Matt Preston’s boozy Christmas trifle: it’s gin time!

Matt Preston was for many years the flamboyant, charismatic and unmistakable face of MasterChef Australia. But Matt Preston is a true Brit. I know, because I went to school with him many years ago. Since then, we have ended up in different places. I ended up in beautiful Barcelona, where, amongst other things, I started writing a gin blog. Matt moved to Australia, built up a brilliant reputation as a respected food critic, wrote a weekly column in some of Australia’s most popular newspapers and then became the star of one of the most popular cooking shows in the world.

Cravats and cooking

Matt is also a senior editor for Delicious and Taste Magazine and has written four best-selling cookbooks. Along the way, he’s picked up a cult following from loyal international fans who love his flamboyant style and exuberant, refreshing and spirited approach to cooking. His oversized personality is typified by his trademark cravat: a 19th century-style statement that helped him to stand out at school, all those years ago.

So, when we spotted that Matt had created a delicious cherry trifle, perfect for Christmas and Boxing Day, we couldn’t keep the recipe to ourselves. Especially since the key ingredient here appears to be gin.

So, what exactly is a trifle and where did it come from?

The story of trifle

Traditionally, a trifle is a cold dessert made in a large bowl from layers of fruit, sponge fingers (traditionally soaked in sherry), fruit-flavoured jelly and custard, topped with cream. Usually it consists of three or four creamy, fruity, delicious layers. Trifles have been around for years. In fact, the term was first used way back in the 16th century, but a more recognisable version, including the jelly and the sponge, started to appear in the 18th century. Traditionally, trifles contain a little bit of booze and I’m pleased to say that Matt Preston’s boozy Christmas trifle takes it up a notch by substituting a decent slug of gin for the traditional sherry. And that suits us just fine.

A festive family favourite

The result is a firm family favourite with everybody waiting to dive in at the first available moment. Youngsters love Christmas trifle, grannies love it and so does everybody in between. It’s sweet, fruity, comforting and colourful. But most of all, it is absolutely delicious. In our household, we’re usually too full of Christmas pudding to even consider this on Christmas day. But it always plays a starring role in our Boxing Day celebrations and the trifle lives on in the fridge until New Year, so dig in while it lasts.

Ditch the sherry. It’s gin time!

Matt Preston’s boozy Christmas trifle is a little special. He chooses cherries as the main fruit, substitutes gin for sherry, adds a few exotic elements such as toasted coriander seeds and crushed juniper berries, and builds it all around layers of succulent panettone.

Matt, thank you for this great recipe and for your services to gin. And if you read this and ever find yourself passing through Barcelona… I’ll provide the gin if you make the trifle!

You can follow Matt Preston on Twitter or check out his website.

Recommended gin: a decent Old Tom, such as Haymans Old Tom will work well in this boozy dessert. And if you want to dial up the flavour even further, you could even try a lemon gin such as Malfi Gin con Limone, which should boost the citrus flavours.

Christmas trifle recipe

Ingredients:

Christmas trifle
  • 1.5 kg of pitted cherries (fresh or frozen) plus 500 g fresh cherries, halved and pitted
  • 460 g of caster sugar
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
  • 1 tsp juniper berries, lightly crushed
  • 20 g gelatine leaves
  • 1 cup (250 ml) gin, plus 2 tbs extra
  • Juice of two lemons (strained)
  • 2 cups (500 ml) thickened cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 10 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup (35 g) cornflour
  • 1/2 cup (70 g) hazelnuts
  • 1 cup (320 g) lemon curd
  • 450 g panettone, crusts removed, sliced into 1cm thick slices
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) elderflower cordial
  • 2 cups (500 ml) double cream
  • Elderflowers (optional)

Method:

Christmas trifle
  1. Place cherries, 200 g sugar, coriander seeds, juniper berries and 600 ml water in a pan. Bring to boil, stirring to dissolve sugar, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, soak gelatin in cold water to soften. Pass cherry mixture through a fine sieve into a large jug, gently pressing cherries to release juice (discard solids). Measure 1 litre (4 cups) of liquid for jelly, reserving separately. Squeeze excess water from gelatin, add to hot cherry liquid and stir until dissolved. Stir in gin (we recommend trying this with an Old Tom gin, such as Haymans Old Tom) and lemon juice. Pour into a 3.5-litre trifle dish. Chill for 2 hours to set.
  2. To make custard, place milk, thickened cream, vanilla and mixed spice into a heavy-based pan over medium heat and, stirring occasionally, bring to boil just below boiling point. Remove from heat. In a bowl, whisk egg yolks, cornflour and 110 g sugar until thick and pale. Whisking continuously, slowly pour cream mixture into egg mixture. Return mixture to the pan and whisk over medium-low heat for 3 minutes or until thickened. Transfer to a stand mixer and whisk on medium for 15 minutes or until cool. Cover and chill.

3. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Place hazelnuts, 75 g sugar and 1/3 cup (80 ml) water in a saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring continuously for 8-10 minutes until sugar crystallises. Pour onto tray, cool, then roughly chop.
4. Spread lemon curd on one side of each slice of panettone and sandwich slices together, curd-side in. Cut each into 6 squares.
5. Place reserved cherry liquid, extra gin (yay!), 1/4 cup (60 ml) cordial and remaining 1/3 cup (75 g) of caster sugar in a small saucepan, bring to boil and cook for 4 minutes or until reduced by half. Place fresh cherries in a bowl, pour hot liquid on top and chill until completely cool.
6. Beat double cream and remaining cordial in a stand mixer to soft peaks.
7. To assemble: pour chilled custard over jelly. Scatter panettone over and spoon cherries and syrup on top. Finish with elderflower cream, then scatter with frosted hazelnuts and elderflowers.
8. Pour yourself an extra glass of that gin and wait for Christmas (if you can….).


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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christmas mince pies in foil paper

Boozy mince pies: let the Christmas fun be-gin

At this time of year, the pre-Christmas nibbling has probably already begun.
Mince pies are one of the most traditional of all English treats at Christmas time – and for many, they are the taste of Christmas. But if you’re not brought up with this tradition, it’s sometimes quite difficult to get your head around the term “mince pie”. In fact, these days, there’s absolutely no meat to be found inside a traditional mince pie.

These sweet little pies have been decorating English Christmas tables since the 13th century when they were first brought to England by crusaders returning from the Middle East. The original Mediterranean recipes included meats, fruits and spices representing the symbolism of the gifts delivered to the baby Jesus by the Magi. In fact, in the early days, mince pies were actually rectangular and “manger-shaped” and were often topped with a pastry image of the Christ Child.

From crusader cuisine to rich, sweet Christmas pies

Over the centuries, these tasty sweet and savoury treats began to lose the savoury.  In fact, these days, the meat has been removed altogether, in favour of traditional sweet mincemeat – a rich mixture of chopped, dried fruit, spices, sugar and distilled spirits. 

The fruits usually include chopped apple, fresh citrus peal, currants, candied fruits, citron and brandy or rum. It’s then all mixed together and aged so that the flavours deepen and the texture changes to a dark, sticky, boozy Christmas goo! This gorgeous mixture is then encased in little pastry packages of buttery goodness and baked. 

Once out of the oven, they receive a final light dusting of sugar powder to finish it all off. 

For the final step: top with a little cream or brandy butter and pop this little sweet, spicy, steamy Christmas parcel into your mouth. Christmas will follow. 

This amazing mince pie mixture is unlikely to last you the whole festive season, but if you maintain your discipline, it can be stored for up to 10 years. 

Sloe is better

But what if we were to substitute a little gin where traditionally there was rum or brandy?

And even better, what about sloe gin?

If that’s more to your taste, then here’s a simple little mince pie recipe that means you don’t have to mix your spirits – just stick with gin!

These festive pies are made with lashings of sloe gin for a truly festive blast of boozy, fruity, seasonal goodness and they’re really easy to make. We recommend using Sipsmith Sloe Gin for this recipe, with its deep, warming sloe-ness. But you can choose any sloe gin you prefer – or even use your own if you have some home made sloe already in the house.

Mince pies recipe

Ingredients:

Mince pies
  • 300g fresh cranberries
  • 300g dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, apricots etc.)
  • 60g brown sugar
  • 40z Sipsmith Sloe Gin
  • 2tsp cinnamon
  • 2tsp nutmeg
  • 2tsp mixed spice
  • 1 orange

For the pastry:

Mince pies
  • 350g flour
  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 100g sugar
  • 1 egg
  • Icing sugar (to dust)

Method:

Mince pies
  1. Heat the sloe gin and brown sugar in a saucepan, stirring until all sugar has dissolved
  2. Stir in the dried fruit, spices and grate ion the zest from the orange
  3. Add the cranberries and squeeze in the juice from the orange. Leave to stew for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally
  4. Remove from heat and place to the side while you make your pastry
  5. Rub the flour and butter together in a bowl until it forms a crumbly mixture
  6. Add the sugar and egg and knead together into a dough
  7. Roll the pastry out and use a circle cookie cutter to cut dough circles to the right size for your muffin tins
  8. Squeeze the dough circles into your muffin tin and generously fill with mincemeat
  9. Top each pie with a pastry star, sprinkle with sugar and bake in the oven for 18 minutes at 220C
  10. Pour one glass of Sipsmith Sloe Gin for you. Pour another one for Santa. Sit back and hope you’re not on the naughty list.

Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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