This sherry trifle is lighter than a Christmas pudding and I always remember us having it around Christmas time as children. It is one of my mother’s recipes and she always made this for special occasions. I can remember helping – my love for cooking goes back to those days.

The custard recipe is worth keeping. You will use it over and over. It is great with an apple crumble or apple tart. You can make it the night before or even earlier. It will keep in the fridge for four days. The poached fruit will also keep for a week and is great with pancakes, a pavlova, or just with cream or ice cream.

Port is sometimes nice instead of the sherry. It is worth getting the best fruit you can. The Simply Better fruits are all produced in Ireland by quality producers like Pat Clarke from Stamullen and Des Jeffares in Wexford.

The sticky gingerbread pudding is a bit like a sticky toffee pudding with ginger and walnuts. You could also serve this with custard. If you make it in individual moulds, remember that it will cook in about half the time.

It has been a strange year for everyone. We at MacNean are delighted to be open again on 18 December and we are so looking forward to meeting our customers again. Thank you all for your support and understanding during the year.

My second RTÉ Home Chef - Christmas Special is on Thursday, 17 December at 7pm. I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I did making it.

Happy cooking,



Vera’s Sherry Trifle

200g (7oz) Madeira cake, broken into pieces

300ml (½ pint) cream

toasted flaked almonds, to decorate

pomegranate seeds, to decorate

spun sugar, to decorate (optional)

For the custard:

300ml (½ pint) milk

100ml (3½fl oz) cream

½ vanilla pod, split in half

lengthways and seeds scraped out

5 egg yolks

4 tbsp caster sugar

2 tsp cornflour

For the fruit:

100ml (3½fl oz) sweet sherry

100g (4oz) caster sugar

½ vanilla pod, split in half

lengthways and seeds scraped out

1 x 500g (18oz) bag of frozen fruits of the forest

  • 1 To make the custard, put the milk, cream and vanilla pod and seeds in a heavy-based pan set over a gentle heat and cook until it nearly reaches the boil – but don’t allow to boil.
  • 2 Meanwhile, put the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour in a large bowl and whisk together until pale and thickened.
  • 3 Remove the hot milk and cream mixture from the heat and slowly whisk it into the egg mixture through a fine sieve until smooth. Discard the vanilla pod and pour back into the pan, then set over a gentle heat.
  • 4 Cook, without allowing it to boil, until the custard coats the back of a wooden spoon, stirring continuously. Remove from the heat and leave to cool while covered with a piece of cling film pressed directly on the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming on top.
  • 5 Prepare the fruit. Put the sherry in a large pan with the sugar and vanilla seeds and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for four to five minutes, until syrupy, stirring occasionally.
  • 6 Stir in the frozen fruits of the forest and set aside until cooled, stirring occasionally. The fruits should defrost naturally in the hot syrup but still hold their shape.
  • 7 Scatter the madeira cake over the base of a 1.5-litre (2½ pint) glass serving bowl. Spoon over the fruit and cover with the cooled custard.
  • 8 Chill for one hour, until the custard is firmer, or up to 24 hours is fine.
  • 9 When ready to serve, whip the cream in a bowl until you have achieved soft peaks. Put spoonfuls on top of the custard, then gently spread with a palette knife or the back of a spoon to cover the custard completely (or you can use a piping bag).
  • 10 Sprinkle over the toasted flaked almonds and pomegranate seeds and decorate with some spun sugar if liked, then place straight on the table to serve.
  • Festive sticky gingerbread with butterscotch sauce

    Serves six to eight

    250g (9oz) pitted dates, chopped

    400ml (14fl oz) boiling water

    ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

    250g (9oz) light brown sugar

    150g (5oz) butter, softened, plus extra for greasing

    3 large eggs

    25g (1oz) stem ginger in syrup,

    drained and finely chopped

    1 tbsp ground ginger

    350g (12oz) self-raising flour

    2 tbsp treacle

    100g (4oz) walnuts, roughly chopped

    For the butterscotch sauce:

    175g (6oz) light brown sugar

    100g (4oz) butter

    250ml (9fl oz) cream

    3 tbsp golden syrup

    1 tbsp treacle

    ½ tsp sea salt flakes

  • 1 Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/gas mark 4). Butter a 1.5-litre (2½ pint) baking dish.
  • 2 Put the dates in a heatproof bowl and pour over the boiling water, then stir in the bicarbonate of soda and soak for 10 minutes.
  • 3 Using an electric hand-held mixer, beat the sugar and butter in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Mix in the eggs one at a time.
  • 4 Add the stem ginger and ground ginger along with the flour, treacle and date mixture and beat until evenly combined. Finally, fold in the walnuts.
  • 5 Transfer the batter into the greased dish and bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. If you think it’s becoming too brown close to the end of the cooking time, cover with foil.
  • 6 Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  • 7 Meanwhile, to make the butterscotch sauce, put the sugar in a heavy-based pan with the butter, cream, golden syrup and treacle. Bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then allow to bubble for a couple of minutes until you have achieved a smooth sauce. Stir in the salt.
  • 8 Pour some of the butterscotch sauce over the warm pudding and put the rest into a jug to serve alongside.