Well, the weather outside really is frightful, but sadly not in a “Let It Snow” sort of a way. It has rained and rained and rained. Thanks very much to my guest today, Jill Barry, for taking a break from her house move and travelling over from wet and windy Wales to cheer us up.
Jill has brought two Christmassy novels along with her, as well as a recipe for one of my favourite desserts. I can’t wait! Thanks for coming, Jill!
* * *
Many thanks for inviting me over to your place at this busy time, Helena. We’re opting for a quiet Christmas this year. If anyone reading this has recently moved, you have my total sympathy and admiration. As I write, we’re still reeling from the circus involved in this stressful process but I’m pleased to report, remembering Christmases past has been positively therapeutic. Currently I’m still trying to locate one small stainless steel teapot, one crystal ball (yes, really!) and two pairs of John Lewis snazzy socks. It’s such an unlikely combination but I still live in hopes of finding the missing items.
My festive preparation is so far almost non-existent though I did write ten cards yesterday while awaiting the engineers to link us to the world via wifi. This will be the first time we’ll be spending 25th December on our own but I’m hoping to Skype with my son in Melbourne and to speak to other close family members on the phone. I’m sure we’ll miss the folks we normally see but it will be a chance to relax, weather permitting to have one of those bracing walks we never get around to on The Day and hopefully to count our blessings and create some of our own traditions.
It might seem odd to choose trifle as my special festive recipe but it became a family favourite in the late eighties when my Pembrokeshire branch of the clan began laying on an old-fashioned get-together for those of us keen to join in. There was many a journey down the M4 when I’d cross my fingers that the British December weather wouldn’t produce freezing fog, screaming gales or snowstorms. Of course there were years when it did, but the effort of battling always proved worthwhile. Sleeping bags, improvised beds and lots of laughter were always involved.
As my son and his boy cousins (no girls produced in that generation) grew lankier, so their appetites increased. My niece added a trifle to the usual menu and a new tradition was born. Who would creep down to the kitchen first on Boxing Day morning? The bulging fridge always held a dish of leftover trifle, just waiting to be snaffled as a breakfast treat. Why was such a delicacy not consumed for Christmas Day, I hear you ask. There were always so many other goodies, sweet and savoury, and some of us were more restrained than others! By the way, I recently took my son and one of his cousins, plus partners out for dinner and heard the two men reminiscing about those kitchen raids!
Now I’m thinking longingly of those scrumptious mouthfuls of trifle – cool, creamy, sweet but not overly so – I’m tempted to recreate the tradition in our new home this Christmas. If so, I wonder which of us will get to the fridge first on Boxing Day morning! For sure, it won’t be porridge we’ll be padding downstairs to gobble!
3 egg yolks
1 pint double cream
1 oz (30 gsm) caster sugar (superfine sugar)
1 level teaspoon cornflour
Trifle sponge cakes (I make my own, using fruit sugar, not refined)
(NB: ready-made trifle sponge cakes, or sponge fingers, are typically British and not often found outside the UK. If you’re looking for an alternative, try this advice from the fabulous Nigella Lawson: Trifle Sponges Substitute)
Raspberry or strawberry jam (jelly)
Approx 8 oz raspberries – tinned or frozen
Add sliced banana and/or Sherry if required
Heat 1/2 pint of the cream. Blend egg yolks, sugar and cornflour in a basin. Add hot cream, stirring all the time. Return custard to pan and stir over a very low heat until thick. Allow to cool. If used, slice bananas and sprinkle over raspberries. Pour on custard. Whip remaining 1/2 pint of cream and spread over top. Chill for 3 – 4 hours before serving.
Lucy Stephenson is facing a Christmas nightmare.
Her bistro, ‘The Town Mouse’, is in a bad financial way when her sous chef, Emily, drops the bomb that she’s leaving her in the lurch just weeks before Christmas.
Lucy is in a rut, unable to see how she can turn her business around, without a head chef and at the busiest time of year.
She reaches out to Dustin at a cookery agency to find a temporary chef.
In a stroke of luck, Dustin says he has the perfect man for the job…
December 1925. When the young Annabel Crawford trots back to the manor house on her beloved horse Juno, she is unimpressed by the surprising news her mother greets her with.
Lily Crawford explains that the Viscount Lassiter is unexpectedly joining them for Christmas dinner.
Her father, George Crawford, has extended an invitation to the Viscount who cannot spend Christmas at home due to the scandalous end to his engagement with Lady Lucinda, a woman with royal connections.
Annabel, already distraught at having to engage in ‘drawing room silliness’ over the festive period, is irritated that she will have to entertain this reprobate aristocrat who she has never even met…
You can find Jill on Twitter @barry_jill and on Facebook
* * *
I love the stylish covers of your novels, Jill. Two very different stories, and they both sound a great Christmas read! And sherry trifle is one of my favourite desserts ever. I don’t think it would last until Boxing Day in our house. Thanks so much for dropping in and for cheering us up on this dull and rainy day. Wishing you all the best with your house move, and I do hope all the missing items come to light!
If you’ve enjoyed Jill’s post, or have any questions or comments at all, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you!