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!
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
- 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)
- 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.
- 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!)
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