Make a mess of your foolish dessert by adding meringue

The word ‘mess’ may refer to the appearance of the dish or simply to the quantity of food

Gooseberries usually begin to appear on supermarket shelves in June. Photograph: iStock

Gooseberries usually begin to appear on supermarket shelves in June. Photograph: iStock

 

What’s the difference between a fool and a mess? Can a mess make a fool or is it only a fool that can make a mess? First mentioned in print in 1893, the dish Eton Mess is believed to have originated in Eton College.

However, there are a few schools that have variants, and meringue was a later addition. The original contained strawberries with ice cream and possibly smashed bananas. It seems strawberries are the only thing tying it to Eton. The word “mess” may refer to the appearance of the dish, as Heston Blumenthal has written, or simply to the quantity of food on offer.

The word “fool” on the other hand comes from the French word “fouler”, meaning to press or crush, referring to the crushed fruits that are usually folded into lightly whipped cream. Fool is a much older dessert or pudding, and recipes date back many hundreds of years. Foole first appears in print in 1598, made of “clouted creame” though some argue that gooseberry fool dates from the 1400s.

The earliest Irish recipe for fruit fool dates from the late 1600s and includes stewed gooseberries folded into whipped cream and served immediately.

How to make a mess of a gooseberry fool

Gooseberries usually begin to appear on supermarket shelves in June. Take 500g of gooseberries and top and tail them. Place in a pot with 100g of sugar and 50ml of elderflower cordial. Simmer softly until the fruit bursts. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Whip 200ml of double cream with one tablespoon of icing sugar and fold in 15ml of sheep’s yogurt. Carefully combine the stewed gooseberries with the cream and yogurt and place into chilled glasses. Decorate with a few sprigs of mint and fresh elderflowers. Dust with some icing sugar.

To turn your fool into a mess, fold in a few smashed-up meringue nests. If you want to make your own, fold 330g of sugar into six firmly whipped egg whites, pipe into nests, and bake at 110 degrees for two hours.

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