I admit it. I am an anglophile. I like to think that I'm not just following the crowd and that my love of all things British is not just a passing fad but comes from the facts that a) my mother lived in England as a teenager, b) I have many ancestors from the UK and c) my dad brought some Union Jack socks back from a business trip to England in the 80s and I still have them in my sock drawer. They make occasional appearances for royal weddings and crazy sock day at my kids' schools.
This is kind of a banner year for our friends across the pond with the Olympics in London this summer and with the dear old queen celebrating her Diamond Jubilee in 2012. Huzzah!
I've long been a fan of British television so I eagerly jumped on the "Downton Abbey" bandwagon back in February when we got Netflix. My husband and I watched (and loved) every episode available on Netflix and then watched Series 2 on pbs.org (how I love thee, PBS).
This past Friday I was invited to a Downton Abbey party (so fun!). I wanted to bring something with an English flair but you probably already know that the English aren't known for their amazing cooking. I needed inspiration so I called my mom for ideas. She wasn't at home but in talking to my dad I struck upon the idea of a trifle. English trifle. Brilliant.
It is a little silly and if I were doing it again I'd probably make it slightly smaller but I still think it was a fun addition.
--1/2 of a store bought pudding cake (44 oz size) or a large pound cake, cut into cubes (or make your own, but I was feeling too
--fresh berries: strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries (I only used the raspberries for garnish but you could add them to the trifle as well.)
--1 pint heavy whipping cream
--1 teaspoon vanilla
--sugar for strawberries
--stirred custard, recipe follows (or you can cheat like I did this time and buy canned Devon custard if you are in a rush. I got mine at World Market).
Stirred Custard (this is really delicious and the way to go if you have the time):
--3 eggs, slightly beaten
--1/3 cup sugar
--2 1/2 cups milk
--1 teaspoon vanilla
In a heavy saucepan, stir together eggs, sugar and salt. Gradually stir in milk. Cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring constantly until mixture coats a metal spoon. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Place the saucepan in cold water until the custard is cool. Refrigerate for at least two hours. (If you have problems with the custard curdling you can beat it with a mixer until smooth).
When the custard is nearly ready, wash the berries and drain well. Cut up the strawberries into a bowl and sprinkle with sugar. Set aside. Whip the cream, vanilla and about a tablespoon of sugar (more or less to taste) together until stiff peaks form. Don't turn it to butter! Set aside.
Into a large glass bowl (you want it to be glass so you can see the pretty layers) or trifle bowl place half the cubed cake, about 2/3 cup strawberries, about 2/3 cup blueberries and about 1/3 cup blackberries (you can use more or less, this is just what I used). Spoon half of the custard over the top of the berries. Carefully spread half of the whipped cream over the custard. Repeat the layers of cake, berries and custard ending with the whipped cream on top. Garnish with more berries and mint leaves, if desired. Refrigerate until serving. If you want to add a flag banner add that immediately before serving.
I'm not sure how authentically English this is, but it sure was authentically delicious.