Fig and Ginger Trifle


There are only two occasions where I leave cutlery in the fridge. At Christmas, a small sharp knife sits beside the festive ham in recognition of me wearing a shiny path between the sofa and the fridge, a foot soldier in the festive struggle to avoid cooking an actual meal between Christmas and new year.

The other time is when there is trifle.

As the first serving is scooped into a bowl, the remainder slumps just a little - like the undercliff between my home in Sidmouth and Lyme Regis - causing the surface of the trifle to lower just enough that a plate can sit across the bowl without making a mess. On that plate, I place The Big Spoon, and put it - with not a little ceremony - into the fridge. From that moment until it is finished, there is not a waking second when I am not aware of that trifle’s presence in the house.

As I wrote in my book HERB, my oldest friend says little of consequence, but once in a while, like a monkey with a typewriter, a golden sentence is formed, never better than when he rang to tell me: “The best way to eat trifle is with The Big Spoon, dressed only in your pants, bathed in the light from the fridge”.

Amen to that.

Fig and Ginger Trifle

One day I shall write a book devoted to the holiest of desserts, but until that glorious day, you shall have to make do with my latest offering to the trifle gods. By all means make the custard, but I have nothing against tinned when the gap between inspiration and satisfaction must be minimised.

4 hot cross buns, sliced vertically 6-7mm wide

6 large, plump figs, stalks removed

2-3 fat testicles of stem ginger, roughly chopped

a very generous measure of sherry 

400ml custard 

300ml double cream

250g mascarpone 

a handful of flaked almonds 

a generous grating of very dark chocolate 

an enthusiastic swirling of stem ginger syrup

To assemble: 

If the figs are really soft and ripe, cut 5 in half and place them in the bowl, cut side out. Cut the last fig into 8ths and use to fill the gaps. If the figs are a little shy of perfection, slice them all into 8ths and arrange in a single layer.

Arrange the hot cross bun slices horizontally on top of the figs and splash with an enthusiasm of booze - a smoky single malt or a good sherry are perfect for this. Sprinkle with stem ginger.

Pour the custard over. At this point, it’s really good to put a plate over the top of the bowl and let this get used to itself in the fridge overnight - the flavours will be altogether deeper - but I am the last person to judge you if you are being pulled along by trifleflust, Big Spoon at the ready.

In a large bowl, whisk the double cream and mascarpone until combined (splash a little milk in if it goes a little stiff) and dollop it carefully on to the custard, using a spatula spread it across the custard. 

Scatter the top with flaked almonds, chocolate, and drizzle plentifully with stem ginger syrup. 

Put the trifle somewhere no-one else will find it and return regularly to demolish it in instalments.

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