Sunday, June 17, 2007


Blackberry Fool

When I first read Elizabeth David's An Omelette and A Glass of Wine, I was fascinated by the reviews of Continental restaurants and the biographies of culinary heroes, most notably de Pomiane. I find now that as I read it I am saddened by the onset of kitchen ennui. 60 years on from the earliest articles that describe this malaise, there only seems to be more and more spent on marketing powders to which one just adds water for an "instant" gravy. I would have thought deglazing the roasting dish and adding flour could not have made life easier. Au contraire, for things have degenerated even further since Ms. David's time as some people use oven-safe bags in which to roast their meat so as not to have to clean the roasting pan afterwards. A homemade gravy is actually an ingenious way to take care of the intensely caramelized bits that have stuck to the pan. The conveniences of some aspects of modernity are in fact very counterproductive and consequently inconvenient.

This is not actually a post about the wonders of gravy, but a reminder of the simpler things to do in the kitchen, the things that encourage making one's resources stretch, as opposed to creating more waste to dump. Though I often have high aspirations to execute well in the kitchen, I do not always have the time to ensure this happens. Lately, there is just too much else to do (like, reading for the theory chapter of my thesis before I head to the US). I go into the kitchen to relax and recharge between articles and books on postcolonial theory. I always want to spend more time in the safe womb of the kitchen than I am able to, but the constraint of time is still no excuse to produce something with little flavour.

And now we go back to the point of this post. Also in Ms. David's classic oeuvre is a collection of syllabub and English fool recipes. Cream, fruit, booze...What's not to like? I had 500ml of cream in the fridge that needed to be used. I couldn't remember why I bought it...was it for a rich gravy that I was to make after roasting, to top a pavlova along with slices of feijoa, or was it for the top layer of the trifle's trinity? As I rattled my brain (not recommended at this delicate stage in the research process), I discounted the choices for lack of time. I would make a fool. Was there fruit on the table? Apples, mandarins, and bananas. Only the apple would be suitable, but I would have to stew it first. Ugh. I checked the pantry and the freezer in case, for whatever reason, my parents had either canned or frozen fruit. I found canned blackberries (I don't know why we didn't have any of these on hand...they are in season, aren't they?). They had only come from as far as Australia, which assuaged my guilt over gas miles. This is my first time to choose to use canned fruit - yes, I realize the hypocrisy as I write about being less wasteful, but at least the tin can be recycled and the canning of fruit ensures none goes wasted.

Blackberry Fool

450g/1 lb canned blackberries, drained (if you can get them fresh, then use them)
3 tablespoons caster sugar
500ml/17 fl. oz (heavy) cream
30ml/1 fl. oz butterscotch schnapps

1) Blitz the blackberries and sugar in a blender until smooth.
2) Into a bowl, strain the blackberry pulp through a sieve. Do not forget to scrape the underside of the sieve. Discard seeds and other remains.
3) In a separate bowl, whip the cream until there are firm peaks.
4) Fold the blackberry liquid into the cream.
5) Fold the shot of liqueur into the cream of blackberries.
6) Spoon the fool into the chilled vessel(s) of your choice. I selected wine glasses.

You should not need to chill in the fridge because the cream should be quite cold from having been refrigerated before use. Besides, I should think that sugar not entirely dissolved would only crystallize, making for tough sediment, which you do not want when eating a fool. It should be ethereal and light. I have to say, though, that canned blackberries is not the way to go. There was no tang at all and no richness but for the cream. Also, with fresh berries you are able to pick your own dark specimens (the darkest are best to my mind). The booze in this case is unusual, for butterscotch anything is not typically paired with blackberries. I was imagining the tartness of ripe blackberries when choosing a liqueur that would counteract it, giving it a mellow note with which to play. The purple ripples in a glass make for a nice presentation and lets one forget that the onset of a bitterly cold Winter has made its presence known.

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This really is lovely, Shaun. I've always been a sucker for a fool. Easier than a mousse, no fretting about the Russian Roulette of raw eggs, and not having to waste any yolks, it's an ideal poof of a dessert.

You are right to select the darkest of fruits; they do tend to be sweeter and more flavorful. When fresh are available at the greengrocer in open bins, I always take the extra time to pick through to the dark ones.
My lot love fool too. I like how you have seved it in a nice glass to see the pretty colour.

I don't mind using some tinned fruit. In fact I'd go further and say that peaches, pears, mango and lychees are actually beter tinned than the ones I can buy fresh! and as you say it's happy eating as there is no waste that isn't recycled :)
Oh my dear Shaun...I myself have just surfaced for air before tackling a few heady case studies, only to find this deleriously luscious post.

What I find truly amazing is the re-discovery of the kitchen and relatively simple fare by modern authors (Nigel, Jamie). Quite inviting and palate-cleansing.

I'm a fool for your fool, my dear.

Right...back to my readings..

cream, fruit, booze...these are a few of my favorite things!
Susan, lovie - A great reason for tackling a fool instead of a mousse is to not have to deal with egg yolk. I worry that I use too many anyway, what with the sweet tooth pleased through baking. I think I have gone through too much butter, sugar and eggs in these last couple of weeks, but I can't quite stop.

There are no fresh berries around as far as I can see. I thought some berries grew in Winter. Maybe it is only some hedgerow ones, like sloes, which I don't think we have here. Eric has been teasing me everyday with the berries he is consuming: blackberries, raspberries (my favorite), blueberries. What a meanie, eh?

Kelly-Jane - I'm sure some canned fruit is preserved better than others, making for a passable Summer dessert in the middle of Winter. What I will do in Summer is buy berries that freeze well, so I can enjoy them Winter next year. And, yes, pretty presentations are lovely, and you, my dear, have a knack for choosing gorgeous platters and vessels for your goodies.

Jasmine - I'm glad you could take some time out and stop by, but it is imperative to come up for air every now and then. I don't imagine I will do much posting over the next couple of weeks as I have to get started on writing my theory chapter for my thesis. I'll be glad to get the first draft of that monster taken care of.

Sara - No, one really cannot go wrong with your "favorite things". This is a simple as heck dessert. It would also be nice to have a rhubarb fool, too, whereby the rhubarb is stewed first and then folded into cream. Yummy.
I love it that you're so honest Shuan. Nothing wrong with using tinned. I use tinned apricots for a baked dish with a rosewater & orange blossom water syrup. (It's the syrup from the Nigella turkish delight figs recipe). It's good. You've inspired me to maybe use it in a fool. Amanda
MMmm berries and cream blitzed together is as much temptation as I can take. Too bad I'm dairy-free! =(
Did I read rightly? Butterscotch Schnapps? Where have you been hiding this??
Amanda - Well, at the end of the day the honesty is coming from a place of experimentation. If I feel that I made a blunder, then I'd rather tell others, especially since tv chefs and cookery books are often didactic. It is hard to know if they are being principled for the sake of ethics, aesthetics, or vanity. I LOVE rose and orange blossom water, so I am going to check out that recipe - thanks for the recommendation.

Victoria - I know you can't have this, and I was thinking about what a lactose intolerant person would have. I don't know if soymilk puffs up as I am not sure of its fat content.

Freya, love - Yes, butterscotch schnapps is always on hand, whether it be for a disgestif or to plonk in my homemade ice cream (coffee and butterscotch schnapps is so good, but do not use more than two tablespoons of the schnapps). Now I have found another use for it, though more intriguing than the two previously described uses.
I had to look up the word didactic. I shall use it, now that I know what it means.
Lovely fool, as others have already commented Shaun.

I read an interview with Sophie Grigson not so long ago in which she recalled a crumble made with tinned, sweetened peaches that her mother Jane made. If it's good enough for Jane, it's good enough for the rest of us.

Looking forward to fresh berries again myself...
Amanda - You're a hoot. It is nice to learn something everyday, though I swear that there is a limit to what I can input.

Lucy - Thanks for stopping by and for leaving a reassuring comment! Yes, I know it isn't the end of the world, but I just find it weird that there are canned blackberries readily available right now and none at the fruit and veg shops...It didn't taste half-bad, though.
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