Recipe: Rhubarb fool

While rhubarb is in season, it would be foolish not to whip up this classic pud

As any fool-aficionado knows, a fool is the name given to the old English pudding of slightly whipped cream mixed with stewed fruit. Elegant in its simplicity, it barely warrants a recipe.

Although you could make a fool with any fruit poached or roasted until soft, it comes into its own when showcasing seasonal fruit. And as such, are best made with those fruits which appear for a brief, glorious period before disappearing for another year: hot pink rhubarb, dusty indigo damsons, plump gooseberries and glossy blackberries. Fools showcases fruit, allows it to shine. I like rhubarb best: as well as being impossibly pretty if you catch it during the period when it is forced and vibrant, its sweet-sour nature seems to herald the end of winter and the start of spring.

One school of thought will tell you that you should entirely combine the creamy mixture with the fruit, but I disagree: it seems such a shame to muddy the lurid, trashy pink of the poached rhubarb. In any event, once a spoon is dipped into the glass or bowl, it will necessarily muddle the two, pulling the two components up through the layers. But in a nod to the sticklers, I mix a couple of tablespoons of the compote through the whipped cream.

I cook the rhubarb with homemade vanilla sugar. Vanilla sugar is fantastic, and combines two essential kitchen traits: it makes use of what would otherwise just be chucked in the bin and it’s terribly easy to make. This pudding is gorgeous made simply with caster sugar, but next time you’ve used a vanilla pod, try repurposing it. Once you’ve used a vanilla pod for making custard or similar, rinse it thoroughly with water and pat dry with kitchen paper. Pour caster sugar into a Kilner jar or Tupperware, and add the vanilla pod to it. That’s it. Top up with vanilla pods as they’re used, and caster sugar as you deplete your supplies. What could be easier? (You can also do this with lavender or cinnamon, but that’s a different story, for a different recipe).

When you whisk the cream, err on the side of caution: the joy of a fool is in its gentleness, spoon-yielding fruit peeping through soft folds of gently agitated cream. As soon as it starts to thicken and feel heavy on your whisk and holding its billowy folds, stop whisking.

Rhubarb fool

Makes: Pudding for 4
Takes: 10 minutes
Bakes: 5 minutes on the hob

400g rhubarb
1 tbsp vanilla sugar (normal caster sugar is fine)
300ml double cream
2 tbsp icing sugar
3 tbsp Greek yoghurt
Amaretti biscuit, to decorate (optional)

1. Top and tail the rhubarb, and slice it into thumb-sized batons, and place in a small pan. Add the vanilla sugar and a small splash of water. Cook over a gentle heat until the rhubarb is soft and collapsed, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
2. Place the double cream and icing sugar into a large bowl and whisk until the cream is falling in heavy folds, but not yet forming peaks. Fold through the greek yoghurt and two tablespoons of the rhubarb and its juices into the whisked cream.
3. Spoon the fruity cream and rhubarb compote into glasses, alternating so that you end up with pretty, loose layers.
4. If not serving immediately, chill. Just before serving, crumble an amaretti biscuit over each cream-topped glass.


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