English cookery classics: Peggy's world famous trifle

My trifle

As seventies kids in the backwaters of Devon, we weren't exactly brought up at a time of gastronomic excellence. Avocados were the height of exotica and prawn cocktails glowed like the luminous socks we wore. Chicken Kiev hid boiling garlic butter guaranteed to napalm your palate and Sara Lee black forest gateau appeared on every "adventurous" dinner party menu. They were happy days...

Even during this period of gastronomic austerity, mum's cooking stood out as something special. I even remember one guest pretending to faint just to avoid second helpings. She did, however, have one party piece, which was wheeled out at every major festivity: Peggy's "world famous" English Trifle (her words, not mine).

Now, I know it's bad etiquette to share other people's recipes without permission, but in this case I offer her pride-and-joy as a health warning rather than any attempt to claim credit. I also think that 12 sponge fingers, 2 packets of jelly, one can of mandarin segments and some squirty cream could only loosely be described as a recipe, so I think I'm covered.

For those of you who think this sounds similar to tiramisu, the classic mainstay of Italian cuisine - it wasn't. If you have fond memories of each of those ingredients and think together the dish must have been a gastronomic triumph - it wasn't. It was huge, it was ugly - but to my childish palate it was also delicious.

My most vivid memory of this culinary masterpiece was using it to custard pie Dad at a dinner he was hosting for his new boss. I could barely lift the huge glass bowl off the table, but I knew I had to try. With one mighty effort I launched the custard dessert towards his bearded face, only to succeed in hitting his crotch. I was only four, but it was enough for him to lose both his cool and any hope he was harbouring of an early promotion, and my moment of "comedy gold" ended with a well-deserved week of hard labour.

Amazingly, even with 35 years to dull the memory, Dad still holds a grudge. "I can't believe you managed to get away without having to eat that c!@p".

So, as a tribute to mum's "world famous" trifles, and in an effort to erase dad's memories of them, here is my take. Enjoy.