When looking around for rhubarb recipes, so many writers tell us that it is a summer fruit. Nonsense. Rhubarb is at its best when it is gathered in winter in candle-lit sheds in Wakefield, Yorkshire.
Yorkshire ‘forced rhubarb’ is a remarkable product. It is grown for 2 years in near total darkness, warmed only by coal-fired stoves. It is picked in winter by the light of candles – light is kept to a minimum to avoid ‘waking’ the rhubarb.
The result of all this faff is a rhubarb with yellow leaves and intensely red stems. The edible portion is more tender than summer rhubarb and lends itself to cooking in a far easier manner.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word ‘Foole’ comes about in 1598. The Compleat Cook, written in 1658 by persons unknown, contains the following recipe for ‘Gooseberry foole:’
“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.”
This old recipe uses eggs, and indeed, fools were traditionally made as fruit mixed with custard. However, time and trifle recipes have got in the way of that, and modern fools are now made with cream.
We get our Yorkshire forced rhubarb from Foster’s Fine Foods, 3 Hayfield Road, Chapel-en-le-Frith, High Peak SK23 0JF.
- 450g rhubarb, chopped
- 4 tbsp caster sugar
- 300ml double cream
- 100ml Greek yoghurt
Heat the rhubarb with the sugar on a low heat with the pan lid on. Mix now and then to make sure the sugar distributes evenly. Once the rhubarb is in a nice loose slurry, allow to cool. Spoon out some of the syrupy liquid as a garnish for later.
Whip the cream to soft peaks and mix in the yoghurt.
To assemble the dessert, fold the cooled rhubarb into the cream until just marbled. Spoon into glasses, pour over a little of the reserved liquid and garnish with a tuile biscuit.