My Rhubarb Fool – A perfect Seasonal Dessert

What is Rhubarb Fool?

Rhubarb fool is a great seasonal dessert when fresh fruit in the UK is in pretty short supply. Early in the New Year ( Happy 2019 everyone ) and many of us are thinking about trying to shift the extra weight we may have put on over Christmas. I’m not sure I can go as far as something really healthy, but what I do have is an idea to revitalise any jaded party palettes. As it is time for the earliest of the season’s rhubarb, what about this delicious sweet? Forced rhubarb will be available from good greengrocers but it can be pricey, you can wait for the season’s main crop. The best forced rhubarb comes from the rhubarb triangle in West Yorkshire.

We chefs can sometimes overlook simple classic dishes that have pleased people for a very long time. The fruit fool is a versatile and first-rate example of an underrated culinary star, tart fruits with sweetened cream. You can make them pretty much throughout the year starting with rhubarb, then strawberries, gooseberry and elderflower is delicious and finish with late season raspberries in Autumn.

Trimmed Rhubarb Stems

My Rhubarb Top Tip

I was bought up from an early age by three formidable ladies, my Mum and the aunties Elizabeth and Mary, all incredible cooks. Peeking over the kitchen table I watched them pickle, preserve, knead, ferment, blanch, pluck, peel and chop with carefree abandonment. My guess is a little must have rubbed off on my shoulders. They were all armed with Mrs. Beeton, Robert Carrier, the Bero book and all became particularly big favourites of the Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady.

Rhubarb Leaves are Poisonous!

I do not remember if my tip for today was in the book, but I remember it was full of beautiful illustrations and lots of old country lore. I am pretty sure most people are aware that the leaves of rhubarb are poisonous, but they do have a use. If you have a badly burnt pan leave it to soak for a couple of hours with some torn up rhubarb leaves covered with water. The carbonised food should then be easy to shift with warm soapy water and a scourer, please make sure you rinse thoroughly.

My Rhubarb Fool

I’m not sure if the purists would serve a fool on a biscuit base but I like the butter ginger biscuit base which adds a nice little contrast to the softly whipped cream and poached fruit. The choice is up to you if you wish to leave it out. So while I am not going to win any points for calorie-free food I think this is winner on flavour. Enjoy

My Rhubarb and Ginger Fool
You can adapt through the changing fruit seasons with rhubarb, gooseberry, raspberry and loganberries. This recipe is adapted from one by one of my culinary hero’s, Simon Hopkinson. I like the flavour combination of rhubarb and orange with the buttery ginger biscuit base. You can make it with caster or golden sugar but again I like to use soft brown sugar for the added extra toffee / caramel flavour.

Apple and Bramble Crumble – be it ever so humble it’s hard to beat

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Our recent family holiday in Devon was on a wonderful farm with very, very comfortable accommodation, a lovely little cottage, there were animals for the children to feed, amazing views and the best fresh eggs in the morning boiled and served with soldiers.

Freshly collected Eggs
Fresh Eggs at Lower Campscott Farmer

We the last of the summer’s strawberries with tubs of Farmer Tom’s delicious clotted cream ice cream, some wonderful Dexter beef ribeye steaks from our hosts herd at Lower Campscott farm and all the Devon cream teas daddy could ever wish for. Around the farm were some wonderful walks down through fields and woodland to the bay at Lee and a wonderful little nature walk.

 

Nature Walk

As we all went through the field with the Shetland ponies and Mummy, Lilly and Honeysuckle helped me pick a mountain of ripe, plump brambles which when we got back to Stable cottage we made into two crumbles, one for tea and one for Farmer Tony and Kathy who run such a wonderful holiday haven in North Devon.

The Ponies at Lower Campscott Farm
Shetland Ponies at Lower Campscott Farm

It is difficult to trace the origins of the crumble, the sweet golden-brown topped pudding, The Oxford Companion to Food suggests the recipe for crumble was developed in the second world war, as an alternative to pastry, using whatever fat was available. Crumbles can be made throughout the year and made with plums, rhubarb, greengages, gooseberries and most popularly apples or apples and soft fruits such as raspberries, blackberries, and brambles.

Crumble is best served hot with lashings of custard, clotted cream or ice cream.

Bramley Apple and Bramble Crumble
Bramley Apple and Bramble Crumble

Apple and Bramble Crumble

Bramley apples can discolour quickly when peeled, to prevent this from happening as you peel the apples, toss the apple in a little freshly squeezed lemon juice which slows down the oxidation and the browning. If you like nuts you can substitute fifty grams of the flour with ground almonds and add a small handful of rolled oats to the crumble mix.

500 gr Bramley Apples ( 3 to 4 medium sized Apples ), peeled and cored

200 gr Blackberries or Brambles, washed and drained

250 gr Self Raising Flour

150 gr Golden Caster Sugar

125 gr cold Jersey Butter

Freshly grated Nutmeg

Heat your oven to 350 F / 180 C / Gas Mark 4. Slice the apples into finger thick chunks and place into a medium-sized heavy-bottomed pan. Add four to five tablespoons of cold water and place onto a gentle heat covered with a lid. After a couple of minutes, the apples will start to soften and break down, take off the lid and give them a stir, add a splash more water if required. Keep stirring until the apples are breaking up but still contains good-sized chunks of whole apple, then add fifty grams of the sugar and a generous grating of nutmeg. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Spoon the apple into a deep sided oven-proof dish and sprinkle over the blackberries or brambles and put to one side. Sift the flour into a large bowl and add the remaining sugar. Cut the butter into cubes and tip in the bowl of flour and sugar and rub it into the flour mix with your fingertips until it resembles rough breadcrumbs. You make crumble in a food processor but don’t overwork or the butter will melt, and the mix will form a paste.

Spread the crumble mix evenly over the fruit and level off, then place the dish on a baking tray and place in the oven for thirty- five to forty minutes, until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for ten or so minutes before serving.

Dark Chocolate Mousse

Valentine’s Day Chocolate Mousse

Valentines Cover

So, you have successfully shucked the oysters, the steak was cooked to perfection and you matched your meal with a perfect bottle of wine, Valentine’s Day is going according to plan now you need something simply stunning to finish the meal. I have chosen something stunningly simple to make, that can be kept in the fridge and will wow your dinner companion. And the bonus, there will be a couple left over for the morning.

Dark Chocolate Mousse
Dark Chocolate Liqueur Mousse

Many chocolate mousses are made with a mix of cream and eggs and often use gelatine as a setting agent so they can be quite heavy, this recipe is lightness itself relying on the flavour of the dark chocolate, the liqueur, and the airy whipped egg whites. The squeeze of lemon helps stabilise the egg whites when they are being whipped and prevent over whisking, if you over-whisk the egg whites they will collapse and separate and you will lose all the air that you have whisked in and the resulting mousse will be very heavy.  Follow the instructions carefully and be patient whilst folding in the whipped-up egg whites so that you lose as little volume as possible and you will be rewarded with light, fluffy chocolate mousse.

For your chocolate mousse, you can use a choice of liqueurs, but my favourites are orange or coffee based which are natural partners with dark chocolate.

Chocolate Liqueur Mousse     makes 4

200 gr premium Dark Chocolate ( a minimum 60 % cocoa solids )

7 free-range Egg Whites ( use the egg yolks in your Bearnaise Sauce )

50 gr Caster Sugar

4 tablespoons of Coffee or Orange Liqueur

A squeeze of fresh Lemon Juice

Place a medium glass or metal bowl over a pan of simmering water (do not allow the base of the bowl to touch the water) and add the chocolate. Melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally, meanwhile put the egg whites and lemon juice into a second large, clean bowl and whisk until they form soft peaks. Sprinkle over the sugar and continue to whisk until firm peaks form when the whisk is removed. Do not whisk beyond this stage.

When the chocolate has melted, remove the bowl from the heat and add one-third of the egg whites, and whisk them into the hot chocolate very quickly. This is important as the cool eggs can cause the chocolate to start to set if not mixed in speedily and the resulting mousse will be lumpy.

Using a spatula or the side of a large metal spoon fold the remaining egg whites and the liqueur into the chocolate mixture, the egg whites need to be totally incorporated but not over mixed as this will start to knock out the whisked in air bubbles. Carefully spoon the mousse mixture into four glasses or serving dishes and place in the fridge for at least a couple hours to set.

Wine and Beer

 

What to Drink? Chocolate mousse pairs well with sweet dessert wines and more unusually fruity Australian Barossa Valley Shirazes. For a beer why not try a Cherry or Raspberry Kriek beer.

Allergens in this recipe are;

     Milk   Eggs

Please see the Allergens Page

Valentines Cover

Valentine’s Day Oysters Blonde and Blue

Valentine’s Day Cooking the Perfect Steak

Valentine’s Day Bearnaise Sauce

Raspberry and Whisky Cranachan

Happy New Year – My Recipe for Cranachan

I thought my last post of the year should be something suitably festive and suitable for New Year’s Eve, so my mind turned to Hogmanay, in Scotland, they really know how to bring in the New Year in true party fashion. And what could be more Scottish than Cranachan a delicious blend of cream, oats, raspberries, and whisky. I first learned about Cranachan from Donald, the Scottish born pastry chef at the Island Hotel, Tresco. Now I know this isn’t the raspberry season, but it is well worth the expense and you can then make the recipe again during the abundant summer growing season.

Raspberry and Whisky Cranachan
Fresh Raspberry Cranachan with Granola

My Cranachan recipe is entirely my own twist which I first used in a restaurant in Jersey with fresh raspberries folded into cream flavoured with honey, whisky and the crunch of delicious homemade Granola*. As it ticks the alcohol and cream boxes how could I resist Cranachan and well oats lower your cholesterol don’t they?

*You can use the remaining Granola for breakfast.

Cranachan                         serves 4

300 gr fresh Raspberries

350ml double cream ( I use thick Jersey double cream)

6 tablespoons homemade Granola

30 gr Caster Sugar

2 tablespoons Scottish Heather Honey

2 to 3 tablespoons good quality Whisky

Mint and Icing Sugar to garnish

First purée half the raspberries and caster sugar in a blender and sieve. Whisk the double cream until just set, thick Jersey cream really only takes a few turns of the whisk, then gently stir in the honey and whisky. Do not over whip or the mix will separate.

Fold in the raspberry purée in light ripples then serve in bowls alternating layers of the cream, the granola, and the remaining whole raspberries. Chill before serving and top with raspberries, mint, and dust with icing sugar.

Allergens in this recipe are;

   Milk

Please see the Allergens Page

Bramley Apple Week and the Perfect Apple Crumble

As we are in the middle of Bramley Apple Week, you knew that didn’t you, I wanted to give you a failsafe recipe for that most English of desserts the apple crumble, and you cannot make an apple crumble without a Bramley apple. In 1809 a Southwell* resident, Mary Ann Brailsford planted some apple pips one of which still bears fruit to this day. In 1846 her cottage and garden were sold to one Matthew Bramley and apart from shelling out the cash that is his total contribution. A local nurseryman admired the quality of the apples and asked to be allowed to take some grafts to develop more trees capable of producing the fruit. Matthew Bramley agreed to this on the condition that if the apples went on to any commercial success they would bear his name. The Bramley is now famous and cooks love it for its flavour and excellent cooking qualities. It remains one of the most widely grown British culinary apples.

bramleys

The crumble is a quick and easy pudding that can be adapted to suit the seasons and the different fruits available often partnering softer fruits with apples or pears and enhancing the flavour with the use of spices. Apple crumble is the most popular version of the dish and due to the keeping quality of apples traditionally a staple throughout long winters when very few fresh fruits were available. Apples such as Bramley’s would have been stored in a loft or attic to provide a valuable source of vitamin C from November to February. Today your apples are shipped into supermarkets from around the world to overcome seasonality.

However, if you want to go seasonal and reduce your carbon footprint here are a few ideas spring is when rhubarb comes into its own, I pre-bake mine with brown sugar, ginger orange juice, and zest to help keep the shape and prevent the crumble becoming soggy

During the summer there is an abundance of produce, tart gooseberries with plenty of sugar, cherries, or then raspberries, strawberries, and blackcurrants and that all liven up the last of the previous year’s apples when baked together. Spiced plums, pears, apples, and blackberries are the staples of autumn and on into winter.

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Crumbles are best enjoyed hot, with liberal dollops of custard, clotted cream or a scoop or two of ice cream. You can change the basic recipe for the crumble topping by mixing in oats or a sprinkling of chopped nuts and adding spices such as ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon.

* Now in passing most people will know Southwell for its pretty minster and horse racing track but now you dear reader know Southwell is the home of the English Bramley cooking apple. The town holds an annual festival each October to celebrate the Bramley.

My Apple Crumble

1kg Bramley Apples

3 tablespoons of Apple Juice or water

2 tablespoons Caster Sugar ( approximately )

Juice of half a Lemon

½ teaspoon freshly grated Nutmeg

120 gr Self Raising Flour

100 gr Caster Sugar

75 gr Butter

Optional

40 gr Rolled Oats

40 gr Demerara Sugar

Preheat your oven to 200 C / 400 F/ Gas 6. Wash the apples, peel and cut them into quarters. Remove the cores and slice each piece of apple in two. Put the apple pieces into a medium sized, heavy bottomed pan with the apple and lemon juice and cook over a low heat for about five minutes, until the apples start to soften. I like the apples to start to break up leaving some bigger pieces for texture. Taste the apples for sweetness, sprinkle with sugar as required and carefully stir in. Add the nutmeg and gently stir again. Transfer the apple mixture to a shallow ovenproof dish.

In a bowl blend the flour and butter together by rubbing with the tips of your fingers until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs, alternatively you can pulse together in a food processor for a few seconds. Blend in the caster sugar thoroughly ( at this point stir in the oats and the brown sugar if required ) and then loosely sprinkle the mix over the cooked apples in the dish. Place the crumble in the oven to bake for thirty minutes or until crunchy and golden-brown on top.

Serve with custard, cream or ice cream.

Pancakes ready to eat

A Really Good Pancake Recipe

Shrove Tuesday is the feast day before Ash Wednesday and the start of the Christian festival of Lent. To many it is celebrated as Pancake Day or in New Orleans and across Latin America, Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday. It is the last blow out in the modern vernacular or celebration before the forty-six days fasting ahead in Lent*. Modern medicine has shown that limited fasting can indeed “cleanse” and detoxify the body. Some traditional non- religious reasons for the Lenten Fast are economic and relate to animal husbandry. For example, Lent fasting allows for the making of cheese, the hatching of chicks and the growth of baby animals.

Across the world as families used up excessive food, local traditions developed such as a feast of salted meat and peas in Iceland, Marzipan filled pastries in Scandinavia and doughnuts in eastern Europe. Many American cities including Chicago celebrate their Polish heritage as Pączki Day. A festival of music, polish specialities and, in particular, Pączki, a type of deep-fried brioche bun filled with plum or rose-hip jam.

Pancakes ready to eat
Pancakes ready for Pancake Day

Historically Shrove Tuesday was a ‘half-holiday’ in England. It started at 11:00 am with the signalling of a church bell. In England street or mob football matches were played, often involving whole communities. Dating back to the 12th century, towns such as Ashbourne, Sedgefield and Alnwick still maintain the tradition. The pancake race is held in many towns and villages, participants with frying pans race through the streets tossing pancakes into the air, catching them in the pan whilst running. The most famous pancake race, at Olney in Buckinghamshire, has been held since 1445. In Scarborough, the town beach front is roped off for racing.

*How to work out the start date for Lent

Really Good Pancakes

I am a purist. Ice cream is for sundaes. Maple syrup for drop scones or griddle cakes ( an American style pancake ) with perhaps a side of very crisp bacon or blueberries. Cream a travesty. Fruit you can leave alone, a pancake requires simply sugar and freshly squeezed orange or lemon juice.

for 8 pancakes

1 Egg and one Egg Yolk
About 250 ml Milk
100 gr Plain Flour
2 tablespoons melted Butter
a small pinch of Salt
clarified Butter for cooking

Place a large mixing bowl on a damp cloth to stop it slipping and moving. Sift in the flour and salt into the bowl. Whisk in the egg and egg yolk and mix in the milk, pouring it in a slow, constant stream.

 

Eggs, Flour and Milk

When it has achieved the consistency of thin cream, stop adding any more milk and whisk in the butter.

 

Batter Mix

Brush a hot non-stick frying pan with clarified butter. Using a ladle add a little batter to the pan whilst gently twisting the pan to swirl the batter in a thin coating across the pan surface. Cook for about two minutes then flip over. Cook for a further minute until crisp and golden brown, transfer to a warm plate and serve.

Pancake

Allergens in this recipe are;

Flour  Eggs Milk

Please see the allergens page