British by birth, Lynn Barrie has lived not only in England, but West Africa and Pakistan and Westport, Conn., all before moving to Sarasota some eight-and-a-half years ago. She has had great adventures every step along the way — some as grand in scale as summiting Mount Kilimanjaro a couple of years ago. And all that experience comes together in her personal style and in how she entertains. That is something she truly loves to do, and she does it in a way that is both glamorous and warm and friendly.
Barrie and her husband, Rich, frequently have company — “easily two or three times a month, plus smaller gatherings in between,” she says. She likes to set a stage for guests and for it to be different every time but always “exotic and out there.” To keep people moving around, Barrie sometimes serves different courses in different rooms. She says she “loves to stage — presentation is the real fun.” It’s not unusual for her to light 100 candles and to match the staging of the party to the ethnicity of the food, for example serving on the coffee table and seating guests on cushions on the floor for her Moroccan chicken with couscous.
This signature dish is typical of how Barrie likes to entertain. She serves the couscous around the edges of a large dish and piles the mélange of chicken and root veggies high in the center. She has long ago given up preparing meals with lots of dishes and prefers “one big dish, casual and fun.” It might be a korma or Singapore curry or a great shrimp pasta with a homemade fresh tomato sauce.
There are exceptions to that policy, of course – among them Thanksgiving (“Oh my goodness, you should see it!” she exclaims) and Christmas. And then there is her annual Christmas tea party for her girlfriends, numbering around 70, for which she and her sisters prepare a huge array of typical English treats including scones with clotted cream, finger sandwiches and savories.
Barrie’s culinary repertoire, she says, was “picked up mostly from my mother’s cooking.” The English trifle she prepared for “Edibles” is a direct descendent. Trifle comes from leftovers like other famous English dishes such as shepherd’s pie; it was the cook’s solution to leftover cake. Barrie uses store-bought pound cake.
Barrie’s English sherry trifle is considerably evolved from the one her mom made every Sunday. She has added berries to her mom’s canned fruit cocktail.
“Bird’s Custard Powder is a must for this,” she says. “There’s not a home in England that doesn’t have Bird’s (and Bisto Gravy Base) in the kitchen.”
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Lynn’s English Sherry Trifle
2 pound cakes
1 15-ounce can fruit cocktail, drained
2 bags frozen mixed berries, drained
1 pint heavy whipping cream
Bird’s custard (see note below)
1 cup (approximately) cream sherry (Harvey’s Bristol Cream if available)
Slice cake about 1/4-inch thick; spread with jam and line the bottom and sides of a deep glass bowl. Soak cake with sherry. Pour in fruit cocktail and cover with a layer of cake slices. Add berries and cover with custard. Just before serving, whip cream to peaks and spread it over the custard in a thick layer. Decorate with berries, cherries or anything else handy.
For the custard: Use Bird’s Custard Powder per the instructions, but triple the amount of custard and sugar powder to one pint of milk. You want it thick.
+ Be generous with the sherry; when you think you have used enough, use some more and some more after that.
+ Make the dish the night before so the cake and fruit can soak up the sherry. (Do not top with whipped cream until ready to serve.)
+ Bird’s Custard Powder is available locally at Tastefully British (2236 Gulf Gate Drive) and Scots Corner, 3452 17th St.