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Come on Ray . . . what a nice day for eating trifle, eating trifles . . .

"Um, how do I make trifle?"

Well, the song from the great English rock band 'The Jam' said something like that anyway!

One of the backlog requests I thought I would reply to via this column, is a request that kind of sums up what I discovered while on my trip to the UK. I found this time around that the availability of produce in the local supermarkets like Tesco's and Sainsbury's is amazing! I was blown away by what the average person can now pick up at the local supermarket . . . but what saddened me was the lack of understanding with the product and even less about how to cook it. The availability of fresh produce might be second to none, but then so is the availability of ready made products, like frozen pre-made Yorkshire puddings, pre-roasted frozen potatoes and more frozen ready to eat meals than you can shake a stick at . . . where will it all end?

It is no wonder then, that here at Hub-UK we get inundated with requests for recipes and cooking tips, with so many of those requests for very basic recipes. No-one seems to be teaching a whole generation how to cook anymore . . . it is all heat and eat. A whole generation is growing up where food is either bought at a local takeaway or other fast food outlet or the upper cover is peeled back and the container is popped into the oven or nuked in the microwave.

Let's help to start getting the culinary world back on its feet, let's get back to cooking REAL food again, to feeding ourselves, our friends and our kids dishes that are made from scratch . . . just like they used to be in 'the good old days'!

You don't have to be an award winning chef, forget about those ever smiling, arm waving, salt throwing, garlic smashing, wise cracking TV chefs . . . just enjoy food, enjoy spending time in the kitchen preparing what you will undoubtably be so proud to serve up. Can't cook, wont cook? Don't you believe it and, trust me gentlemen, a woman finds a guy that can really cook a very sexy prospect . . . trust me I know!

On to this week's recipe - Bob C emailed asking for a recipe for that most humble of English desserts trifle but he wanted one that uses the Italian cake pannetonne. Pannetonne is an Italian food that is like a cross between a bread and a cake with various fruits in it, therefore it makes a perfect substitute for the traditional sponge in English trifle. Interestingly enough the Italians call trifle Zuppe Inglaise which translates as English soup!

But just what is trifle? Historically it has gone through many changes, but essentially it is a dessert that is made up of or utilises left overs. So do not be put off by these fanciful recipes, use some common sense, sprinkled with your own ideas and finish with some of the ideas I give you here.


Trifle is nothing more than old cake sponge that has been softened with fruit juices or alcohol, topped with fruits and custard and finished with whipped cream - nothing could be easier! That is basically the recipe in a nutshell but from here however we need to look at it in more depth and apply that all important 'common sense' and some individual flare.

The sponge

  • The very dessert that is trifle was designed so as to use up, stale, left over sponge cake that is then softened back to an edible state with either fruit juices or a sweet alcohol like sherry, port, cointreau, etc

  • Do not use fresh sponge as it just goes very soggy and mushy

  • If you have some left over sponge trimmings in the freezer then use them for trifle they will be ideal and there is no need to defrost it!

  • While plain sponge is normally used, there is nothing wrong with using a chocolate sponge, a coffee sponge or if you have excess Xmas fruit cake laying around going hard and crusty use that!
  • I have made a great trifle using the English/Devo

    nshire dough or saffron cake or as Bob from California asked about, used your imagination and use some pannetonne. But always, always use it stale!

Jelly versus fruit juices

  • I personally hate trifles that use a layer of fruit jelly to encase the sponge, it defeats the purpose of a trifle and more often than not takes away from the luxuriousness of this dish. The idea of a layer of jelly in a trifle as far as I know comes from packaged, pre mixes for trifle

  • If you really want to add jelly to a trifle, make the jelly separate, let it set and chop it up before adding (see constructing the trifle)

Moistening the sponge

  • Whatever is handy, takes your fancy or suits your taste buds may be used, including:
  • fruit juices: orange, apple, pineapple etc
  • grape juice: still or sparkling
  • sweetened tea or coffee (no milk)
  • hot chocolate, cocoa or milo
  • port
  • sherry (preferably sweet)
  • dessert white wine: noble riesling etc
  • Cointreau, Grand Marnier, Kahlua, tequila, whisky, rum etc . . . although these are all best added as an extra to boost the non alcoholic fruit juices, or you may find the trifle to over powering in taste
  • Add these in amounts just enough to moisten the cake and add some flavour, do not drown it.

Adding Fruits

  • Use fresh uncooked berries or soft fruits like kiwifruit

  • Tinned fruits in a light syrup or pure fruit juice

  • Fresh hard fruits (pears, apples etc) or semi-hard fruits (peaches, plums, necterines etc) that have been cooked until softened in a stock syrup
  • One cup of water, one cup of sugar, a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, a cinnamon stick and a few cloves (or a star anise may also be added). Bring to a boil and simmer until it thickens slightly
  • Stew some rhubarb or I love cutting it into lengths, sprinkling it with honey and a little balsamic vinegar and roasting it until soft at 160°C

  • Have some of granny's fresh fruit jam in the cupboard? Use that in place of fruits or as an addition to (don't use the mass produced store bought jams though)


  • This can be made very easily fresh <click here for recipe> or made from the packet, custard powder or for an even easier version the pre-made tinned variety

  • Straight from the packet etc as is? Why be so boring? Flavour it with an essence: coffee, chocolate, orange etc or replace some of the milk / cream with a shot of espresso or add some cocoa powder etc.

  • How thick should it be? That is up to individual taste; it can be thick and gluggy or a nice smooth, velvety, runny consistency

  • Want to make it even richer? Replace some of the milk (milk is normally called for in custard recipes) with cream

  • Like a custard with a little crunch? Add some of your favourite nut roughly chopped into it

Putting it all together

  • First of all must come the choice of container: why go for a big bowl when smaller individual ones are far more attractive?
  • Use your best wine goblets or champagne flutes if its for a dinner party
  • Try using some cappuccino bowls
  • If its for the normal family meal use some water glasses
  • If its for kiddies use those Thomas the Tank, Bob the Builder see through plastic beakers
  • If its to take with you in a chilly bin for a picnic why not use those plastic wine glasses or champagne flutes?
  • Again it is really a case of thinking outside the box and using your imagination. Think of all those glorious layers of colours you will be creating . . . why would you not want to show them off in a see through glass?
  • What combination to use? I have given many variations of ingredients to use and the best combination is what suits your tastes best. Experiment and have fun, taste as you go.

  • As for actually putting it all together in the glasses:
  • Place a spoonful of the chopped fruit into the bottom of the glass or a little clotted cream, creme fraiche, plain sweetened yoghurt or for a real nice surprise finish to the dish a little broken up Italian almond macaroon soaked in a liqueur!
  • Break the sponge up and place it in nice and rough
  • Sprinkle with the liquor / juice of your choice: press it down just gently to lightly compress.
  • But do not squash it
  • If you want to use jelly, make it separate, chop it up and sprinkle some in now
  • Pour in some of the custard
  • Continue with alternate layers of the ingredients until almost full
  • Finish with a 'healthy' ( ? ) dollop of lightly whipped cream, some creme fraiche or try slightly freezing skimmed milk, then whip it up like a light cream if you have one of those high powered 'magic wands'

Enjoy your Trifle and bon appetit . . . . .

Chef's terminology:

litres   tsp = teaspoon
millelitres   tbs = tablespoon
kilograms   sq = sufficient quantity (add to taste)
grams   pc = piece, meaning a whole one of

Recipe from professional
Chef Tallyrand

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