And just like that we’re two days out from Christmas – and I’m stuck somewhere between wanting to do it all and wanting to do nothing at all…
I do, however, have one final sweet offering for you before I sign off for Christmas and a few weeks of eating too much and doing too little. A rather impressive Rhubarb & Raspberry Trifle (if I do say so myself). Our veggie patch has again been taken over by rhubarb, and this seemed like a very satisfactory way to use some of it up. It also happens to combine a lot of my favourite things all in one bowl (surely the drawcard of trifle, no?) – sparkling jelly, meringues, whipped cream, madeleines, and of course rhubarb. Happiness in one big (trifle) bowl. Grab a spoon lovely people, grab a spoon.
Now, this trifle is not at all complicated, I promise – it does, however, have a few steps to work through. Do start this the day (or a couple of days) before you want to serve it to give your jelly time to set and to make sure your nerves remain un-frayed. The meringues can also be made a few days ahead of time and kept in an airtight container.
220g caster sugar
Thick strip lemon zest
500g rhubarb, cut into 5cm batons
1 tsp rosewater
750ml sparkling chardonnay (I use Maggie Beer’s non-alcoholic one), or a bottle of good prosecco
8 platinum gelatine leaves (14g)
250ml rhubarb syrup (reserved from poached rhubarb)
160g egg whites (from about 4 eggs)
320g caster sugar
125g unsalted butter, chopped
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 tbsp honey
2 large eggs
110g caster sugar
150g self-raising flour
Pinch of salt
600ml thickened cream
2 tbsp icing sugar
2 tsp rosewater
250g raspberries, to serve
Place sugar, lemon zest and water in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer. When sugar has dissolved, add rhubarb and rosewater. Put the lid on and simmer gently for 2 minutes before turning off the heat and allowing rhubarb to finish cooking and then cool in the pan (I like to give the pan a gentle swirl to make sure all the rhubarb pieces are submerged in syrup). When rhubarb is cool, remove from the pan using a slotted spoon and place in an airtight container in the fridge until you need it. Strain rhubarb syrup through a fine muslin or chux. Reserve 250ml of syrup for the jelly and pour the rest back into the container with the rhubarb (or use as a cordial with sparkling wine or water).
Prepare jelly by soaking gelatine leaves in cold water for 5 minutes or so until softened. When the gelatine is soft, heat 250ml rhubarb syrup in a small saucepan. Squeeze out excess water from gelatine leaves and add to the hot syrup, stirring to dissolve.
Pour sparkling wine into the base of your trifle bowl and add syrup with dissolved gelatine, stirring well. Let bubbles settle for a few minutes, before skimming off any leftover ones, covering trifle bowl and placing jelly in the fridge to set.
For the meringues, preheat oven to 110 °C (fan-forced), and line two baking trays with baking paper. Combine egg whites and caster sugar in a heat-proof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Heat mixture, stirring constantly, until mixture is warm and sugar has dissolved (about 3-4 minutes). Remove from heat and transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk on medium for 2 minutes before increasing to medium/high and whisking for a further 6-8 minutes or until mixture has cooled and egg whites are glossy and hold their shape.
Divide mixture into 6 equal portions and form into 6 meringues (3 per tray). Once they’re on the trays you can use a spatula or palette knife to squidge them around and smooth the sides if you like, otherwise just leave them in all their rustic glory. Lower oven temperature to 80°C and bake meringues for 1.5 hrs. Turn oven off and allow meringues to cool in the oven.
Place butter, vanilla, honey and milk in a small saucepan and heat over low until butter has melted. Stir and set aside to cool.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk eggs and sugar until bubbly and well combined. Add half the flour and salt to the batter and mix in, before stirring in cooled butter mixture. Add remaining flour and mix to a smooth batter. Cover and allow batter to rest in the fridge for at least an hour or up to 2 days.
Preheat oven to 170°C (fan-forced) and grease 2 x 12 hole madeleine tins well with butter. Dust with a little flour, tapping out any excess. Spoon a scant tablespoon of batter into each madeleine hole, taking care not to overfill. Bake for 9-10 minutes, or until risen, golden and cooked through. Take cakes out of the oven and allow to cool in the tin for a few minutes before removing and placing on a wire rack to cool completely. (Eat a few whilst they’re warm though, you won’t need all of them for the trifle!)
Make the rosewater cream by whipping thickened cream, icing sugar and rosewater to soft peaks. Layer half the whipped cream gently on top of the jelly in the trifle bowl, scatter a layer of madeleines on top, followed by 2/3 poached rhubarb, half the raspberries and a crumbled meringue or two.
Dollop on remaining whipped cream, press another handful of madeleines into the cream, scatter over remaining rhubarb and raspberries and top with meringue pieces (you probably won’t need all the meringues, so save a few for another dessert – they keep well for 2-3 days in an airtight container).
This trifle is best served soon after assembling. Store any leftovers in the fridge for a day or two.