Before we talk about the grown-up jelly above – sorry it is not elegantly formed in a fancy mould by the way – a moment to recall our jelly years.
Jelly, just saying the word makes me happy.
When I was little I thought jelly was not only delicious – yummy was probably the word I used back then – it was fun and encouraged all sorts of naughtiness and silliness. You didn’t just eat jelly, you giggled as it wobbled in the bowl and wiggled on the spoon, from which it often escaped, flopping on the table, splat, giggles dissolved into hysterics. You didn’t just swallow jelly, oh no there was serious squelching and gargling to be done before that.
‘She leapt up on the telly, she pirouetted on the cat, she gargled with some jelly and she spat in Grandpa’s hat’ Brain Patten ‘Gargling with Jelly
My mum used to make us happy, instant puddings with either a packet of Rountrees concentrated orange jelly cubes and a tin of tangerines or red cubes. Red cubes of course, were strawberry, but at that age jelly was all about colour, you didn’t tell your best friend your were having lime jelly, it was green jelly which for obvious reasons was the funniest of all.
More than one of those packets never made it to the table, as it wasn’t long before we cottoned on to the fact a packet of concentrated jelly is effectively a great big bouncy gummy sweet. My brother and I would clamber up the pantry shelves to swipe one and then hide behind the sofa scoffing our jelly loot.
My jelly years like my childhood were happy. Even when I became a stroppy and rather unhappy teenager, asserting my independence and angst by pulling my sleeves down so far I appeared to have lost both hands, wearing industrial quantities of black eyeliner and dabbling in various food fads, I would happily forget to be fussy in the presence of jelly. My hands would appear and I would join my younger siblings in a gargle.
As we grew up, so did Jelly in our house. Mum started using leaves of gelatine and simmering up delicate jellies sweetened with fresh fruit and more often than not a generous dose of alcohol, Sauternes, muscat, port. I think I was about 15 when I first tasted Port jelly – grown-up jelly my mum said – deep ruby-red port and a little sugar simmered with leaves of gelatine and then left to set. I thought I was in heaven, delicate, deeply flavoured yet still wibbly and a bit silly, I seem to remember my dad winking at me as he raised the spoonful of quivering jelly to his lips, then almost imperceptibly he slurped, then squelched and I giggled and did the same. My palate had grown-up a little, but faced with jelly, I clearly had not and more importantly, nor had my Dad. .
Then I forgot about jelly, for the last 20 years I have been almost bereft of jelly. I seem to remember I ate a rather nice muscat jelly at a very serious dinner party once, but the company was tedious and nobody even smiled let alone giggled as it wobbled, so that doesn’t count. Oh and various trifles with a jelly layer but that’s not proper wibbly, wobbly jelly of the sweet gargling kind.
Then about a week ago, I found this recipe.
I managed to spray the whole kitchen with orange juice which was not entirely necessary. I arrived home after work, not only had it set but Vincenzo had cleaned up my mess, the two best things that had happened all day. We ate it for pudding, fresh, clean, fragrant, the slivers of oranges dissolving in your mouth. Grown-up jelly indeed, but with an unmistakable wibbly, wobbliness which made it impossible to take it too seriously.
Prosecco and orange Jelly
- 8 good, juicy oranges
- 2 tbsp caster sugar
- 5 leaves of gelatine
- About 200ml extra freshly squeezed orange juice strained
- 250ml champagne or prosecco
Put the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water to soak until spongy.
Using a sharp serrated knife cut the skin and pith from the oranges. The best way to do this is to cut a slice from each end of the orange, stand the fruit on its end and then cut downwards in a curved motion.
Take a peeled orange in your hand and over a bowl slice between and against the membrane to allow a segment to fall out. You want delicate slivers without any pith or membrane.
Strain the juice created by segmenting the oranges into a measuring jug and top up with the freshly squeezed orange juice until you have 250ml.
In a small pan warm the orange juice and sugar over a modest heat and add the gelatine leaves. Stir until the gelatine is melted,
Take the pan off the heat and then slowly add the prosecco – it will fizz so stir very gently.
Line a terrine mould with cling film and pile in the orange segments. Pour over the orange and prosecco and gently nudge the segments around to distribute them evenly.
Put in the fridge to set for at least 4 hours or overnight.
To serve dip the mould in hot water for a few seconds and then invert onto a serving plate. Slice carefully using a serrated knife dipped in hot water.
Eat and feel free to gargle and giggle.