Statement Dining | April 1, 2016 | Food
When it comes to puds, what could be more light and delightfully, quirkily English than a fool? Well, a trifle perhaps… but the two are self-effacingly-named sisters in the canon of the country’s cuisine.
Crumbles are wonderful for chilly days (see our pick of the best hot puds) but with rhubarb already adding a bright splash to our farmers’ markets and gooseberries mere weeks away, what better way to celebrate spring than whipping up a fool?
What is a fool?
The first documented mention of fool as a dessert was in 1598, although it’s thought to date back even further.
Traditionally it’s basically puréed stewed fruit (gooseberries for the purists) folded into custard. Today’s recipes often replace custard with whipped cream, making it similar to a syllabub.
How to make it: The base for all fools
Going back to the classic fool, a good custard is the basis for all versions.
- 250ml whole milk
- ½ tsp vanilla bean paste
- 1 large egg
- 2 large egg yolks
- 100g caster sugar
- 15g cornflour
- Place the milk and vanilla bean paste into a medium saucepan and bring to the boil.
- Meanwhile, put the egg and yolks into a large bowl along with the caster sugar and the cornflour, whisking together until smooth.
- Pour the hot milk onto the eggs, whisking all the time. Pour this back into the pan and stir over a medium heat until the custard has thickened.
- Pour back into the bowl and press a sheet of cling film onto the surface of the custard and refrigerate until cold.
Apart from the whipped cream option, Xanthe Clay says her favourite fool base is a mix of whipped cream and Greek yogurt, which she says ‘lends a crème fraîche-like complexity to the flavour’.
She warns against using powdered, tinned or even premium chilled custards, saying they contain too much vanilla for delicate fruits.
Gooseberry – the classic
Image source: Real Food (Tesco)
Serves 4 – 6
- 500g sharp cooking gooseberries
- 3 tbsp caster sugar
- Juice of ½ lemon
- Top and tail the gooseberries and put into a pan with the sugar and a couple of tablespoons of water.
- Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Once the fruit has burst, taste for sweetness and allow to cool before refrigerating.
- Crush and fold into the base of custard or whipped cream. Don’t feel you need to combine thoroughly – it’s better to ripple the fruit through the custard more randomly, giving different flavours with each mouthful.
The twists: Bring out the flavour of the gooseberries even more with elderflower. Either toss some fresh flower heads into the pan or add a little cordial to the simmering water.
You could also sprinkle crushed Amaretti biscuits over the top of the finished fool.
Rhubarb – the English special
Serves 4 – 6
- 450g rhubarb, roughly chopped
- 5 tbsp caster sugar
- Juice and zest of one orange (optional)
- Add the rhubarb to a pan with the sugar and orange zest and juice if required. Cover and heat gently, not boiling, until tender.
- Remove the lid, increase the heat a little and allow some of the juice to evaporate. Taste for sweetness and drain, reserving the juice. Allow to cool and chill.
- Crush and fold into the base of custard or whipped cream as for the gooseberry fool. Top with a drizzle of the reserved juice.
The twists : Sprinkle with crushed ginger biscuits or chopped stem ginger. If using stem ginger, stir a little of the syrup through the cream or custard base for an extra layer of flavour.
Pineapple and mango – the tropical
Image source: Serious Eats
It may be an English special but the fool works equally well with tropical fruit, as in this recipe, inspired by one from Serious Eats.
- 1 fresh pineapple, chopped finely
- 3 – 4 tbsps granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 mango, peeled and cut into small dice
- Put the pineapple and 1 tablespoon of the sugar into a pan. Simmer over a medium heat, stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes, until the fruit has softened. If the pineapple looks dry, add a little water.
- Remove from heat, stir in the lemon juice and taste for sweetness. Adjust with sugar or lemon juice to taste. Cool and chill.
- Fold into cream or custard base, adding the fresh mango as you go.
The twists: Sprinkle with toasted coconut flakes or flaked almonds.