The Weekend Cookbook Challenge
I loved the idea of digging into my oldest cookbook and attempting a recipe for the first time, as suggested by Alicat from Something So Clever and Sara of I Like To Cook in their Weekend Cook Book Challenge. Like everyone else, I'm guilty of a rather large collection of cookbooks, of which barely an eighth has been fully delved into and used to its fullest potential.
As I trawled my shelves, I tried hard to remember exactly the book that started my collection. Was it Nigella Lawson's How To Be A Domestic Goddess? Mary Berry's The Complete Cookbook? Or Zarina's Home Cooking by Zarinah Ibrahim? And then my eyes fell to a tatty red spine languishing quietly at the end of the second shelf.
I'd almost forgotten about this old treasure. With its blue hard cover and yellowing pages, this was the cookbook that I spent much of my childhood poring over, pointing out recipes that sounded tempting to my mother, who would then oblige me by whipping them up. Now here it was, on my shelf, an heirloom of sorts, with the binding coming charmingly loose and pages and pages of old-school recipes written in my mother's amazingly neat hand (the lack of computers certainly did something for good handwriting). In between those pages are also similarly yellow and tatty loose-leaf pages of recipes painstakingly typed out on the old Olivetti typewriter.
Though I've had the cookbook for a couple of years now -- my mother knows all the recipes in there by heart, it seems -- I've never actually used it. Why would I need to? Some dishes are best left to mum to produce. The cookbook would eventually be her legacy to me, but in the meantime, traditional Peranakan sweets like Kueh Ko Swee or Kueh Bangkit are best eaten hot out of my mother's ancient steamer (I intend to make that mine eventually too) and oven.
So, when it came to choosing a recipe to try out, I decided to go with one of my childhood favourites: Orange Trifle. This is old-school trifle at it's best -- it's sweet, it's simple enough and it's lip-smackingly good. When we were kids, my mum used to make this at least once a week. When it was sufficiently chilled and ready to eat after dinner, my brothers and I would devour the entire tray in exactly six minutes, sometimes less.
As I read through the recipe, I started to get a bit confused. The instructions in the sponge cake recipe called for me to "whip the egg whites and add in sugar a little at a time and heat well. Then add one yolk at a time and heat well again." I'd never heard of heating eggs for a sponge cake -- maybe she meant heating the eggs in a bowl above a pan of simmering water.
When I called mum, she sounded peeved. "Heat? Why would you heat the eggs?" she asked incredulously.
"Mum, that's what you wrote in the recipe."
"Rubbish, I've been making it for years and I've never heated any eggs."
When I read out the line from the recipe to her, she laughed. "BEAT the eggs! Not heat!"
See what I mean about mum knowing the recipes by heart?
Anyhow, once I figured that out, the rest was a doddle. The trifle was made and eaten in a day.
The following recipe is enough for two trifles. If you do try it, you must let me know how it turned out for you.
My Mum's Orange Trifle
For the sponge cake:
120g self raising flour
60g corn flour
1 tsp vanilla
4 tsp orange juice
120g melted butter
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Whip the egg whites and add in sugar a little at a time. Beat well. Add in one yolk at a time and beat well till thick. Fold in the flour, vanilla and orange juice. Lastly, fold in the melted butter and pour into two ovenproof glass trays.
For the jelly:
1 cup boiling water, 1 box orange jelly powder (or Jello), the grated peel and juice of 1 orange, syrup from 2 cans of mandarin oranges (you'll use the orange wedges for decorating the top)
Mix the jelly powder with hot water until it is dissolved, and then add in the orange juice and the mandarin orange syrup. Mix well. Leave to cool.
For the custard:
1 teacup evaporated milk, half cup fine sugar, 1 cup water, 2 tablespoons custard powder, a pinch of salt
Cook all the above on a slow fire, continuously stirring until it boils. Set aside to cool
For the topping
2 cans (170g) Nestle's Cream (essentially cream with 25% milk fat)
2 cans mandarin orange wedges
Pour jelly mixture onto the cake. Allow the cake to absorb and be soaked in the liquid. Then pour custard over the cake and spread evenly. Next pour the cream over. Spread evening and then arrange orange wedges on top. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.