Monthly Archives: May 2004

Organic boxes are CHEAPER…

…not just than buying the same veggies at a grocery store but than buying the non-organic equivalent at a grocery store!

So you have absolutely no excuse whatsoever if you actually do cook your own food.

I know some singles say they can’t eat it all – mostly what they really mean is that they don’t cook at home often enough to use the veggies, but I know many singles who share with a friend. And yes, it can be a stretch to use all of something you get a LOT of and don’t like that much. But it STILL works out cheaper.

And all of the above ignores the incontrovertible fact that CSA vegetable boxes provide fresher, higher-quality produce than you will ever get from a store. I have NEVER EVER eaten better strawberries or tomatoes than I get every Spring and Summer from Terra Firma – and that includes homegrown – they are professionals after all.

So, from now on I don’t want to hear excuses. Admit you can’t or won’t for no good reason or sign up. Check with The CSA Center to find one near you.

A trifle…

…a mere nothing, a bagatelle. NOT! On the contrary, the trifle is the quintessential English dessert. On a warm summer evening there is nothing, literally nothing to beat a good trifle. Now I have had trifles that don’t deserve the name – abominations with ingredients like chocolate, toffee and caramel. Fine desserts one and all but emphatically not trifles. A real trifle has a soaked sponge cake of some kind, jam, fruit, a custard and whipped cream. Sticking to those basic precepts can still generate a giddy array of sensuous delights. But I usually keep it even more strict, even more real, even more true to my roots in Surrey. You may use only sherry for soaking the sponge. Your fruits and jam may only involve berries. Leeway may be taken with the custard even though the true aficionado knows that a trifle should only really be made with Bird’s custard powder.

Photo of Sherry Trifle halfway through construction copyright 2004 Owen Linderholm

The best trifle I ever made was completely from scratch. I made vanilla-orange sponge cake. I made a raspberry syrup reduction. I used a delicious amontillado sherry. I only used fresh organic raspberries. I made a vanilla creme anglais from scratch with organic eggs. It took me between four and five hours.

The trifle I made for the Kerry dinner was a simpler affair. I was after all making it for about forty people.

Sherry Trifle

You will need a large bowl – preferably glass so people can see the delectable insides of your trifle. Note also that trifle is best made well ahead of time and allowed to get cold.

You will need a tin of Bird’s custard powder (or the time and ability to make an english egg custard from scratch). You will need two packages of lady fingers (about 50 ladyfingers in all). You will need a jar of jam – I used d’Arbo blackberry and blackcurrant (although the jar and information doesn’t show it, this also has blackcurrant in it). You will need lots of berries – say four pints. I used organic blackberries and strawberries. You will need five pints of milk and some sugar. You will need about half a bottle of medium to dry sherry (I prefer amontillado). You will need a pint of heavy whipping cream.

First, make the custard using the milk and sugar according to the directions (two tablespoons of custard powder and two tablespoons of sugar per pint of milk I believe). Mix a very small amount of cold milk with the sugar and powder until it is a smooth paste and set it aside. Heat the rest of the milk to almost boiling and stir the custard mixture in whisking them together thoroughly and stirring constantly, especially off the bottom, to avoid lumps. Let the pan JUST return to boiling, take it off the heat and set it aside to cool.

Next, get about half the ladyfingers and carefully smear a thin layer of jam on one side of them and layer them into the bottom of the bowl. Then sprinkle half the sherry (a quarter bottle) onto the ladyfingers so they start to soak it up. Now put half the berries in a layer on top of that. Cut up any that are bigger than a single bite. Now, when the custard is cool enough to put a finger in comfortably, pour half of it on top of the berries. Now repeat the process with the other half of the ingredients and stick the bowl in the fridge until you are ready to eat it. It can keep as long as 24 hours this way. The final piece is to whip the cream and put it on top of everything right before serving.

The above recipe makes enough for fifteen to twenty people in a normal serving or for about six people if they aren’t watched very carefully and return for seconds and thirds and…

Note that it also isn’t a dessert for children. I made a version using a diluted blackcurrant syrup instead of sherry for the kids and that was pretty popular, too.

Mid Preparation

OK, the trifle(s) are made. One (larger) has half a bottle of sherry in it for adults and the other (smaller) has blackcurrant syrup diluted used instead of sherry. Both are made with lady fingers smeared with blackberry and blackcurrant jam and with fresh blackberries and strawberries (organic of course) and with a total of a gallon of vanilla custard.

The baked fried chicken is made – this time with buttermilk, herbes de provence, sea salt and hot smoked paprika.

The lamb legs are butterflied and marinating. Two with two cups of red wine, half a head of garlic minced, three tablespoons ground coriander, two tablespoons of herbes de provence, a tablespoon of sweet smoked paprika and some sea salt and ground black pepper. The third is marinating in a mix of spicy mustard, local wildflower honey and rubbed sage.

Pasta salad with nicoise olives, greek feta, sweet 100 cherry tomatoes, the finely chopped top of a green garlic, chopped cucumber and two large handfuls of fresh oregano, lavender and sorrel from the herb garden.

The fava bean hummus is made with fresh boiled fava beans, tahini, lemon juice, two heads of green garlic, a fresh spring onion and lots of olive oil – also salt.

Next up the pizzetas and then start things going for the grill.