Plump, ripe, fresh-picked berries, still warm with the heat of the sun, are true summer bliss. These fruits have a delicate nature, and are small and vulnerable, needing to be handled with care. I don’t think there are any berries I don’t like, although I do have some biases.
Blueberries, I feel, are the hardy, practical ones and are a true botanical berry. There is a blueberry plant on my balcony that seems to be growing well, with some potential fruits that have so far escaped the wind. Also on blueberries, I used to make a traditional Italian lasagne with porcini mushrooms and a blueberry sauce, which may sound strange to some but was a perfect autumnal dish and shows the versatility of the fruit.
Strawberries, though not a true berry, are well loved and delicious with rose flavours. They are also the only one I sometimes have a problem with when they are cooked a little and have the strange texture of the pieces you find in strawberry yoghurt. I have bad childhood memories of small tubs of this in my lunchbox.
Mulberries and blackberries, too, are a wild delight picked from a vine, messy and staining in all their glory. But if I had to choose just one, a raspberry would be the winner. This is a tricky game, though, because as soon as one settles on a favourite, memories of past berries come flooding back, like a lingonberry jam I had with a smoked deer heart in Sweden.
Raspberries, and indeed every fruit we consider a berry, shouldn’t be messed with too much, as they are perfect as they are. With exceptions, of course. I am still embarrassingly fond of a coulis. Raspberry jam is my favourite, and I had many excellent moments in my late teenage years sipping raspberry daiquiris at Dean’s, a late-night cafe in Sydney’s Kings Cross. And there is something magical about berries and cream – raspberries, in particular, with their soft sweetness and just the right amount of tart, a balance I am partial to.
This recipe is an old English dessert beautiful in its simplicity. A combination of raspberries and cream, it is simple to whip up. It’s best made in advance and there is magic in the few ingredients that results in a delicate and airy not-too-sweet dessert. Fools are often just cream, but I find the addition of a yoghurt cuts the richness just a little without compromising the fluffy delicacy. The combination of the cooked and raw raspberries adds to the layers, but the best benefit is the beautiful jewel-like juice that disperses the raspberry flavour more fully, the cocoa nib to finish lending the slightest hint of texture and bitterness.
Set your yoghurt to strain in the morning, prepare your berries and then it’s just a matter of a little mixing later on. And there you have it, a delicate dessert, or breakfast, ready for the next day. Here’s to celebrating fools and suffering them gladly.
Time: 6 hours hanging + overnight + 15 minutes
- 250g thick yoghurt
- 375g raspberries
- 100g castor sugar
- 25ml lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
- 450g thickened cream
- 10g cocoa nibs
- muslin cloth, for straining
- The first step is to strain the yoghurt. To do this, lay your muslin cloth in a strainer and add in the yoghurt. Fold the sides up and over to cover the yoghurt and then place a small plate on top to weigh it down. Place the strainer over a bowl to drain and put this in the fridge. Let the yoghurt sit for about six hours.
- Meanwhile, place half your raspberries in a small saucepan with the sugar and a squeeze of lemon and give them a gentle mix. Place the saucepan over a high heat and let them cook for 2½-3 minutes (the raspberries should have just started to break down and there will be some lovely red juices).
- At this stage, remove the saucepan from the heat and use a slotted spoon to collect the raspberries into a bowl before placing the liquid back over the heat for a further three minutes, by which time the juice will be very reduced, thick and jammy. Add this back into the bowl with the cooked fruit and set aside to cool.
- Once your yoghurt has strained enough, remove it from the muslin and place it into a bowl with the cream. Use a whisk to mix them together and whisk to a medium peak.
- Add in all the raspberries, fresh and cooked, along with all the cooking juices. Gently fold everything together until it’s mixed to the point where the fruit is evenly dispersed yet still a little streaky.
- Scrape the mixture into a large shallow bowl (glass looks prettiest), cover with cling wrap and transfer to the fridge to sit overnight.
- The fool is best served cold from the fridge so, once you are ready, spoon a nice helping onto individual plates or bowls and sprinkle over a dash of cocoa nibs.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on November 27, 2021 as "Everybody’s fool".
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