A fool, is a dessert made by blending pureed tarty fruits - most commonly Gooseberries - with sweetened cream but it seems the exact origin of this dish is lost in time.
The Norfolk Fool is an old variation of the fruit fool which seems to treat the fruit content more as a secondary ingredient, adding it at the end of the recipe.
I found a recipe for a Strawberry or Raspberry Fool in 'The Compleat Housewife: or Accomplished Gentlewoman's Companion' by Eliza Smith written in 1739. A lot of recipes for Fruit Fools state the dish dates back as far as the 16th century, I have however not found a reference to back that up. There is a recipe in 'The Good Huswifes Jewel' by Thomas Dawson written in 1596. The recipe goes as follows:
Take a pint of thick cream, and season it with sugar and ginger, and rose water. So stir it as you would then have it make it luke warm in a dish on a chafing dish and coals. And after put it into a silver piece or a bowl, and so serve it to the board.
It does resembles an early recipe for a Fool to me, perhaps this is why people refer to the Fruit Fool as dating back to the Elizabethan Britain.
I have found a recipe for a 'Gooseberry foole' in 'The Compleat Cook' from 1658
Take your Gooseberries, and put them in a Silver or Earthen Pot, and set it in a Skillet of boyling Water, and when they are coddled enough strain them, then make them hot again, when they are scalding hot, beat them very well with a good piece of fresh butter, Rose-water and Sugar, and put in the yolke of two or three Eggs; you may put Rose-water into them, and so stir it altogether, and serve it to the Table when it is cold.
In this later recipe where indeed is spoken of a Fool there is no mention of cream, perhaps they just understood that fresh cream would be on the table to take themselves.
Why the word 'Fool' is used is not entirely clear, some claim it's derived from the French verb fouler which is used in the context of pressing grapes for wine with one's feet.
The original recipes states you should pass the fruit trough a hair sieve but I didn't as I think the interplay of textures is quite lovely.
I've made the Fools in a jar so you can close the lid and take it with you on a picnic.
You can use any fruit for this dessert but it works best with tart fruit, the most popular being gooseberries, however these should be stewed until they are soft enough.
What's you favourite Fool?
What do you need (for 2 jars)
a punnet of raspberries
a punnet of strawberries
500 ml double cream
1 teaspoon orange flower water (optional, used in traditional recipe)
1 teaspoon sugar (optional, used in traditional recipe)
Divide your cream into two equal parts
Bruise 2/3 of the raspberries and all the strawberries with a fork, leave some bits in for texture, you can even add some whole raspberries at the end
Mix them with the orange flower water and sugar (optional, used in traditional recipe)
Stir one part of the cream in the fruit so you get a nice pink color
Now layer the plain cream with the fruit cream you created into the jars (or glasses of your choice)
Decorate with some leftover fruits.
* Why not substitute half of the cream with thick yoghurt for a lighter version of this dish!
Join me next time for some home made Raspberry Vinegar!