So many memories. England was our home for 5 years after our years in Dubai. Our second son was born there. As you might imagine, most of our photos are of our young children. May our children forgive me as the gallery includes their youthful faces.
It was a magical kingdom in which to raise young children. We lived outside of London. Our days were spent rambling across farmers’ fields, riding horses; at toddler groups, Tumble Tots, and swimming lessons. Hours were also spent at parks along the Thames watching the boats pass through the locks, meandering down country lanes, or throwing sticks for our dog in Burnham Beeches. Our young boys also enjoyed a Teddy Bear Picnic at Clivedon House, a brisk walk from our first home in England.
Sunday afternoons frequently included a drive out to country pubs with gardens. One afternoon we even shared a garden with Barbara Cartland, the renowned romance author who coincidentally was Diana, Princess of Wales Step-Grandmother and also one of her favorite authors as a young girl.
Our second English home was in the small village of Wooburn Green. My husband, my woodworker, was tasked with refinishing the old church doors of the Methodist Church on the village green. I had told him before we moved into our house that regardless of whether we attended the church, the lurid blue paint had to go. It did, shortly after we unpacked. He had refinished it to the original, but now varnished, oak. We did join the small congregation of that church which was destined to be closed if the membership fell below 7. I like to think that our family of 4 kept it going for a few years, at least.
Wooburn Green was special. Our home backed onto Green Belt (agricultural land protected from development) and there was a Manor House across the lane. We could walk to the Methodist church and stop at the pub next door after the service. Across the green were the butcher, the baker, and the greengrocer. The green, itself, hosted the occasional fair. We only had to head up the lane for a forest walk.
There were times that we lifted our children to the top of our back fence to feed horses. Our house was small, as many are in the UK compared to American standards, but it contained a rose garden, climbing frame, greenhouse, and patio where our youngest, with his Where’s Waldo plastic spectacles, liked to crack nuts.
Eventually, I went back to work with Cluttons Property Consultants in the London Docklands when my previous employer, back from Dubai, opened an office there. We were able to take advantage of the availability of a French au pair from Alsace that our young boys loved, seeing that she enjoyed the rough and tumble having come from a family of boys. The timing was right after a few months of commuting by bus and train to London to sell our home. Property prices were escalating in the Home Counties. We sold our charming Meadow Cottage for twice what we had paid for it 20 months earlier, waited for my husband’s Green Card to be issued, packed our bags, and moved to the States–back to the States for me and a new country for my British husband.
I couldn’t leave England without a repertoire of British recipes. I hope you have already tried the Potato Scone recipe I posted in Potato and Cherry Scones to the Rescue.
My alphabet tour of the world happily fell on E in December. Hence my trip down memory lane. Lucky for you, Christmas is when I always make Trifle. I first put this recipe in the My Favorite Things cookbook that I gave as our Christmas present to family and friends in 1991. Since that was close to 3 decades ago, I am long past remembering where the original recipe came from. I remember making my own sponge cake from a British recipe. I think the custard might be a version from Betty Crocker, the basic assemblage probably came from The Times Cookery Book by Katie Stewart. In my opinion, the end result is very authentic and very approachable. My goal is to make it for friends, take photographs, and publish the recipe in time for you to make it for your own Christmas celebration. But don’t worry, any time is a delicious time for Sherry Trifle!
Time for Trifle–E is for England
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and line the base of an 8-inch cake tin with parchment paper.
Cream the softened butter or margarine with the sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, with a little of the sieved flour and the water.
Place the mixture in the greased and lined tin. Bake for 35 minutes. Remove from oven and turn onto rack to cool completely.
For the Custard
Blend the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a 2-quart saucepan.
Combine the milk and lightly beaten egg yolks and gradually add to the sugar mixture, stirring to combine.
Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir one minute.
Arrange the sponge cake spread with jam in the bottom of a glass or crystal bowl. (This is so your guests will see the layers if you serve it from the bowl.) You may break it up to fit your bowl.
Sprinkle the cake with half of the sherry. Cover the cake with the cut-up fruit. I prefer strawberries. Pour the remaining sherry over the fruit.
Now pour the custard over the fruit, taking care that it isn't too hot or it could crack your glass or crystal bowl. Chill overnight.
Before serving, whip the cream and cover the cake, fruit, and custard. Decorate the Trifle with chocolate curls made with a vegetable peeler, or toasted almond slices, or pretty fruit shapes.
Trifle should always be assembled in a beautiful glass dish. It needn't be cut glass like these two heirloom pieces from my family. You want your guests to ooh and aah for what is to come.
Serve at the table, from the bowl into small glass dishes if you have them. Mine came from my British mother-in-law.