Frozen Apricot and Basil Trifle on Saffron Custard
Sometimes, we have the craziest ideas. Or at least I do- but I am sure you have noticed that by now! I was talking to a girlfriend yesterday about children's birthday parties and how every childhood birthday I could remember was only complete with a wibbly-wobbly English trifle to thrill the little ones. Of course, they were invariably those "out of the box" affairs, with canned peaches, instant jelly, spongecake and custard... topped with artificial powdered cream... but still we loved them!
So I set out to make a slightly more "grown-up" version, with a shot of vodka and one of my typical flavor twists into the bargain... and this is it!
To make the semifreddo, take some fresh apricots, removed the stones and skin, chop coarsely and pop them into the freezer. In the meantime, dissolve some instant jelly powder into some whipping cream. I was thinking of something along the lines of a panna cotta... just without having to do the cooking! I then took out the apricots and put them into my mixer with a shot of vodka, a little confectioners sugar and the jelly/cream mix. I whizzed them up until everything was nice and smooth. Easy. And I had a shot of vodka to reward myself on being so brilliant and lazy at the same time. Because basically, all the hard work was already done! Next step is to prepare some little cups for pouring the apricot mix into. I line them with Ceran Wrap to make it easier to remove the finished semifreddi later. I finely sliced some fresh basil leaves and lined the cup before pouring in the mixture- I thought that these would look decorative and add some nice flavor. And as usual I was right! I filled the cups and chilled them for 2 hours, after which time they were firm and ready to serve. But before I did that I took a whole lot more basil and prepared a sweet syrup. To do this, I boiled a mix of 50% sugar and 50% water together. As soon as the sugar crystals are dissolved, add A LOT of basil leaves and let these render down. I would say that if you have 1 cup of syrup in all, you will need 2 cups of basil. Let this cook down for 5-10 minutes and whiz together in a blender. Now pour through a fine sieve and return to the stove. As soon as it has acquired the desired consistency, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
The next step was to make the custard. So I put down my drink. This isn't difficult at all, but it is best to have your wits about you. And some ice-cubes ready. Now- over a steam-bath, whisk together your eggs, sugar and a little saffron. Remember, a little goes a long way, but it will give your custard a beautiful golden color. Add your warm cream and keep whisking together, adding some fresh vanilla. Once it has begun to thicken, remove it from the heat and continue whisking over ice. There are plenty of recipes for custard... but if you want to use an instant mix and you give me another shot of vodka to stay quiet, I won't tell!
The way I served mine, was to spread out a small amount of the thick custard on my plate and to set the semifreddo on top. I decorated it with some slices of
"savoiardi" or "lady fingers"... although I would NOT like to bump into the kind of lady that has fingers like THAT in a dark alley! In any case, these can be carefully sliced and arranged around the frozen trifle.
Pour a little of the basil syrup over the top and you will see how the sponge slices soak it up when it reaches the bottom. This is not simply very pretty- it also helps keep the custard looking pretty too!
And of course, if you want to prepare this for children, you can leave out the vodka and basil. But then on the other hand, you may simply offer them a scoop of regular ice cream and enjoy their portion for yourselves!