Now all this may sound a bit like something out of HE Bates - real people don't have the time anymore. But even if it is just a memory, I defy anyone not to think fondly of cool and trembling real jelly, sherry-soaked trifles and sharp fruit mousses. It is so easy to nip into the local supermarket for a plastic pot of modish tiramisu, brightly layered trifle or quite passable creme brulee that the inclination to search out the gelatine from the back of the cupboard is ever more remote.
But making simple puddings is no real sweat. Jellies are so satisfying when made with real fruit and leaf gelatine (now available in most supermarkets). And everyone loves a home-made trifle. Decent sherry can be used or even some rich Marsala. Sponge cake is OK, but I prefer to use ratafias, macaroons or Italian amaretti biscuits. My idea of the next three layers may invoke strong argument, but they should consist of home-made custard, very good quality jam (home-made strawberry bought from a garden fete?) and lightly sweetened, whipped cream. The custard is probably the most important layer of all. It must be made with eggs, vanilla, sugar and cream and be thick enough to set in a layer. No glace cherries or hundreds and thousands; just angelica and silver balls please, this is a classy trifle.
Mousses, apart from chocolate, are a sort of jelly with the addition of eggs and cream. And my all-time favourite is a fluffy lemon one. Sharp, light, creamy and soft, easy to eat and fresh as a bee. However, there is one mousse that my mother used to make, which, as a young-un, I named "Strawberry flush" - somewhere between fluff and mush perhaps? It involves a mad whip-up of Carnation milk, a packet of strawberry jelly and a tin of strawberries. It still tastes better than the plastic pots at the corner shop.
Lemon Mousse (this recipe uses un-cooked egg yolks), serves 4-5
4 leaves gelatine
110/4oz icing sugar
275mls/10fl oz double cream
Soak the leaves of gelatine in cold water until soft.
Carefully grate the rind of the lemons - no pith please. Squeeze the juice and combine with the grated zest. Put into a small stainless steel or enamelled pan and gently warm together with the softened gelatine until it is dissolved (do not boil). Set aside for the rind to infuse the liquid, and keep the pan in a container of hot water, so that the gelatine does not set. Separate the eggs and beat the yolks with 75g/3oz of the sugar until thick and fluffy. Strain the lemon mixture into this, continuing to whisk, and put into a cool place to thicken a little. In an electric mixer, beat the whites with the remaining 25g/loz sugar until they form soft peaks. Then carefully but thoroughly whisk the whites into the egg yolk and lemon mixture until perfectly smooth and blended. Whip the cream until floppy, not stiff, and fold this in. The whole mixture must be perfectly homogenous. Pour into a suitable glass dish and decorate with traditional rosettes of whipped cream.
Blackcurrant Jelly, serves six
This jelly is lovely served with freshly made madeleines and lightly sweetened whipped cream.
450g/llb fresh blackcurrants (frozen can work)
275ml/l0fl oz water
150ml/5fl oz port
25ml/lfl oz creme de cassis
4 leaves gelatine
Remove the blackcurrants from their stalks, but there is no need to top and tail them. Put into a stainless steel or enamelled pan, together with the sugar and water. Bring to the boil and simmer very gently, covered, for ten minutes. Then tip into a sieve suspended over a bowl. Leave to drain for a couple of hours. Don't be tempted to force the syrup through the sieve, as pressing the fruit too much may cause the jelly to become cloudy. Soak the gelatine in cold water for a few minutes until soft and soggy. Gently warm the syrup (the pulp can be eaten like jam, but is a bit dry) and dissolve the gelatine in it. Add the port and cassis and stir well. Line the base of six ramekins with a circle of wetted grease- proof paper. Pour in the jelly and place in the fridge for at least six hours, preferably overnight.
You will need a madeleine baking tray with traditional indentations for these little sponges. Good kitchen shops stock them. One tray usually has six indentations.
200g/7oz caster sugar
50g/2oz plain flour, sieved
scant 50g/2oz ground almonds
3 egg whites
Melt the butter until it turns a pale golden brown. Pour into a metal bowl to cool. Mix together the sugar, flour and almonds in another bowl. Beat the egg whites with a whisk until light and spumous. Add the sugar/flour/ almond mixture and thoroughly fold in. Now stir in the honey and browned butter.
Brush the madeleine tin with melted butter and then dust with flour. Tap out any excess. Pour a tablespoon of the mixture into each indentation: they must be filled to the brim. Put in the fridge for one hour.
Pre-heat the oven to 375F/190C/gas mark 5.
Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, or until golden, puffed up and firm to the touch. Leave to cool in their tins for a few moments, then lift out. Serve them warm with the jellies turned out of their ramekins; the contrast is most agreeable.
Sherry Trifle, serves 6
400mls/15fl oz single or whipping cream
12 vanilla pod, split lengthways
12 amaretti biscuits, or the equivalent weight of macaroons or ratafias
5tbsp sweet sherry
1 tbsp cognac
3 egg yolks
1 rounded tbsp caster sugar
4tbsp raspberry jam, warmed
275mls/10fl oz double cream
1tbsp icing sugar
Heat the cream with the vanilla pod, give it a quick whisk to disperse the seeds, cover and leave to infuse. In the base of a deep glass dish, lay the biscuits in a rough layer. Spoon over the sherry and brandy and leave to soak in.
Beat the egg yolks and egg with the sugar. Strain over the vanilla-flavoured cream and mix together. Pour back into the cream pan and cook very gently over a low flame until thickened, This is like making creme brulee, so be careful of overcooking. However, do be brave - if the custard is not cooked enough, it will not set. You can safely take it as far as the odd blip, and when this happens, whisk vigorously to disperse the hot-spots. Strain immediately over the soaked biscuits. Put in the fridge for at least four hours, or overnight. When set, pour over the warmed jam. Put back in the fridge for half an hour. Whip the cream with the sugar until just holding peaks. Pile on top in a swirly way and decorate with angelica and silver balls. Chill until ready to eatReuse content