Carolyn Robb’s Trifle Royal
Image and recipe extracted from ‘The Royal Touch’ by Carolyn Robb (£25, ACC Editions). Photograph by Simon Brown
“Working at Kensington Palace was my dream job,” says Carolyn Robb, who spent 13 years as a chef in the Royal household. Born and raised in South Africa, Robb has loved cooking ever since she was a child, helping her mother in the kitchen, and after studying languages at university, she decided to pursue her passion for food, gaining a diploma in Cordon Bleu Cookery at the Surrey-based Tante Marie school. She was overjoyed when she successfully interviewed for a role as the chef to the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, a position she held for two years before landing the job of executive chef to the Prince and Princes of Wales.
Robb has fond memories of preparing meals for William and Harry, who were then both young children. “It was really varied, family-style cooking: British classics such as shepherd’s pie or bangers and mash,” she recalls. “We used a lot of fresh produce from the garden, and everything was always made from scratch, even the ice cream that I often served for dessert.”
An average day might have involved rising at 7am to serve a light breakfast, including for the 15-odd resident staff in the household; whipping up a freshly prepared salad or sandwich for lunch; presenting Prince Charles with his favourite tea-time treat, a slice of fruit-cake; and then making a fairly late evening meal. “There was lots of entertaining to do, too, whether for a few friends or for a big charitable event,” remembers Robb. “We’d always base our dishes around what was in season, so it might have been pasta or risotto with asparagus from the garden, or Highgrove lamb with gratin dauphinois. It was usually butler service – guests could help themselves, rather than food being plated up elaborately for them.”
Robb’s new cookbook, The Royal Touch, collates some of her favourite recipes and is, she says, designed to show that “food doesn’t have to be extravagant to be presented to VIPs – you can elevate a simple dish just by tweaking the presentation.” Here’s one of the delectable recipes from the collection…
Carolyn Robb’s Trifle Royal
1 x 135g packet of strawberry jelly, made up with 450ml water and set in a shallow dish
120g small strawberries
60g caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
300ml double cream
20 crisp amaretti biscuits
A handful of mint leaves
4 small sprigs of mint
Make up the jelly and leave it to set. You should do this several hours before you start preparing the rest of the trifle.
Prepare the strawberries, raspberries and blueberries by washing, drying and hulling where necessary. Reserve a handful of the best ones for decoration.
Cook the blackberries in a little water with half the sugar and the vanilla. When soft, purée with a stick blender and rub through a sieve to remove the pips. Keep on one side.
Whip the cream with the remaining sugar.
Once the jelly has set, dice it into small squares and divide half of it between four stem glasses or tumblers.
Add a layer of whipped cream, using one third of the cream divided between the glasses.
Crush the amaretti biscuits and sprinkle half of the crumbs onto the cream.
Divide the remaining jelly between the glasses and top with a layer of blueberries and raspberries. Drizzle with the cassis.
Mix the blackberry purée into half of the remaining whipped cream and spoon it onto the fruit, dividing it between the glasses.
Sprinkle with the remaining crushed amaretti and add a layer of sliced strawberries. Chill for at least 30 minutes.
When ready to serve the trifle, shred the mint leaves finely and fold them into the remaining whipped cream. Spread the cream onto the top of each trifle and decorate with a few berries and a small sprig of mint.
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