There’s something humbling about not being able to make jelly.
Who am I kidding? It’s humiliating.
That stuff you have been able to “make” since your mum felt confident to let you near a kettle.
After all, it’s pretty simple: measure it out, mix it up, let it set.
When I decided that my Australian contribution to French Christmas this year would be trifle, I figured the most that could go wrong would be the custard.
The custard was fine.
The jelly on the other hand, wasn’t.
You see, jelly crystals don’t appear to exist in France. Jelly, as we know it in Australia, doesn’t seem to exist there.
Instead, they have gelatine. Gelatine as an ingredient in recipes, not as a means unto itself.
Instructions to use gelatine involve added extras such as milk and cream to create a firm, globby cake.
There are no instructions to create a mould of coloured sugar.
What’s more, there’s not much in the way of quantity in the instructions either.
After failing miserably with the vegetarian friendly agar-agar (read: pathetic substitute) I was initially handed, I decided to try the sheet gelatine.
I would have tried the sheet gelatine earlier but the picture on the packet showed a cake glaze so I thought you layered it, not moulded it.
I’m not good at this baking thing.
The instructions for the sheet gelatine read:
“Temper the sheet of gelatine in cold water for between five and ten minutes. Drain them in a colander. Add it to your hot, but not boiling, preparation. Stir until completely dissolved.”
No mention at all of quantities.
The German translation on the packet didn’t mention any either. Not sure why I thought it would when the French version didn’t but things were getting desperate.
I had by now aced my first ever attempt at making custard. But was almost certainly about to fail my third attempt at making jelly – the French way.
My feeble attempts at “cooking” weren’t going unnoticed either.
When I reached for the electric mixer to beat the eggs and cornflour for the custard, I was shown how to put the beaters in.
I guess there was some kind of a trick to it but it was a reminder that my cooking failures weren’t happening in a vacuum.
A few hours later, Jelly v3.0 had set.
Google and guesswork had delivered.
But it was now over 24 hours since I first put water to gelatine powder and this trifle was getting ridiculous.
I desperately needed to start building the trifle and going “one for the bowl, one for me” with the sherry.
Unsurprisingly, not a staple in French cupboards.
The suggestion I buy a cheap “white Porto” wasn’t well receiver so I taste tested the liquor cabinet for options.
Closest on offer: muscat.
Jam roll. Also not a thing in France.
Not a thing you buy from the supermarket anyway. The French must have far too much time on their hands with all this stuff they make from scratch.
But they do have tiny, individually wrapped jam rolls as lunch box treats.
Really, the only thing straight forward was frozen berries. That I defrosted in front of the fire.
A few hours before we were due to eat it, the trifle was finally made.
And not a single one of the French liked it.
That’s it. Next trip, they’re getting frog in a pond. (BYO ingredients from Australia.)