I do this thing every year, every day, at this point in Spring - a walkabout around the yard. I poke at perennials to see if they are still alive - most are but for some wild and crazy reason some don't make it. (I lost Lamb's Ear and Globe Thistle and Purple Coneflower this year - what the hell?!). If I were more organized and more nerdy I'd totally make a journal with drawings so I can remember where the hell I planted what, because I'm getting old and the short term memory is just not there anymore, though I can tell you who won the Stanley Cup in 1990 and what year Shakespeare in Love won the Best Picture Oscar. If you're curious, keep on reading. Where was I? Oh yeah, garden nerd talk. So in this walkabout around the yard, I'm always excited to go back to the veg patch - there is no action there yet - it's just a sad heap of wet, rotten leaves covering dirt until the Rototiller Man can come and work it up for me. But there in the corner, thriving away in all of its big leafy business in my old friend Rhubarb - or the Barb as I lovingly call it.
Every backyard in my neck of the woods has a rhubarb plant. In fact my neighbour drives me mental by letting hers grow all humongous and then she mows it down, doesn't even pick off those lovely ruby red stalks. Are you fuming too? You have no idea how many times I've come close to jumping the fence and rescuing the poor thing, but alas I'm a law abiding citizen and I show restraint/common sense. But I tell you it's painful stuff, having to watch such neglect occur right under my nose. How downright foolish to let such an excellent culinary resource go to waste. Okay, I'll let it go....
Speaking of fools, let's talk about this dessert! A fool is a classic British dessert, consisting of pretty fruit and cream layers. All sorts of combinations and permutations abound (look at me busting out the advanced math lingo - don't get too used to it!). Nigel Slater's Rhubarb Fool consists of a custard instead of whipped cream and it looks pretty dreamy too. Either way it's layers of poached fruit with layers of creamy goodness. And my word, given it's simplicity and stunning taste, it's a good recipe to have in your back pocket for Summer entertaining.
So let's start! Find yourself some rhubarb - if you have to jump a fence, don't get caught. Chop it up, and simmer it with a good glug of white wine and sugar. A vanilla bean lends its gorgeousness to the mix. Simmer it until the fruit is soft, but still holds most of its shape. Let it cool - put it in the fridge if you have to.
Who owns a mortar and pestle? Get it out of your cupboard. Put about 4 tbsp of sugar in it and throw in some dried lavender - about 1 tsp or so. You want just a slightly fragrant edge to the cream, not Eau de Aunt Edna. Less is more, friends. Grind up the sugar and lavender until fine. Smells nice, real nice. Of course the lavender is optional. If you can't find any (check health food or specialty stores) this dessert will still be amazing. Trust. Whip up the lavender sugar with heavy cream. Fold in a little sour cream just for fun.
Now the best part - find pretty glass cups or old jars and layer the fruit with the cream. I made a boo boo and started with cream on the bottom when it should have been fruit. But in the whole scheme of life, it doesn't really matter, does it? Just layer fruit and cream, finishing with cream on top so your pistachios POP! I shared this dessert with a very handsome man and we both decided it was a bit too tart (or maybe we are both too sweet?) so I've pumped up the sugar amount a tad. You want tart, but not puckering lip tart. The balance of the slightly sour fruit with the lovely floral notes of the cream makes this a really great dessert. It assembles quickly, hangs out in the fridge for a few days so you can do it ahead of time and honestly, it just tastes of Spring and all of the hope and anticipation that comes with the season. Oh Rhubarb! We've only just begun!
Rhubarb Fool with Lavender Cream & Pistachios
3 1/2 cups of fresh rhubarb, chopped into 3/4 inch pieces
1/2 cup granulated sugar (I used natural cane sugar and it was fab)
1/2 cup white wine
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 tsp dried lavender
4 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sour cream
handful pistachios, shelled and finely chopped
Place rhubarb in a saucepan with the sugar and wine. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and throw into the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, cooking on low for about 15 minutes, until the fruit is soft, but still holds it shape. Let it cool.
With a mortar and pestle, grind together the lavender and sugar until quite fine. Place in the bowl of a mixer. Pour in the heavy cream. Beat until soft peaks form. Slowly beat in the sour cream.
Layer the cooled fruit and cream in pretty glass cups/jars - you want to see the gorgeous layers!
Let chill one hour before serving. Garnish with chopped pistachios. Serves 4-5. Inspired by Lottie and Doof and April Bloomfield.
Oh, in case you were wondering about what I was blabbing about in the first paragraph, the answers are The Edmonton Oilers, and 1998. Yup, I'm a total dork.