Category Archives: Raspberry Preserve

Trifle

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I don’t know if I’ve ever told you this but I’m obsessed with trifle. I had forgotten about this obsession until quite recently. It had manifested in other ways – my take on Nigella’s Italian Christmas Pudding Cake which I’ve made for several years for dessert on December 24th; my love of all things custard. But pure trifle, unfussed with, traditional sponge cake, custard, berries and cream trifle, I hadn’t made in a long time until we went to Spain (of all places) last May.

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There I met Andrés’s friends for the first time. We had a braai one day and they requested that I bring trifle as dessert. (They all pronounce it so it sounds like ‘truffle’ to my ear, elongating the ‘i’ so it sounds more like ‘e’, which makes it sound much more magical and alluring.) So I made a strawberry trifle. It was such a hit – gone in about 30 seconds – it made me remember the magical power of trifle. The power trifle has to make things better, seduce people, make you feel like the world is going to be a better place. That comforting memory of early childhood, where adults knew how to fix things, and the world was a place full of wonder and magic… (Of course, there are other takes on trifle, possibly not fueled by the same experiences I had, which you can hear about on this BBC Food programme or read about in this book, which is on my wish list.)

In need of such reassurances recently, I made what I like to term ‘freezer trifle’. This is trifle thrown together from things you already have skulking about in the back of your freezer. In my case there are always cake pieces and frozen raspberries (as well as emergency gin – like I suspect other people have homemade ready-meals, muffins and vegetables). Add in some super fast and easy vanilla custard, a slightly whipped double cream (and hazelnut praline for the funsies) and you have an easy dessert, any day of the week.

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So this is not a recipe for trifle as such, it is a collection of ingredients that can be used to make trifle. With the exception of the custard – I’ve given you the recipe for that.

Some leftover vanilla cake pieces

Sherry (if you have it. I didn’t so mine were non-alcoholic trifles. We can debate whether this renders the dessert something else entirely if you’d like.)

Frozen raspberries, about a handful if there are two of you, heated with a tablespoon of sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice. You just want them slightly mashed and a bit juicy. (If you have a syrupy raspberry preserve, that’d work too.)

One quantity vanilla custard (see below)

Double thick cream, whipped to soft soft peaks.

Hazelnut praline. Toss a few hazelnuts (about half a cup) in a nonstick pan until they start to brown. Remove from the pan and set aside. In the same pan, heat some sugar – add just enough to cover the base of the pan. Cook until the sugar is a deep golden. Add in a knob of butter and swirl to incorporate. Roughly bash the hazelnuts and then place them  on a sheet of baking paper, on a tray. Pour the caramel over the nuts and leave to cool. When cold, bash up so you have different sized pieces.

For the custard (This recipe comes from my cooking school days and so I think belongs originally to Sam Marshall.)

180ml full fat milk

1 tbsp vanilla extract (or one quarter of a vanilla pod, split with seeds extracted)

2 egg yolks

60g caster sugar

25g plain flour

double cream (1-2 tbsp)

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Heat the milk and vanilla to scalding point. Whisk the yolks, sugar and flour together until thick and no lumps remain. Temper the hot milk into the eggs. Whisk to incorporate. Pour the mixture back into the pan and cook out over a low heat until the custard is thick. (A wooden spoon is best here.) Pour into a container and cover with clingfilm to prevent a skin from forming. Leave to cool.

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Once the custard is cold, you can assemble your trifles. Layer cake pieces at the bottom of the serving dish. Splash with sherry, if using. Pour over the raspberries. Then distribute the custard. This makes enough for three (or two plus the cook eating what is left in the dish). Cover with cream and sprinkle generously with the praline. Let it sit in the fridge for an hour so things can settle. Eat.

 

 

Raspberry Preserve

I wrote this post ages and ages ago, whilst I was still at cookNscribble, but never published it for a variety of reasons. My life is currently in suspension (or so it seems) and I am living on a friend’s couch before going back to South Africa for nearly a month (having just been there to see my grandmother who is very frail) so everything is in storage and on hold slightly. This is to tide you over until I’m able to blog properly again…

When I was about 16, my family started to grow berries for export. We had always been mielies, potatoes, cabbages and wheat folk, but one summer we were suddenly also berry growers. Now, after spending several summers in England, watching people’s delight as raspberry and strawberry season unfolds, followed by blackberry season in the early autumn, I sort of understand what all the fuss is about. I love a wander and a forage as much as the next person. And I can even get into growing my own raspberries. But this is a good 15 years on from the “summer of the berries” (as it is collectively known by the cousins). That summer has taken on myth and legend in my family as a result. One just has to mention “the summer of the berries” to elicit a collective groan and much laughter. (Or as Tim so eloquently put on the Whatsapp conversation I started to jog their memories of that summer, “shit, do we really need to go there?”)

preserve ready for cooling

That summer, there was an abundance of blackberries and raspberries on the farm. Berries that didn’t make the export standard had to be used up – by us. So ensued: berry jam, berry pavlovas, berry trifle, berry alcohol, berry salads. Anything that could use a berry was made. And eaten. No one survived the summer untraumatised. None of us could stand to look at a berry by the end, let alone eat any. My cousin Jess still will not eat raspberries. I’ve spent years avoiding blackberries – it’s only recently that I have started to eat them again, and then only if I’m taking them off the plant myself and only a few at a time.

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But raspberries I’ve sort of come around too. Not in vast quantities. I will never be the girl who eats a punnet surreptitiously in the kitchen when no one is watching. But the odd one or two, a smear of jam on toast, an Eton mess, I can get in to. I’ve started to, dare I confess it?, even like raspberries, particularly sun-drenched ones, still warm, eaten straight from the cane. So when the opportunity came up to go raspberry picking as part of my experience at cookNscribble, how could I say no? Perhaps I might finally be cured of that fateful summer of berries.

Raspberry Cane Punnet in the field Raspberries in hand View of raspberries

So it was that one day this summer we journeyed to the valley of Schoharie, where Molly’s friend Alexandra has a farm with about 20 rows of raspberries which she grows predominantly for preserves. That week, the canes were suddenly all loaded with ripe fruit. We spent a hot hour on a Tuesday afternoon picking gloriously red, pink, magenta raspberries. Then on the Wednesday morning, Ali and I spent another hour (the breeze making things ever so slightly cooler) picking several more baskets. By the end, we’d picked our way up a row, but we were dripping sweat, our hands stained with berry juice. Alexandra, who is French, floated through the rows beneath a sun hat, her glamour in the face of berry picking putting the two of us to shame. But, despite our inelegance, she agreed to show me how she makes her preserves. So it was that a few hours later I found myself in her sunlight kitchen (with the help of her two cats), learning the art of, what Alexandra says, is originally Russian preserve making.

detail of macerated raspberries

The process had actually begun several hours earlier, when Alexandra macerated 4 quarts of raspberries with 1kg of sugar. She told me that she dislikes very sweet preserves and so, even though traditionally jams and preserves use equal quantities of sugar and fruit, she uses half the amount of sugar to fruit. So we used 2kg of sugar in total. The macerated raspberries take between 4 and 6 hours to seep enough juice to begin the preserve making. The time is dependent on the age of the raspberries – fresh-off-the-cane ones take much longer – and the temperature (if it’s hotter the process happens faster).

There was just enough juice to begin the process and so Alexandra strained the berries through a colander, collecting their juice in a large copper pot. To this she added the other kilogram of sugar, stirring to prevent the mixture from burning over the heat. Once all the sugar is melted and a cloudy syrup has formed, the heat is turned up.

macerated raspberries

sugar and raspberry juice

The syrup was then brought to a boil, and cooked until it reached soft-ball stage. (This is the stage at which you can create a soft ball of sugar in some water.)

creating raspberry caramel

Alexandra advised that the syrup should cool somewhat, before the berries are added back in. I think this is to prevent the destruction of the fruit – Alexandra likes the fruit hardly cooked at all to retain their taste.

caramel and fresh raspberries

The berries, in the syrup, are brought back to a rapid boil before the heat is reduced once more and the mixture simmered for between five and ten minutes.

cooking raspberries

detail of preserve

Off the heat the preserves are ladled into hot, sterilised jars immediately. Alexandra put the lids on the jars and allowed them to seal, keeping them in a cool dark room until they set. She told me that this preserve is best eaten sooner, rather than later… On toast. On yoghurt. On ice-cream. Or sandwiched between a sponge cake.

filling the jars

raspberry preserve bottled

And who knows, perhaps the cousins will be persuaded to try berries again once more…