in all the world told me she was making a trifle with what she considered to be a jelly flop (a recipe gone wrong, not a chubby person diving), I said she should write down the process and guest blog for me. She is, after all, everything I am failing miserably to be: A strong, independent woman who packed it all up, headed north into Africa and started her own school in Dar es Salaam (to date, I have only ticked off the “packed it all up” bit). And she’s a fabulous cook. If that is not an expat surviving in a foreign country (and doing it well) then I don’t know what is! For that braveness alone, she is my hero. What a joy to wake this morning and find this in my inbox!

 

By Rachel Carlin

It started when I started my own business. It all became too much. I needed something to take my mind off the gazillion things I had not completed in the 24 short hours in a day. Everyone needs a release, a vice, something that takes the edge off. I turned to baking. Living and loving it in Dar es Salaam, baking was not the obvious choice of emotional release as most ingredients needed are imported and so are 3 times the cost of what they are back home and there is not a constant supply of ingredients. Still, I figured this was a cheaper option than developing a crack habit.

The other problem is I live alone and like any mid thirty year old woman, I watch what I eat and I also do not have a wild love for confectionery so not only do I bake but then I hand out the baked good. I like to think of myself as Robin Hood meets Delia Smith. The only problem is everyone knows my baking is associated with some emotional melt down and the more elaborate the dish, the bigger the melt down. My neighbour now greets my arrival with baked goods with an “Oh no, what now?”.

This week’s culinary adventure was not brought on by an emotional breakdown. It was inspired by two simple facts: a bottle of pink JC le Roux I was unsure what to do with as cannot drink it, and a man returning from a trip of doing manly things and needing some bed bait.

The obvious choice for the pink bubbly was champagne jelly. I have never tasted this and could not understand how it works. For a smart, post graduate educated woman, I can be surprisingly dumb. I somehow thought the jelly would contain the bubbles. How or why I thought this, I do not know, but in case there are others like me, let me just clear it up, it doesn’t. I also referred to Anthony Worral Thompson’s recipe on the BBC food website. Silly for two reasons: Reason 1:  Wozza has been caught shop lifting due to the recession and is clearly not the way forward and reason 2: as my favourite food critic told me it was a rookie mistake to make a dessert listed as “low fat”. But I did and I made it and was disappointed. Instead of the melt in the mouth bubbly light (and low fat) dessert I had hoped for,  I ended up with ming. The taste resembled a stew that had the red wine added too late, so an overpowering taste of raw alcohol and nothing else. But there was no meat taste, thank heavens.

I unfortunately believe in throwing good money after bad and as I did not know what to do with this quivering thigh resembling thing in my fridge I thought, hmmm, why not make a trifle. Disguise it as something else and others would be tricked. Only problem, I hate trifle. The components are from the nursery, and assembling baby food and calling it a dessert is a shameful cop out. Also, I was unsure what to do with the finished product. Manly man missed various planes, trains and automobiles, so was not going to be here for this delight. Trifle is not fence sitting material. You either love it (I ended a relationship due to his love of this gloop, and my mother’s version at that) or hate it due to a refined palate. But making it is fun, especially if you are an over-achieving, middle child, attention seeker. And being me, I decided the challenge would be (ming) trifle from scratch.

I am also a shameless culinary name dropper and will always say it is Jamie’s soup or Delia’s pâté or Nigella’s butter laden, cardiac arrest causing risotto. In my head we are all on first name terms. So, I obviously use AWT’s champage jelly, Jamie’s Victoria sponge (only made half the recipe) and the River Cafe crème anglaise and then assembled. Whipped cream on the top was all my own.

I have dispatched this piece de resistance to the Little Theatre where (other) manly men are building the set of We Will Rock  You, the musical. They might not be the connoisseurs I was hoping for, or the thank you from my manly man I was hoping for, but they appreciate anything, being manly men, and my concoction has found a happy home.

To make the pink champagne jelly trifle

Where it began: Pink champagne jelly

1) Soak 6 leaves of gelatine in cold water for 5 minutes.

2) Open the bottle of pink bubbles and pour into a large freezer proof bowl. If you are so inclined, by all means have a glass and toast your own fabulousness.

3) Add 100g of caster sugar, again not an exact science, more if you like it sweeter, ummm less if you don’t.

4) After 5 minutes, squeeze the gelatine leaves, place in a small pan and heat gently with a bit of the bubbly until completely melted.

5) Add some more of the bubbly to the pan, a fair amount to get all the gelatine absorbed and back to room temperature. This step is important because if you pour the melted gelatine straight into the cold or even room temperature liquid it will become a small horrid mass that you can’t do anything with. This learning curve happened about a year ago.

6) Place in the fridge and allow to set. Depending on your fridge and the quality of gelatine, I would safely say overnight, but perhaps you could have it set in 4 – 6 hours.

7) Once you are ready for the trifle, prepare half a batch of Jamie’s Classic Victorian Sponge. Bake and allow to cool.

8) Next make River Café’s crème anglaise:

400ml Double cream
125ml Milk
1 Vanilla pod
4 Eggs, organic
90g Caster sugar

– Separate the eggs.

– Cut the vanilla pod in half lengthways and scrape out the seeds.

– In a thick-bottomed pan, combine the milk, vanilla seeds and cream. Cook until just boiling.

– Beat the egg yolks and sugar until pale and thick.

– Pour the warm cream/milk slowly into the egg yolks and stir.

– Return to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly.

– When it is almost at boiling point, remove from heat. If it boils, the sauce will curdle. Set aside to cool

In a serving bowl, layer the cake, jelly, some fresh raspberries and creme anglaise and top with fresh whipped cream.
*And interesting side line. I have never made creme anglaise custard before. I am also in the middle of my Jodi Picoult fest and the book I am currently reading is Handle with Care. The mother (because there is always a mother in these books) used to be a pastry chef. Each chapter starts with a baking technique explained. How fortuitous that the first technique was tempering which means to heat slowly and gradually. You temper eggs by adding hot liquids, a little at a time. This was a very important tip for me, as I would have tried to add the eggs to the milk, despite being told not to, just out of laziness. Also, I would not have done it slowly as I am impatient. Who would have thought, Jodi Picoult teaching more than moral dilemmas about children?