Quick, Easy, Wonderful Summer Desserts ~ Fruit Fools & Messes

I recently made us some Strawberry Fool and it occurs to me that this is such a quick, easy and utterly delicious thing to do with fruit I really should write about it, so here goes!

A fruit fool is simply fresh fruit, crushed or simmered with a little sugar as appropriate, folded into whipped cream. Some modern recipes replace up to half of the whipped cream with thick Greek yogurt and this works very well but is not quite the traditional fool of old. Other recipes use half cream and half custard (I’d use the ready-made here, which is unlike me, unless you are very keen!) and I believe originally fools were custard based, however  it’s all up to you, it’s your fool!

How to Make a Fruit Fool

~ Before you start set aside a few of the choicest pieces of fruit to decorate the dish.
~ Depending on the fruit you are using crush, macerate or simmer the fruit with sugar as needed till soft and syrupy.
~ Taste the fruit and add more sugar if necessary. If too sweet add a squeeze of lemon juice.
~ If you’ve cooked the fruit allow to cool completely and utterly before proceeding.
~ Use an approximately equal volume of cream as crushed or puréed fruit.
~ Whip the cream (together with any additions as suggested below) till it looks like this.
~ Fold the fruit and whipped cream (together with any additions) –you can either fold in completely or make pretty folds and swirls.

Here is how I made the fool we ate earlier …

Strawberry Fool

Serves 3-4 

300g strawberries 
1½ tbsp caster sugar
300ml double cream 

~ Hull the strawberries, slice and mix with the sugar. Set aside for 30 minutes up to 24 hours (the longer time should be in the fridge), which will result in soft strawberry pieces in a syrup.
~ Lightly mash together the fruit and its syrup.
~ Whip the cream and fold in the fruit and any juices.
~ Divide between pretty glasses and chill till needed.

A lovely addition to strawberry fool is a spoonful of Rumpot which should be whipped in with the cream! If you have no Rumpot, make some now. It does take a lot of planning ahead, but I promise you won't regret it!


Now is the Perfect Time to Make a Mess! 

Eton Mess, that is, see end of post for how to make this utterly delicious dessert with little further ado.

Fruit Fool Ideas 

As I said, this recipe/method works brilliantly for so many fruits, here are some ideas to get you started.

berries-for-fruit-foolSummer Berry Fool

Exactly as above but use a mixture of berries.

Raspberry Fool 

Same again but with raspberries which may need a little more sugar.


Blueberry Fool  

Blueberries need a little cooking and they also taste particularly well with lemon so put the berries and the sugar in a small pan with a squeeze of lemon and cook gently till they start to burst. At this stage you can either crush them for a chunky fool or purée for a smooth finish. Cool then fold into the whipped cream.

A great addition to this is to swirl in a couple of tablespoons of lemon curd after folding the fruit and cream together.


Blackberry & Apple Fool

Cook the blackberries to a mush, sweeten appropriately and cool completely. Fold together with the cream and then swirl through a few spoonsful of apple sauce – recipe here


Banana Fool

Simply mash ripe bananas with sugar, or honey, to taste and fold into the whipped cream. A dash of rum whipped in with the cream would be a good idea.

Coffee Banana Fool

Ripple through some coffee syrup.

Chocolate Banana Fool

As above but ripple through some chocolate sauce – the dark Chocolate Caramel Sauce here is perfect for this.  Probably a good idea to top with grated chocolate too!

Caramelised Banana Fool

20g butter
30g light brown sugar
3 bananas, sliced
a drip or two of vanilla extract
½ tablespoon dark Rum
300ml double cream

~ Melt together the butter and sugar in a frying pan.
~ Slice the banana, add to the pan and cook gently till soft, turning the slices now and then till soft.
~ Turn up the heat and cook, stirring, so that the bananas break down and start to caramelise.
~ Stir in the vanilla and, away from the heat, add the rum.
~ Cool completely.
~ Whip the cream and fold in the caramelised banana goo.

Rhubarb Fool

Prepare the rhubarb and cut into thin slices. Put into a pan with a spoonful each of sugar and water and cook till utterly tender. In this case drain off any excess juices, if watery. Taste and sweeten, rhubarb can be quite sharp. Fold together with the cream.

Ginger goes well with rhubarb so maybe fold in a little syrup from the stem ginger jar and/or some finely chopped stem ginger.


Peach Fool

Peel and dice peaches and cook in a pan over medium (add a spoonful of water to get them started), stirring often, till broken down into a chunky sauce. Taste and add sugar as you wish. Cool completely before folding together with the cream.

Peach Melba Fool

Make peach fool and then ripple through some raspberry coulis – recipe here towards end of the post. 

Gooseberry Fool

This is a very traditional and old-fashioned fool, but the basics are the same. Top and tail the gooseberries, simmer for about 10 minutes together with a couple of spoonsful of water and a fairly generous amount of sugar as they can be very sharp. When the fruit has burst simmer a little longer to cook off excess juices. Purée the fruit and juices and then strain to remove pips. Taste and add more sugar if necessary. Cool then chill. Fold into the whipped cream.


Gooseberry & Elderflower Fool

Quite simply stir a little elderflower cordial into the fruit purée before folding into the cream. Clean elderflowers would be a great garnish for this.


Mango Fool

Purée ripe mango together with either a little fresh lime juice or, my preference, a splash of rum. Fold into the whipped cream.

Serve your fools in a large glass bowl or pretty individual glasses or maybe crisp tart cases. Garnish with fresh and appropriate fruits or chopped nuts, grated chocolate, crushed caramel or even crushed biscuits. 

So that’s the idea – let me know what foolish things you make! 

Oh, and here’s a slightly different fool …

Boodle’s Orange Fool

Serves 6

This recipe originates from Boodle’s Club in Pall Mall, London which was founded in 1762 and named after its head waiter, Edward Boodle, which is quite an accolade. This is their recipe ...

6 trifle sponges or ladyfingers 
zest and juice of 2 oranges 
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp Grand Marnier – optional in inauthentic but nice 
30g caster sugar 
300ml double cream 

~ Cut the sponges into 1cm cubes and arrange prettily in 6 glasses or one glass bowl.

~ Stir together the citrus zests and juices and Grand Marnier if using, keep stirring till the sugar has dissolved.
~ Whip the cream to just thickening and then slowly drizzle in the fruit juice mixture, whisking as you go.
~ Pour over the sponge pieces and chill for at least 2 hours but more is good as it allows the juices to soak into the sponges.
~ Garnish with a slice of orange, or a twist of orange zest or even some crystallised orange zest

Eton Mess

Eton Mess is named after a strawberry dessert traditionally served at Eton on 4th June at the annual cricket match held between Eton College and Harrow School.
Basically you fold broked or coarsely crushed meringut into Strawberry Fool  Bought in meringues are fine for this but homemade meringues are even finer – here is my Simple Fail-Proof Meringue Recipe.

As I say this is traditionally strawberry based but there is no reason to make any kind of mess you like from a fruit fool of your choice.


To be perfectly frank with you this is the photo I have used on the cover of my book Luscious Ice Creams without a Machine and actually depicts Eton Mess Ice Cream, but you get the gist!!!
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Classic Coleslaw Recipe and How to Make it Your Own!

Isn’t coleslaw lovely – almost a miracle!


Even at its most basic, just shredded cabbage, onion and mayonnaise coleslaw is delicious. It is also quick, cheap, easy, healthy and if you use light mayonnaise (and personally, so far as Hellman’s is concerned, I can taste very little or perhaps no difference) not too fattening either.  So, finding myself in possession of a surplus of cabbage I recently made myself some …


Very Basic Coleslaw 

300g finely shredded cabbage – red or white or both
1 medium sized onion – red or white or both
1 carrot – coarsely grated
3 tbsp mayonnaise
salt and black pepper to taste

~   Finely shred or chop the cabbage.
~   Similarly cut the onion and add to the cabbage together with the carrot.
~   Add the mayonnaise and stir and toss all together till everything is coated with mayo.
~   Taste and season. 

Here is a romantic portrait of my finished coleslaw!


I really enjoy this simple salad but there are so many delicious ways vary it, for instance use a flavoured mayonnaise – see here for 38 Delicious Mayonnaise Variations all of which work well in coleslaw. 

Or try half mayonnaise and half sour cream in the above recipe plus a teaspoon of white wine vinegar and a teaspoon of caster sugar to dress the slaw.

It is also possible, of course, to make coleslaw with no mayonnaise whatsoever.

No-Mayo Coleslaw

If you don’t like mayonnaise, can’t eat eggs, are vegan or just fancy a change here are some ideas.

~   Try dressing your coleslaw with a vinaigrette, lots of vinaigrette and dressing ideas here.

~   Sour cream dressing – mix together 240g sour cream, 1 tbsp cider vinegar plus salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper to taste. I would also advise using a lot of onion in the coleslaw when using this dressing or adding finely chopped red onion to the sour cream.

Spicy Peanut Coleslaw Dressing

60ml runny honey
60ml vegetable oil
60ml rice vinegar
1 rounded tablespoon peanut butter – smooth or crunchy
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tsp of sweet chilli sauce
salt to taste, depending on the peanut butter you use

~  Whisk all together except the salt.
~  Taste and seaon.
~  Dress your slaw.

Or try ...

Now then, whichever dressing you use, make this slaw your own …

Great Coleslaw Additions

Try adding one, two or even more of the following …

~   Lemon or lime juice which brightens the taste
~   A couple of teaspoons of delicious vinegar such as cider vinegar
~   A teaspoon of sugar
~   A little whole grain mustard
~   A little horseradish sauce
~   Spring onions (scallions) cut finely on the diagonal make a tasty and pretty addition
~   Coarsely grated apple – leave the skin on if you like, especially if it is pretty, and toss with a little lemon juice to stop it browning
~   Coarsely grated mature cheddar goes well in an apple coleslaw
~   Finely shredded raw beetroot which makes lovely pink coleslaw – see here for beetroot coleslaw
~   Fresh fennel bulb, shredded – garnish with some of the pretty fronds. This is an excellent accompaniment to fish dishes
~   Fresh herbs
~   Shredded chorizo
~   Adding shredded ham with thinly sliced red and/or yellow pepper and shredded Asiago cheese added to your mayonnaise based coleslaw makes the Italian dish - Insalata Capricciosa
~   Hot sauce, sweet chilli sauce or chipotle paste
~   Nuts or seeds, roasted, salted or otherwise
~   A little dried fruit – cranberries, for instance, at Christmas
~   Olives - best stoned and chopped.


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THE Best Way to Cook Onions ~ Honestly! ~ plus delicious ways to use them.

This is the way I most often cook onions; it concentrates the flavour and makes them sweet and very tender.  I believe my proficiency in this department has helped a lot in my professional life and also, perhaps, in my personal life, if you believe the old adage about the way to man’s heart being through his stomach.


Sweet & Tender Onions

med/large onions – about 250g ea
15 g butter OR 1 tablespoon of olive oil (healthier and still delicious) per onion
pinch of salt

~    Peel the onions, halve them lengthwise and thinly slice into half moons.
~    Heat the butter or oil in a small pan with a lid and toss and separate the sliced onions in the fat to coat.
~    Sprinkle with a little salt.
~    Press something appropriate (a piece of foil, a piece of baking parchment, greaseproof paper or a butter wrapper) directly onto the onions to cover completely.  Try not to burn yourself on the side of the pan.
~    Turn the heat down to low and put the lid on the pot.   The onions should not so much fry in the butter as gently steam in it.
~    Cook slowly until the onions are soft enough to cut with the edge of a wooden spoon.  You can stir once or twice during this time - they will take about 30 minutes.

They are now melty and delicious and quite sweet too because of the natural sugars in the onions.  

Caramelised Onions

To caramelise the onions, when they are are completely soft take off the lid, turn up the heat and cook on high for a few minutes stirring constantly until the onions begin to caramelise and just start sticking on the bottom of the pan.


These onions, caramelised or not, can now be used without further ado to enhance many simple dishes – add to sandwiches, burgers, steaks, see towards end of post for loads of ideas.

They can also be used as the basis of so many dishes.  Here’s a few recipes to get you started and then links to lots more ideas and recipes.

French Onion Dip

In the States there has long been a recipe for French Onion Dip which was, basically, a packet of soup mix stirred into sour cream.  Not this one! 

Again, whichever onions you prefer will work for this but red are prettiest.
2 x 225g/8oz onions
30g/1oz butter
225g/8oz sour cream
200g/7oz mayonnaise
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
freshly ground black pepper to taste

~   Melt the onions as per usual.
~   When completely tender turn up the heat and stir until caramelised.
~   Allow to cool.
~   Beat together the sour cream and mayonnaise then stir in the onions.
~   Season to taste with the Worcestershire sauce and pepper.


Handy hint for the benefit of my American readers; in the UK we say “Worcester Sauce”, which we pronounce “wooster sauce” – give it a go, it’s so much easier!

Brie baked with Caramelized Onions

2 x 225g/8oz onions
30g butter
1 x 250g Brie in its box
60ml dry white wine
crunchy sea salt
an optional sprig or two of thyme

~   Melt the onions in the butter.
~   When completely soft add the wine and then simmer it away to nothing!
~   Preheat the oven to soubise 350°F/180ºC/160ºC fan/gas 4.
~   Unwrap the cheese and remove and discard the top rind.
~   Return the cheese to its box and stand it on a baking tray.
~   Top with the melted onions, sprinkle with sea salt and top the thyme sprigs.
~   Bake for 10-15 minutes till melted and turning golden round the edges.
~   Serve immediately with crusty bread or crackers for dipping purposes.


Melted Onion Risotto 

Serves 4

4 medium sized onions of either colour
3 tablespoons olive oil
950ml/33½ fl oz chicken or vegetable stock
50g/2oz butter
200g/7oz – 300g/10½oz Arborio rice
120ml/4¼ fl oz dry white wine
50g/2oz freshly grated Parmesan or similar
freshly ground black pepper

~   Melt the onions in the olive oil in accordance with the genius recipe, continuing to the final step so that they are fully caramelised. Set the onions to one side.
~   Bring the stock almost to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer gently.
~   Add half the butter to the oniony pan and melt over medium heat.
~   Stir in the rice and turn in the buttery onions to coat. 
~   Cook stirring gently for about a minute till the rice looks glossy and a little translucent round the edges.
~   Add the wine and cook for about a minute, stirring, till the rice has absorbed it.
~   Add enough of the simmering stock to the rice to just cover and simmer, stirring frequently, till almost all the broth has been absorbed.
~   Continue adding stock and simmering till absorbed until the rice is just tender – i.e. it has just a little bite to it when you try it.  It may not need all the stock.
~   When just right add the rest of the butter, half the onions, half the cheese then taste and season.
~   Serve immediately topped with the rest of the onions and the rest of the cheese.

Blue cheese is a good alternative to Parmesan type cheese in this risotto and here’s a handy hint.  Keep a piece of blue cheese in the freezer and grate from frozen, it is easier that way.


Miroton de Boeuf 

Serves 4

Whilst in the UK we tend to make Cottage Pie with our leftover roast beef the French have a different way of dealing with their leftover rosbif (or with leftover pot au feu). This is a simple version because there are many different ones out there involving such things as, mushrooms, tomatoes and cornichons.

600g/21oz or so leftover roast beef – sliced
2 med/large onions melted as above
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
600ml/21fl oz rich beef stock (if using leftover pot au feu use the stock from that)
a handful of fresh breadcrumbs

~   When the onions are really tender and just starting to turn golden stir in the flour and cook gently for a couple of minutes.
~   Add the hot stock and bring to a boil, stirring till smooth and thickened
~   Turn down the heat and simmer for at least 10 minutes to amalgamate the flavours, adding a little more stock as necessary.
~   Stir in the vinegar then taste and season.
~   Arrange the beef slices in an ovenproof dish.
~   Pour over the gravy, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and bake till hot and bubbling – 15 minutes or so.

For a more substantial version arrange the sliced beef over a bed of sliced


Caramelised Onion Scones

1 medium onion
15g knob of butter
a little salt
1 x key recipe – no sugar

~   Cook the onion as above and caramelise it.
~   Allow to cool.
~   See here for my Basic Scone Recipe  and make the scones as usual adding the cooked onion before the milk and then adding the milk abstemiously.

Mushrooms Soubise 

Soubise has, traditionally but confusingly meant either a dish of rice and tender onions OR, more commonly, tender onions in a béchamel sauce. My sister and I, however, have always this term as a short form for this our much preferred method of cooking onions. We even named this dish after it.   
1 medium onion
1 ounce butter and maybe a little more
½ teaspoon minced garlic
450g button mushrooms
100ml dry white wine
1 veg bouillon cube (optional – in fact it’s all optional really, get creative!)
175ml double cream

~   Melt the onions in the butter till really tender but not taking any colour.
~   Quarter the mushrooms.
~   Tip the melted onions and all their buttery juices into a hot frying pan.
~   Add the quartered mushrooms and the garlic and sauté all together, adding a little more butter if necessary, till both the mushrooms and the onions are turning a little golden.
~   Add the wine, which will boil instantly, quickly crumble in the bouillon cube if using, and cook till almost all the wine is gone, which won’t be long!
~   Add the cream and bring to a boil.
~   Turn down the head and simmer for a minute or so till thick.
~   Taste and season.


My sister Maggie (now of the lovely Art Café and Cake Hole on Mersea Island) and I used to call this method “soubising”, I think "soubise" is a real word, possibly French and it’s even possible that it may have something to do with onions.  I’m not sure that it is used as a verb but to us it is a doing word related to onions.

And here are more dishes you can make or enhance with sweet, tender and possibly caramelised onions ...

Onion, White Wine & Parmesan Tagliatelle

Add these delicious onions to ...

Pan Sauces * Etc!

These onions are also the basis of my Super Flexible Soup Recipe.


I imagine Jonathan Swift hadn't tried my sweet melting onions but he is right in pricipal; onions should be fully cooked!
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Roti Upma aka Fried Bread Curry - don't worry, it's really good!

I have just eaten A Very Interesting Thing which was also quick, cheap and used leftovers but I doubt very much that it was healthy. - fried bread curry!

roti upma recipe fried bread curry, a great way to use up leftover bread

Upma is a actually a South Indian porridgy dish usually made with semolina but also with lots of other things that will mush down such as rice or bread.  I don't like porridgy things so have never tried it and so didn't feel I could rightfully include the bread version in my bread section of Creative Ways to Use Up Leftovers (see below ***). 

Recently however I have noticed a few Upma recipes using dried or fried bread which retains quite a bit of crispness so decided to give it a go. 

fried bread curry, roti upma, in Hindi

Roti Upma 

A somewhat inauthentic recipe because I didn't have all the right ingredients! ~ serves 1

useful pinterest image of roti upma a curry made from leftover bread   
2 separate ½ tbsp vegetable oil or ghee
1-2 slices bread - stale is good - diced or torn into pieces
(for me a small slice of sourdough and ½ an old roll I found in the freezer!)
¼ tsp mustard seeds
1 hot red chilli chopped
(I keep a bag in the freezer, they are easily chopped from frozen)
½ onion finely chopped
¼ inch ginger finely chopped
1 pinch turmeric
(I am ashamed to say I had no fresh ginger or turmeric so replaced these with a ¼ tsp curry paste which worked very well)
5 or so cherry tomatoes, quartered
a handful of cashew nuts
fresh coriander, chopped plus a sprig or two to garnish

~   Heat ½ tbsp oil in a frying pan then fry the bread in it till turning crisp and golden. Set aside.
~   Add the second ½ tbsp oil to the pan and then the mustard seeds and wait till they start popping.
~   Stir in the onion (and the ginger if you've got some) and cook till starting to go translucent then add the chilli and the tomatoes.
~   When the tomatoes start to mush down stir in the turmeric and/or curry paste and cook together a minute or so.
~   Taste and season then stir in the bread, cashews and chopped coriander. 
I stopped at this point because I don't like pappy meals but you could cook the mixture down a bit and maybe add a little hot water to achieve a more porridge-like consistency.  As I say, it was great and next time I feel I have been eating too healthily I intend to balance things up by making it again! 

***  In this book I give all the information, ideas, recipes, handy hints, cook’s treats, storage info, ideas of what goes with what that I can think of for over 450 possible leftovers including at least 16 ways to use up leftover bread.

cookbook of ideas and recipes for leftovers

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