Whatever else is on offer, a Trifle is an essential dessert for New Year’s Day (at least that is my personal opinion though I am more than happy to serve it at other times of the year.) At New Year meals in past years I have offered Sherry Jelly Berry Trifle, Black Forest Trifle and Chocolate Orange Trifle (yet to appear on this site). This year it was the turn of a Mulled Plum Trifle. (Should probably rename it Mulled ‘Yum’ Trifle actually!)
This recipe is my own, an experiment which I knew would be fine – after all what could be wrong with a combination of plums and custard/cream with the obligatory slug of alcohol! I am sure that any plums would be fine, but I used the type of hard round plums that are readily available throughout most of the year in the UK with colours ranging from cerise red to a deep ‘plummy’ maroon with golden or reddish flesh. We find that these are not particularly good to eat uncooked but I often serve them for dessert as Mulled Plums, stewing them in a similar method to that below. See also my previous post on Mulled Stewed Fruit. This year I served Mulled Plum Trifle to my very forgiving extended family, with Candlemas Crumble as a hot alternative. Most people ate both and I sent my guests home with a portion each of Mulled Plum Trifle for tea the next day. I find the combination of almond and goes well with plums so I soaked the trifle sponges in the bottom of the dish with a sherry glass of Carina brand Cremandorla: Crema aux Amandes, a Sicilian almond flavoured aperitif made with Marsala wine, which we buy when on holiday in France. It can be found in many French supermarkets: Leclerc, Super-U, Carrefour, Intermarche… My sister in law uses an Italian almond flavoured (amaretto) liqueur called Disarono which is similar and available, I think, in the UK. Most trifles have sherry or marsala and this can, of course, be substituted. This is a jelly free trifle and actually I think it does not need either jelly or gelatine. However, if you wish, a complementary flavoured jelly can be used – for example raspberry or blackcurrant – or alternatively gelatine can be used to set the liquid without adding another flavour. In both cases the cooked plums should be strained and the cooking liquid made up with enough extra water to make a strong jelly mixture. It is helpful if you remember how many pieces of whole spice you have used as they will be removed when the plums are added to the trifle – either that or give a prize to the person who finds a piece in their mouthful!)
Mulled Plum Trifle
10 or 12 Trifle sponge fingers/Boudoir biscuits to cover base of dish
2-3 tbsp Almond Liqueur or dry sherry (optional) – see note above
2-2½lbs/1-1.25kg plums, halved and pitted (more if you wish)
Zest & juice of ½ lemon
2-3 thick slices fresh ginger
1 cinnamon stick
1-2 star anise
1 bay leaf
3-4 tbsp demerara sugar
¼pint/5fl ozs/150ml water
1 pint of custard made with custard powder and milk – sugared to taste
284ml/10fl oz carton Elmlea double or whipping cream
Small handful of blanched split almonds
Sugar dragees or stars (optional)
1. Quarter the plums, remove the stones and place in a shallow pan (I use my large frying pan) along with the lemon zest and juice, ginger slices, cinnamon stick, cloves, star anise and bay leaf. Sprinkle over the sugar, add the water and bring to the boil. Put on the lid and turn the heat down low. Stew very gently for about 10 minutes until the plums are soft and the liquid is syrupy. Remove the lid and boil briefly if the liquid needs to be reduced. A little extra water can be added but only if absolutely necessary as although it will soak into the sponge too much liquid will make the trifle watery (remember that this trifle is not set with jelly or gelatine). Remove pan from the heat and leave to cool. This step can be done in advance the the plums refrigerated.
2. Make up a pint of custard, varying the amount of sugar used according to the sweetness of the base layer. Leave to cool.
3. Toast the almonds either under a hot grill, in a dry frying pan or for about 5 minutes in the oven if it is on. Leave to cool.
4. Line the base of a transparent glass dish with trifle sponge fingers/Boudoir biscuits and soak with the almond liqueur or sherry.
5. Spoon the plums and their juice into the bowl, distributing evenly and removing the spices and bay leaf as you come across them.
6. Spoon the cooled custard carefully over the plums, distributing evenly and smoothing carefully. Try to avoid the dark plum juice ‘bleeding’ through the surface of the custard.
7. To serve: Whip the cream and spread evenly on top of the custard. Just before serving sprinkle over the cooled almonds (this way they will retain their crunch) and any other decoration such as dragees or stars.