Suffering fools gladly…

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I was recently chatting with Miss South about the relative dearth of gooseberries for sale; prompted in part by a recent episode of the Food Programme about berries. We both loved gooseberries straight from the garden at our granny’s… the slightly peculiar texture (a little hairy and seedy like pomegranates or tomatoes) and tangy flavour was unlike anything else, and distinctly seasonal. A highly evocative memory of childhood.

An occasional treat, and one which brings back deliciously happy memories, is that of gooseberry fool. Thick cream and fruit, served in glass dishes during halcyon summer weather conditions in the countryside. In my mind’s eye, heavenly. The fact I’ve not had this dessert for so many years has undoubted contributed to a little rose-tinted spectacle wearing on my part, but also led me to crave enjoying this unctuous creamy delight all the more.

So when I saw a couple of punnets in Tesco (I’ve been scouring the markets but haven’t seen any for sale anywhere else) I pounced on them. The particular variety was touted as being sweeter and more suited to desserts than normal, and they had a slight ruddy glow to their green translucency. I was all for following a straightforward recipe for fool, but skimming through the ever-dependable Leon Cookbook I noticed they suggested pairing gooseberries and elderflower, which sounded like a wonderful match. They also suggested mixing greek yoghurt with double cream to create the creamy base, which I thought would add a touch more tang and bite to the flavour. As with all good recipes, it provided a helping hand rather than a restrictive straightjacket… not least as I didn’t have all the ingredients to hand in the correct quantities.

First the fruit got cooked down in a mix of water and sugar (a bit less sugar than Leon had suggested as the variety of berry was supposed to be sweet) and then cooled down. A couple of tablespoons of elderflower cordial got added to the mix (my homemade elderflower liqueur is still brewing away although I’d like to try this again with that once it’s ready). I used roughly a 2-to-1 proportion of double cream to natural yoghurt, then whipped the mix until it got as close to that ever-smirkworthy state of ‘stiff peaks’. The fruit was then folded into the dairy mix, squashed and smashed but still ostensibly whole. This proved to be much better than creating a smooth compote, as it made for a contrasting texture sensation. After dividing into bowls and bunging them in the fridge overnight I was able to enjoy a decadent breakfast course… light, creamy, tart, sweet and so moreable. Yum!

I’ve always liked the British predilection for fools, flummeries, blancmanges, syllabubs and other traditional dairy desserts. These haven’t totally faded from public culinary consciousness, but receive far less attention than they should. I urge you to rediscover the delights of fruit fools as they’re so damn good, and wonderfully easy to make.

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7 replies
  1. Elly
    Elly says:

    One of the best things this summer was my gooseberry bush producing enough berries for 2 modest portions after I stewed the lot. I can’t remember the name of the species I have, except that it’s a red variety which produces grape-red berries which turn a weird purple when stewed.

    I paired this with some Greek yoghurt and enjoyed a far tangier pudding than one can ever buy, having used only a small amount of sugar and a pinch of baking soda (which being alkaline, neutralises the acid, reduces the amount of sugar needed).

  2. miss_south
    miss_south says:

    Oooh, congrats on your haul Elly! And thank you for the baking soda tip. Does that work with all berries?

  3. miss_south
    miss_south says:

    Brilliant! I will be ating much more cooked fruit now I know that. I always feel guilty adding tonnes of sugar, but find a lot of fruit too acidic. Problem solved!

  4. Mister North
    Mister North says:

    That’s a great tip, thanks. I may make some greengage fool this week so I’ll add a bit of soda and keep the sugar levels low 🙂

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