Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What kind of fool am I? Roasted Peach, Basil and Cardamom Fool, that's what!

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One of the food horrors from my childhood was Black Forest Gateau. In theory it should have been delightful – rich chocolate cake soaked in kirsch and filled with cherries and cream. The reality was a mass-produced travesty of cheap ingredients that turned up at too many birthday parties and didn’t pass muster when compared to my mum’s home baking. No, I don’t think I was a little food snob. Like most kids, I just knew Yuk! when I tasted it.

Instead of becoming a classic of the dessert trolley, the BFG has been consigned to that same hall of infamy as the prawn cocktail, and cheese hedgehogs.

In contrast, a dessert that has stood the test of time – originating in the Middle Ages – is the fruit fool (also spelt foole). This simple classic combination of tart fruit folded through sweet custard causes my taste buds to swoon with pleasure time and again. Play with the flavours and the seasonality of fruit to find your own perfect combination. At the moment, mine is this peach of a dessert.

Mmmm... a peach of a dessert!

For 8 servings of Summer you will need…

For the fruit base:
8 ripe peaches, halved, stone removed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 fresh basil leaves, shredded
2 tablespoons orange flower water (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180°C
Rub the peaches with the olive oil and place in one layer in an ovenproof dish deep enough to catch any juice. Scatter with the basil leaves and place in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove and leave to cool before chopping into a rough puree. Stir in the orange flower water if using.

For the custard:
1 litre fresh full-fat milk
200mls single cream
the seeds from 1 cardamom pod, crushed
8 egg yolks (the whites can be frozen for later use or you could whisk up a meringue for tomorrow’s dessert…)
4 tablespoons runny honey (or sugar)
3 tablespoons cornflour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To finish
200mls cream whipped into soft peaks (or Greek yoghurt)
8 sprigs of fresh basil or mint

Place the milk, cream and cardamom in a large saucepan over a medium heat and bring to simmering.

While the milk is heating, place the egg yolks in a large bowl with the honey (or sugar), cornflour and vanilla extract and whisk until combined. Remove the milk from the heat and slowly add it to the egg mixture, whisking all the time. (Never add the egg to the milk unless you want sweet scrambled eggs!) 

When all the milk has been added return the mixture to the saucepan and place over a low heat and stir until thickened. Be careful not to let the mixture boil as it can become slightly grainy in texture. Once the custard has thickened, taste and add a little more honey (or sugar) if you prefer a sweeter dessert. Remove from the heat and leave to cool, stirring occasionally to prevent a skin forming on the surface of the custard.

To serve, divide the fruit between 8 glasses or bowls. Spoon the cold custard over the fruit. Top with a swirl of cream and a sprig of basil or mint. Chill until needed.

(You can, if you prefer, fold the fruit and cream through the custard before serving but I prefer the separate layers).

Other favourite fool flavours include:
Gooseberry with Elderflower Custard
Rhubarb with Cointreau Custard
Damson or Plum with plain old Vanilla Custard
Loganberry with Lemongrass Custard
Cherry with Almond Custard, topped with crushed Amaretti biscuits
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