Recipe: Italo-Australian Strawberry Trifle

This is one of those recipes that sort of evolved as I wandered along Sydney Road on the weekend, and then started poking around in my pantry at home. 

First, I fell for the beautiful tiny strawberries at La Manna, which were just begging to find their way into a dessert of some sort.  Then, my eyes were seduced by the enormous, glowingly-pink rosewater meringues at Josephine’s.  I pictured a sort of hot pink Eton Mess.  But as I came back from my walk today, I found myself drawn to the beautiful handmade sponge fingers at the Pasticceria on the corner of my street.  So I started thinking trifling thoughts… but trifle is very rich, and I really didn’t feel like making custard – especially when I already had meringues in the house and thus no simple use for all those extra egg whites…

A peek into my fridge, however, reminded me that I still had a bit of low-fat ricotta leftover from another recipe last week, as well as half a tub of mascarpone and a lot of low fat Greek yoghurt.    So that was the creamy part taken care of, though it was a little bit bland… which is when I remembered that I had a sachet of powdered strawberry gum, an Australian native ingredient from a Eucalypt with a sweet, fruity, floral sort of flavour that goes well with strawberries.

All that remained was to find a suitable soaking liquid for the sponge fingers, preferably something not too sweet and not too alcoholic – how fortunate that I had most of a bottle of Wild Dog Natural Produce‘s strawberry vinegar in the house.

The result?  A surprisingly light, fresh-tasting dessert with a wild pink topping.  I am not absolutely certain that the meringue was necessary to this recipe, but it certainly gave it a pizzaz it wouldn’t have had otherwise!  The strawberry gum made the ricotta mascarpone cream rather grey-looking, but the flavour was superb – and it complemented the strawberries beautifully.  I’ll be making this again.

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100g mascarpone
100 g low fat ricotta
100 g low fat Greek yoghurt
20 g brown sugar
15 ml powdered strawberry gum (optional, but magnificent if you can get it)
6 bit sponge fingers
1/2 cup strawberry vinegar
2 punnets of strawberries (about 400 g once you’ve hulled them)1 teaspoon raw sugar
1 gigantic pink meringue (vanilla, rosewater, raspberry or another berry flavour)

Now what will you do with it?

Combine the mascarpone, yoghurt, ricotta, sugar and strawberry gum in a bowl.  You will need to beat them fairly vigorously to amalgamate the mascarpone with the yoghurt and ricotta.  Set aside while you make the rest.

Pour the vinegar into a shallow bowl.  Lie two sponge fingers in the vinegar for a few seconds, then turn over and lie them in the vinegar with the other side facing down.  Press these two sponge fingers into the base of a pretty serving bowl.

Hull all the strawberries.  Halve or quarter 100g of the strawberries and scatter them over the sponge fingers in the bowl.  Sprinkle with the raw sugar.

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Spread about half to two thirds of the cream over the strawberries.

Dip the remaining four sponge fingers in the vinegar as you did with the first two, and layer them over the cream.

Spread the remaining cream over the sponge fingers – it will be a very thin layer, and that’s fine.

Arrange the remaining strawberries on top of the cream.

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Roughly crush the pink meringue and scatter over the strawberries.

Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving, so that the flavours have time to learn to get along.

Serve with joy.

Messy, but delicious!

Messy, but delicious!

Variations

This recipe is vegetarian and nut-free.  It’s a dead loss in the dairy-free department – it’s so very dependent on the ricotta cream.  While you could probably do a cashew cream version, that would require a bit more forward planning, and I’m not sure the flavour would be quite right.  You could make this gluten-free by substituting a suitable gluten-free biscuit for the sponge fingers – or you could just make it into a decadent strawberry and ricotta cream fest.   Without the sponge fingers, this is low in fructose, though the ricotta etc make it still fairly high in FODMAPs.  You could also use an egg-free biscuit to make it egg-free, though I’m not sure how well shortbread-style biscuits would soak up the vinegar.

If you can’t get hold of strawberry gum (I got mine from Herbie’s Spices, and you can also get it from the Bush Food Shop), I’d suggest some other sort of sweet herb here – rose geranium would be lovely, and mint would also work.

You could also use just about any berry here and be happy.

I know I’m happy.

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