My mother and father have resided in a nursing home since early 2012. Mum has severe Alzheimer’s disease and can no longer be taken out of the home. Dad has some physical issues but is strong mentally and his appetite for fine food is undiminished.
So, knowing that we had other plans for Christmas Day, Maggie and I offered to prepare and share a festive meal with him on the Sunday before Christmas. I’m not sure whether or not it was a sub-conscious response to Dad’s age, but the menu we hit upon was decidedly retro.
We began with an entree of prawn cocktail, a combination of prawn flesh and thick cream flavoured with Worcestershire and tomato sauces, lemon juice, salt and pepper, served atop a bed of shredded lettuce. For better or for worse, this has been served as part of countless thousands of Australian festive meals for as long as we can remember. Today’s version was up there with the best we’ve had – top quality South Australian prawns, a well-balanced sauce and fresh cos lettuce that Maggie had shredded with our bread knife.
No photo available – we were too busy getting started!
The main course comprised roast chicken (plus herb, bread and prosciutto stuffing), potato roasted in olive oil with whole cloves of local garlic and chopped sage and rosemary, and a beetroot and carrot parcel, all cooked in the Weber Q; fresh green beans that Maggie had topped, tailed and put through a slicer; gravy; and a slice or two of the ham we had prepared on Friday.
For dessert, we made a peach and raspberry trifle. A trifle can be prepared using a cooked custard or one that is not cooked. We prefer the latter, as we only make a trifle in summer, using fresh seasonal fruit. The peaches are poached as indicated in the recipe for poached pears.
3 eggs, separated
70g caster sugar
¼ tsp vanilla essence
150g mascarpone cheese
1/3 cup each of medium-dry and sweet sherry
6-8 sponge finger biscuits (savoiardi)
2 poached peaches
1 punnet (185g) of raspberries
toasted almond flakes
- Place the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla essence in a large bowl and beat until pale and creamy (about 5 minutes). Add the mascarpone and beat until smooth.
- Combine the sherries in a wide, shallow bowl. Dip one of the biscuits in the sherry and, when it is well soaked, place it on the base of a straight-sided dish that will hold all the biscuits snugly (we use 6 or 7 biscuits and a glass dish that is 20cm in diameter). Repeat with the remaining biscuits. Drizzle ¼ cup of the poaching liquid over the biscuits.
- Cut each peach in half, remove the stone and slice the flesh finely
- Beat the egg whites until soft peaks are formed. In two batches, fold the whites into the yolk and mascarpone mixture.
- Spoon 1/3 of the mascarpone mixture over the biscuits. Arrange half of the peach slices and 1/3 of the raspberries as the next layer. Repeat once. Add the last of the mascarpone mixture, distribute the remaining berries and scatter with toasted almond flakes.
- Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for several hours so the trifle can steep in all the flavours.