“a symphony of flavors”

layered strawberry and lemon curd pots

 jump to the recipe

easy breadless trifle recipe

It was our first dinner party in Quito. In fact, we had the dinner as a way of thanking the family who had found us the apartment. We had been so caught up in the madness of getting a visa that we hadn’t had time to properly thank them.

I was a bit rusty and it took me some time to come up with a menu I was happy with. I wanted to keep things simple but focused on good food. There would be soup, obviously. A shredded pork and corn salad. At the last moment I threw in a Trou Normand, because I just couldn’t help myself. Following that would be a main of roasted potatoes, blanched and buttered green beans and steak. We would finish with some kind of dessert incorporating the lemon curd, because it was just so tasty! Now doesn’t that sound like a lovely, foolproof dinner party menu?

fresh strawberries

It wasn’t.

Allow me to get real with you. I made this soup and I was really happy with it. Even toasted those seeds and had them standing by. But I topped the soup with them way before people were ready to sit down and eat, and they kind of …softened in an unpleasant way. So rather than crisp pops of nutty texture, my guests were just eating seeds. Like birds. As we pecked at the soup I held back the “Thank you!” speech. Next course.

strawberry lemon curd trifle recipe

I had high hopes for the salad. Wedges of roasted corn, some mixed greens, cherry tomatoes and of course, the pork. Here’s the thing with that. I had cooked the pork and rather abusively ‘shredded’ it, which it clearly did not want to submit to, and then kept it warm in the oven. And by ‘kept it warm’, I mean totally forgot about it until it had begun to shrivel from being dried out. This is where a savvy cook would say, “Toss the pork! The dish will stand better without it. It’s a failure of execution!” (I could practically hear a baffled Tom Colicchio before me at judges table. “What I don’t get is, why would you leave on the dried pork?!) I ignored him insolently. “I stand by my dish!” I doused it in some oil and served. Chew chew chew. Yeah, not the time for the speech.

easy lemon curd trifle recipe

I hoped the Trou Normand would turn things around. It’s always a fun surprise to have a palate cleanser and while I didn’t have access to Calvados, I thought sorbet and a splash of vodka would be a nice touch! How could I go wrong? Here’s how… see I actually couldn’t find sorbet or anything like it, so I settled on some kind of fruit ice cream. (I know, I know, anything that starts with an unidentifiable ingredient is probably not a good idea.) But darn it, I had the idea in mind so I forged ahead! (I am a stubborn soul.) In the back of my mind was a voice (Tom’s?) shouting “Don’t do it! It’s a mistake!” But the voice served only to spur me on, daring me to prove it wrong. Alas, the voice was right. Not only was the ice cream neon pink, but I had misjudged the size of the shooter glasses in relation to the spoons, so people were actually forced to have a milky sweet vodka “shot”. Thank you speech?? …Nah.

individual strawberry lemon curd desserts

At this point bringing out the main was like adding insult to injury. The beans were fine and the potatoes scrumptious, but if I don’t know how to cook a potato, growing up in the Maritimes did nothing for me. The meat was my enemy on the plate. I am still getting used to the cuts of meat here and of course I bought an extra tough cut and then attempted to grill it. Worst of all, …I under-seasoned. (Tom just asked me to pack my knives and go. “Just…go.”) And one of the guests requested salt. Is there any worse feeling when throwing a dinner party than someone asking for salt? Bringing her the giant glass jar I keep the salt in probably seemed mean-spirited, but it’s just where I keep the salt. I should have thought of putting it in a cute little dish, but I was too bruised and frankly, I was still mad at Tom Colicchio. Speech? What speech?

simple and easy lemon curd desserts

It would soon be over. I had only to serve dessert. I had prepped them the day before and just needed to whip the cream to top them off. I brought them out to the guests. I heard gentle oohs and appreciative ahhs. Did someone even clap their hands together? I may have imagined that. They dug in. I held my breath. There was nothing to be heard other than “mmmmm!” I was waiting for the judgment. I was feeling defensive and ready to shout, “What? Does it need more SALT?” Then I realized I should just try it.

modern trifle recipe

If there is such a thing as a dish of redemption, people, this was it. And I had pretty much resolved by that point to shut down tastes good to me! and rely on a daily diet of instant ramen noodles with those flavor packets. But this dessert right here? This was good. I knew it was good! And the most flattering confirmation came through the words of the head of the family in English: “It is a symphony of flavors.”

This was it. The absolute perfectly appropriate moment. “We really wanted to have this dinner party to thank you…” And with that, the speech was delivered after all.

easy trifle recipe

layered strawberry and lemon curd pots recipe

1 quantity of homemade lemon curd

400g strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/3 cup cranberry juice
1/4 cup red wine (I used an Ecuadorian Cabernet)
juice and zest of one orange (amounts to 1/4 cup juice)
1 tbs sugar
a handful of fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream
1 tbs orange liqueur
1/2 tsp sugar

I am not good at measuring. But I really tried to keep track of all my adjustments as I went along to give you a, (dare I say it?) foolproof recipe. I was reluctant to call it a trifle, because obviously there is no sponge cake. But whatever you choose to call it, it will be delicious!

So those lovely lovely strawberries. We put them in a small pot with the cranberry juice, wine, orange juice and zest and sugar. Bring to a quick boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes or until reduced a bit and very fragrant. Stir in the basil and cook for another minute. Remove from heat.

For the whipped topping, Just combine your cream, orange liqueur and sugar in a deep bowl and whisk the daylights out of it. When thickened to your likeness, stop. And set aside.

You can use whatever vessel you want. I used short water glasses which yielded 6 generous portions with some leftovers. But obviously depending on what you go with, there could be more or less than that. So we grab our lemon curd and spoon some into the bottom. Then we spoon in some of the stewed strawberries with the juices. Again with the curd, again with the berries and sauce. Then we spoon on a heaping dollop of the whipped cream, and garnish with some orange rind and basil. Poof! Done.

desserts with lemon curd

The great thing is that you can slap some plastic wrap on it and make them the day before. No fuss. Only flavor.

strawberry and lemon curd trifle

Perhaps my perceived flaws were not so grandiose as I had thought them to be. (I have been told I have an active imagination…) Then again perhaps they were. But I kept in mind the following words:

“I don’t believe in twisting yourself into knots of excuses and explanations over the food you make… Usually one’s cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is vile,…then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile- and learn from her mistakes.” – Julia Child

lemon curd dessert recipe

Good thing, because one delicious dessert wiped the slate clean, and the dinner party was deemed a success. All was right again in my culinary bubble. Tom, I forgive you.

posted in lend me some sugar .

39 Responses to “a symphony of flavors”

  1. Dori says:

    I’m so glad your dinner party turned out to be a success after all. With a terrific dessert like this one and an awesome hostess, how could it not be?

  2. A symphony indeed this looks utterly fabulous 😀
    I love the colours and flavours involved!

    Choc Chip Uru

  3. The liquids ingredients you used in these are really an amazing flavor combo! Also, I do love sweet fruit and tart curd together. Having a dinner party does kind of put me on pins and needles-at least until it is over and the verdict is in. The quote of the symphony of flavor was what would have relaxed me! Glad you dinner party was a success!

  4. The dessert looks amazing. I’m so glad your guests enjoyed it. I love lemon and strawberries together; they’re made for each other. I’m glad your dinner party turned out to be a success. I’m sure it’s difficult getting acquainted with the food in a different country. I have no doubt that you’ll get there.

  5. Heidi says:

    crying. I am crying over here. what a great post…. I’m such a Tom fan…. glad you didn’t pack your knives….

  6. love2dine says:

    Oh I am drooling over here!

  7. kale says:

    Jennie – It isn’t easy, especially when it comes to the meat! Thanks for the encouraging words.

    Heidi – Ah, Tom. I know it’s Padma who tells people to pack their knives, but I wanted to keep her out of this. This was between me and Tom.

  8. Gorgeous! Simply gorgeous!!

  9. I loved your story, Kale … By the way, you have been nominated for my NEW Food Stories Award for Excellence in Storytelling. Check out my site for the details (foodstoriesblog dot com).

  10. Yeah…I wouldn’t call this “redemption”…I’d call it healing, therapeutic, and DIVINE!!!

    Wow, Kale. Absolutely beautiful!

  11. I’ll bet the whole meal was a whole lot better than you give yourself credit for. Us cooks are always too hard on ourselves, and I’ll bet your guests were just happy to have to go to such an effort for them. Especially after they took one bite of that dessert!

  12. Love the honesty. And the layered strawberry and lemon curd look gorgeous, like summer in a glass. 🙂

  13. I’ve totally lived that horror dinner party… where everything just goes wrong… But thanks at least for the laugh 😉 Better luck next time! LOL. It happens to the best of us. The dessert does look like it’d inspire a few ooohhs and ahhh’s I might need to make it

  14. these sound so delicious! i need to try them!

  15. Emma says:

    Heheheh, what a tale of absolute woe!

    Some people are just weird salt freaks, and they can never get enough. My boyfriend’s like that, sort of. Hah, can I get some salt for this lemon curd, already?? 😉

  16. kale says:

    CJ – thanks for the nod, that’s very sweet!

    Kristi Rimkus – my husband said the same thing. i don’t know who to believe, him, or my outrageously dramatic mind. hmm…

    Marissa – agreed. something about strawberries and lemons screams summer.

    Lauren – you’re right, i must soldier on!

  17. TravelJunkie says:

    that was a nice quote in the end and so true too. this is totally a mouth watering dessert!

  18. Kim Bee says:

    I loved hearing about your dinner party. If it`s any help I once had a candle almost burn down my house at a dinner party. I was just trying to add ambiance and it was a complete disaster. So any party where the house is still standing is a success. This dessert is gorgeous and I bet it tastes remarkable.

  19. Oh, so sorry about the other dishes but that dessert looks to die for. Gorgeous photos and I love your nail polish!

  20. Kristina says:

    Hahah aw your poor pork! You had me laughing out loud, you’ve gotta stand by your dish! When I threw a dinner party a few weeks ago I kid you not.. I served black sweet potato fries. Deliciously charred 🙂 Your strawberry lemon curd pots look AMAZING though! Seriously gorgeous pics!!

  21. Katia says:

    That sounds a great and summery combo Kale, you can’t fail with it! It looks delicious, it tastes delicious… what can we ask more?! What more could we ask?! You delivered a lovely grand finale 🙂

  22. I’ve overcooked meat at a dinner party and I was so embarrassed! Your pot look delicious and btw love your nails too! 😉

  23. kale says:

    Kim Bee – That comment pretty much made me lose it from laughing. I like your perspective. The house was indeed still standing. Therefore, it was a wild success. 😉

    Julie & Lorraine – Why thank you!! My sis sent a care package with tons of fun girly stuff she knew I would love. And of course she included a fabulous nail polish! She always knows what little treats will make me feel good.

    Katia – You’re such a sweetie-pie, thank you!

  24. Oh no! I’ve had similar dinner party experiences. I always break the rule of ‘don’t make anything new for company.’ I know I should use a standby easy recipe, but I like to venture out & panic myself minutes before the guests arrive!

    Your dessert looks fabulous! Thanks for the sweet note on my site 🙂

  25. Kristina says:

    Hi Kaleigh! I’m back 🙂 Wanted to let you know I nominated you for the Food Stories award!! Check it out at (http://foodstoriesblog.com/food-stories-award/!

  26. kankana says:

    strawberry .. red wine and creme! That’s a treat I can eat all day long 🙂

  27. Liz says:

    Your menu sounds fantastic…and I’m certain it was yummy despite a couple glitches. And your layered dessert was certainly the show stopper…it’s just gorgeous!

  28. I think we’ve all been there one time or another! My first dinner party I planned so many courses I spent the entire time in the kitchen and didn’t even get to visit with the guests. They finished eating and went home, and then I was stuck with cleaning up! Live and learn though right? Dessert does indeed go a long way…

  29. Oh the salt comment would have been such a blow to me too. Thank goodness the dessert save the day in the end. And frankly as long as dessert was good I don’t ever really remember what I ate for the first part of the meal anyhow.

  30. Parsley Sage says:

    I’m sorry, but I had to laugh. Bless you! It’s like my worst nightmare and WHY i don’t host dinner parties. We’re our own worst critics though so I’m sure it wasn’t nearly as bad as you thought it was. And what a dessert! Symphony is right. BAM!

  31. kale says:

    DessertForTwo – I know! I’m like you, I just can’t help but roll the dice! (And you’re welcome; you really do have fantastic recipes on your site.)

    Kristina – Thank you for thinking of me!

    Jen – Aw, yeah that could leave you wondering what it was all for!

    Parsley Sage – It’s good to laugh. I was!

  32. love2dine says:

    They look delightful! Absolutely perfect.

  33. Those strawberry desserts look lovely and delectable indeed. I am not surprised to know that everybody dug into it.

  34. I get that. Anything to do with application of visas and what not is always tiring. btw, a symphony of flavours indeed!

  35. Eftychia says:

    Perfect dessert! I wish I could have some…

  36. Alexis says:

    Gorgeous photos! Can’t wait to try this out.

  37. will you ship one to me please??!!?!?! these look so delicious!!!

  38. Ashley says:

    The dessert looks delicious and your photos are beautiful. Glad the dinner party worked out!

  39. I love it when I end up with a bit of extra lemon curd in the fridge. Such a good mix with the strawberries. Stop making me want dessert before lunch!

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