Today is April Fools Day when pranks and jokes are played on people who are already fully anticipating it.
The custom can be traced back to Roman times, but the first reference in literature occurs in Geoffrey Chaucer’s A Nun’s, Priest’s Tale first printed in 1392.
Over the years the media has embraced the day – a bit of light relief in a troubled world.
My favourite, and one of the most famous, was when BBC’s Panorama programme showed women supposedly, in 1957, harvesting spaghetti from trees in Switzerland. Fool is also the name of a classic English dessert. It’s a simple combination of fruit, cream and sugar.
It’s origin is French from the word foule, meaning to press. The late, great food writer Elizabeth David summed it up eloquently “soft, pale, creamy, untroubled,the English fruit fool is the most frail and unsubstantial of English summer dishes”.
Rhubarb fool is probably the best known of this confection. English forced rhubarb is still available.
Thin, vivid pink stems that will bring a smile to your face with their delicate beauty. It also provides a perfect acidic element so necessary to balance this dish.
My first recipe is for a classic rhubarb fool – no fuss just cooked rhubarb, swirled into cream. The only deviation I make from the norm is to add some Clandeboye Greek yoghurt. It adds a delicate tang to the finished pudding.
Serve it with some shortcake on the side for a perfect spring dessert.
Now we all know that spaghetti doesn’t grow on trees and we use it with ease on a regular basis.
Purple sprouting broccoli is in season at the moment.
It has a longer stem than the regular green variety and as the name suggests, has purple florets. It works beautifully combined with pasta and pancetta – the salty bacon cutting through the verdant vegetable. No harvesting required for this recipe.
My last recipe also gives the seasonal broccoli an Italian flavour. Moira based butcher Peter Hannah makes a delicious Italian sausage meat, spiked with chilli and fennel, creating a taste that will transport you to Tuscany.
It’s worth a trip to pick up some. I combine it with the purple broccoli in a creamy gratin. Serve with crusty bread or as a decadent side dish for steaks or roast beef.
I’ve added a recipe for Italian sausage, tweaking a good butcher’s variety with the relevant seasoning.
There’s much to be happy with in the food world at the moment – the sunny rhubarb and zippy broccoli only have a limited season so make the most of them now.