Over the years in this Hectic Host column we have shared many handy hacks on how to make entertaining just that little bit easier. From recipes that take minutes rather than hours, to how to get your home guest-ready and recover afterwards. When it comes to dinner parties the perennial problem for us all seems to be the pudding course. Perceived as tricky and hard to get right I am a great advocate of buying in. ‘Why try when you can buy?’ is my motto and who would dispute that, especially with all our wonderful local bakeries and patisseries? However one of our oldest national recipes happens to be one of our most simple; the fool is actually foolproof.
The first written record of the word ‘foole’, associated with a dessert, appears in a 1598 dictionary ‘Worlde of Wordes’; ‘a kinde of clouted creame called a foole’. It was in the sixteenth century, from what I can gather, almost a trifle; bread steeped in a fruit custard. Today recipes vary greatly from blends of custard with whipped double cream to cream and Greek yoghurt but to keep things concise nothing beats the no-nonsense ease of my one-part fruit compote, two-parts cream combination.
A compote is essentially fruit stewed in water and sugar; nothing could be simpler you may think, however, my go-to dessert became even easier this weekend when I discovered the joys of Fruition handmade compotes at Herne Hill Market on Sunday. Instead of making my own, in a flash I can now add one of Fruition’s exceptional creations to bowls of whipped double cream. Seasonally there are many to choose from; rhubarb and orange; rhubarb and ginger; apple and lemon; plum and cinnamon; plum and vanilla; sweet cherry and gooseberry and elderflower. Made in Clapham from ingredients bought locally, I will never have to agonise over dessert again. A few tips here; when assembling I would advise putting your compote into your bowl or glass first, then spoon on your cream, gently lift some of the fruit up through the cream and make a very gentle half stir to get a satisfying swirl effect. Top with fine sprinkles of gated lemon zest and quite literally a few crystals of brown sugar. This dish does not sit well so you will have to make it just before you serve. Another regular to Herne Hill Market is Jan Pateman; whose locally hand-made, splendidly pleasing pottery espresso cups make the perfect receptacle for this rich delight.
Another way to round of a meal is with a plate of delicious Dulwich-made guimauves by La Maison Guimauve. The French version of marshmallows; these are nothing like the bags of fluff that supermarkets sell. Soft, fresh and delicious, I was immediately hooked. You can buy, and you will be going back and buying again and again, online from lamaisonguimauve.com. I don’t think I have seen anything prettier than the cappuccino confections.
Lawrence Roullier White writes the Hectic Host for SE22.
This feature first appeared in the April 2016 issue of SE22 magazine.