If the French specialise in gateaux, the English traditionally have specialised in desserts involving cream, fruit and jelly. The most obvious example of this is trifle, but there are many other equally delightful recipes, now languishing in obscurity. This is one such dish, adapted from a recipe in the 1930s cook-book Good Things in England by Florence White (an invaluable source of authentic English recipes, if a little vague occasionally as to quantities; the book is still available from Persephone Books, a small London mail order feminist press) and significantly simplified and modernised. The sweet was originally called ‘Grassy Corner Pudding’, but since I have left out the pistachio nuts that were supposed to form the ‘grass’ by being embedded in the lemon jelly, I thought it wise to change the name. Florence White says that it was customarily served to Cambridge undergraduates (!) during the summer term, and it remains a lovely hot weather dessert, since it is cool and refreshing. The fat content is high, so it should only be served on special occasions. I used kosher gelatine throughout in order to get rid of the unpleasant tang that comes from using animal gelatine. The base was made using a commercial jelly powder, but the dessert would probably be even nicer if the base used real lemon juice, sugar and gelatine. You may add more sugar to the recipe as you wish, but don’t over sweeten it because the flavour of the berries must be allowed to come through. You can use raspberries or blackberries instead of strawberries. This is a subtle and refined dessert; I suggest serving it with Earl Grey tea and crumbly biscuits.
Requirements: 1 cup of fresh strawberries (or raspberries, or blackberries) 500 ml (1 pint) of whipping cream 1 packet of commercial lemon jelly powder 2 packets of kosher gelatine Vanilla flavouring White sugar Electronic blender Electronic hand mixer Large, deep dish with a flat bottom (if you use a clear bowl, the stripes of the dessert will show through)
Pour approximately half the lemon jelly powder into the bottom of the bowl, make up according to the instructions on the packet, put it in the fridge and let it set.
Wash, de-leaf, and chop up the strawberries. Place in the blender and blend. Lightly sweeten to taste, then liquefy. Put the strawberries in a bowl and set overnight using one packet of gelatine. The next day, pour approximately half of the cream into a bowl, add one half of a packet of kosher gelatine and two teaspoons of white sugar (or to taste), and then mix on high speed to whip it into very stiff peaks. Carefully fold it into the strawberry mixture.
Pour the remainder of the cream into a bowl, add the rest of the gelatine and two teaspoons of sugar (or to taste), and a teaspoon of vanilla flavouring. Whip until extremely stiff.
Then layer the two mixtures alternately, smoothing out with a spoon, on top of the jelly base in the bowl. Put it in the fridge to set overnight. Before serving, if you wish, you can place fruit slices (strawberries, bananas, etc) on top of the dessert. Spoon out of the dish to serve; do not try to turn it out of the dish. –Isabel Taylor