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Who's the fool?

Strawberry fool

Some friends invited me over for dinner yesterday and I pluckily volunteered to bring dessert. I was so looking forward to impressing with a gooseberry fool, which I was planning on assembling in situ. I’d hand picked my gooseberries in the friendly neighbourhood organic grocers a day in advance and everything.

I was so busy papping the elusive fruits for an Instagram post that I completely forgot to take them with me when leaving the house.


I then went on a wild gooseberry chase through London to try and replace my abandoned beauties. Who would have thought they'd be so difficult to get hold of? The whole of South Kensington, rien. I suppose the French aren't into gooseberries (considering they call them ‘mackerel berries’ it’s no surprise). My next stop was Leighton - admittedly my hopes weren't too high - no such luck. I felt sure that Southwark would deliver and even made a pilgrimage to the institution that is Greensmith's on Lower Marsh...I was told I could order them in for tomorrow. I gave up the goose.

Luckily Greensmith’s had plenty of luscious British strawberries as a consolation prize and some delightfully thick Cornish cream. Strawberry fool?

I'd give it a good go.

JJL and SQ's eclectically stocked Oval kitchen provided some stem ginger and artisanal rhubarb gin to add to the mix. The result was light and whimsical, the cream blushing with embarrassment at such a humdrum partner.

The culinary adventure that came BEFORE deserves special mention. JJL has spent a year living in Japan and is an afficionado (or whatever the Japanese is for that) of their cuisine. SQ hasn't lived there but cooks like a local and seems to spend most of his time in the Japan Centre sourcing ingredients. The three part feast involved no less than eight different sauces and marinades, all bubbling away at various stages when CB and I arrived precociously at 7pm. A rhubarb gin martini kept us happy while I sniffed and peeked over shoulders in the kitchen. We started with onigiri pyramids wrapped in seaweed (the elegant Japanese equivalent of a sandwich), stuffed with salmon teriyaki or umeboshi (pickled) plums. The plums were a spicy, tart revelation. Next came sea bass sashimi with ponzu jelly, black sesame and TRUFFLE oil, which was OBSCENE, and probably shouldn’t be allowed, it’s so good. They credit London restaurant Dinings with the addition of this Italian delicacy, probably JJL’s favourite flavour. Just as well they’re heading to Italy for a weekend this Autumn for a truffle hunt so they can replenish their stock. Next was karaage - feather light, twice fried chicken served with yuzu mayo - a gourmet, oriental KFC. Although I probably could have eaten a bucket load of it. This with a side of miso aubergine, baked first in oil to achieve the almost puréed softness and then grilled for a caramelised finish. Tricky to eat with chopsticks.

I’ve been promised recipes, although I’m aware that this is going to require some substantial flavour favours on my side. I’m ready for the challenge.

In the meantime, have a fool.

Strawberry Fool

For four, takes 15 minutes, plus chilling time

dessert / gluten free / ready in a jiffy / easy peasy / quietly smug / vegetarian / date night

This reminds me of my grandmother and summer weekends in Suffolk. The strawberries delicately flavour the cream, but you could poach the fruit first for a more intense flavour.

* Double cream - 200ml

* Strawberries - 400g, tops removed, sliced

* Stem ginger - 1 ball, diced

* Rhubarb liqueur (or other sweet liqueur) - a dash

Whip the double cream in a large bowl with a hand whisk for about 5 minutes. It’s ready when the cream thickens slightly and the whisk leaves thin ribbons in the surface. Fold the strawberries, ginger and liqueur into the cream. Divide between four glasses and place, covered in the fridge until ready to serve.


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