Old British desserts have such wonderful names! Spotted Dick, Plum Duff, Roly-Poly, Cabinet Pudding, Sussex Pond Pudding. The list goes on. On my recent trip to London, I was really intrigued by the quirky names found in the pudding section of menus. Trifle I was familiar, Eton Mess I knew a little about, but the Fruit Fool, was entirely new to me!
I was not left in suspense for too long, finding that fruit fools are a simple but elegant blend of fruit puree, (usually gooseberries or raspberries) folded through stiff whipped cream and sugar, with a touch of flavouring such as rose water or elderflower syrup.
The Fool has a long, proud history on the British culinary scene, dating back to the sixteenth century. The exact origin of this dish is lost in time, but some food historians suggest the early fool was more like a trifle, being thickened with eggs, cream and sometimes wine and spices. Why the word 'Fool' is used is not entirely clear, but some claim it's derived from the French verb fouler meaning "to crush" or "to press" (in the context of pressing grapes for wine).
Hannah Glasse was to the 18th century home cook, what perhaps Nigella Lawson is to today's home cook. In her definitive English cookery book The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, the original domestic goddess gives a number of recipes for fruit fools, including the most famous gooseberry fool. Ms Glasse's fool contains stewed gooseberries sweetened with sugar and passed through a sieve to make a purée which is then added either to thick cream or to a custard of heated egg yolks and milk.
My variation on the fruit fool contains lovely plump, fragrant raspberries - which were to be found piled high at all of the British markets we visited. While a plain raspberry fool would be lovely in itself, I couldn't help but give this old British classic a little bit of an Australian summer twist by adding sweet juicy lycees, fresh spearmint, crunchy green pistachios and the tang of some thick Greek yogurt to cut through the rich cream. In fact, I think the yoghurt is great because it intensifies the flavour of the fruit and really lets it shine through. This lovely dessert is best showcased in decorative old jam jars or in your sweetest vintage parfait or wine glasses.
Raspberry, Lychee, pistachio and spearmint fool
200 g (10½ oz) raspberries
1 small bunch of fresh spearmint leaves, finely chopped and some reserved for decorating.
55 g (2 oz) caster sugar
150 ml (5 fl oz) whipping cream
150 g (5½ oz) plain low-fat Greek yogurt
Pistachios, crushed and toasted, to serve
1. Put the raspberries in a saucepan with 2 tbsp water. Bring just to the boil, then reduce the heat and cook gently for 5 minutes or until soft and very juicy. Stir in the sugar.
2. Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly. Pour into a food processor or blender and purée. Press the purée through a sieve to remove all the pips.
3. Set aside to cool completely.
4. Puree the Lychee and add to the cooled raspberry mixture. Fold through the chopped spearmint leaves.
5. Whip the cream until thick. Add the yogurt and lightly whip into the cream, then mix in the cooled fruit purée.
6. Spoon into dessert dishes or goblets. Chill well before serving, decorated with the reserved spearmint leaves and toasted pistachios (allow to cool before topping the glasses), if using.