Finding unfussy, seasonal dishes, skilfully prepared by people who value the top quality fresh ingredients supplied by local producers is one of the great joys of travelling around Ireland.
And never mind the devil, it’s the delight that’s in the detail in this delicious food – in this month’s dish, for example, a traditional fruit fool is lifted by the simple addition of pink peppercorns in the accompanying shortbread and as a garnish. Black pepper is a well known complementary seasoning for strawberries, but pink peppercorns are better by far and the flavour and crunch transform this simple dessert from John Finn, owner-chef at Finn’s Table, Kinsale, Co Cork, into something quite special.
Strawberry Fool with Pink Peppercorn Shortbread Biscuits
Pink Pepper Shortbread Biscuits
180g butter, cubed
80g caster sugar
220g plain white flour
2 large spoons pink peppercorns
Place the sugar, flour and butter in a food processor and process until the mixture comes together to form a dough. Add the peppercorns and pulse once more. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for at least 2 hours. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 160ºc, remove the dough from the cling film and slice in 1cm thick slices. Place the slices on a baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes. Transfer the biscuits to a wire rack and allow to cool. The biscuits can be stored for 3 to 4 days in an airtight container.
500g fresh strawberries (at Finn’s Table they use David Bushby’s strawberries, from Rosscarbery)
2 tsp honey
1 vanilla pod
100g caster sugar
6 egg yolks
Pink peppercorns for topping
For the strawberry purée, liquidise the strawberries and honey and pass through a fine sieve; refrigerate until required.
For the custard, whisk the egg yolks & sugar until they are pale and fluffy.
Meanwhile, bring the cream and the seeds from the vanilla pod to boiling point. Pour into the egg mix, whisk the cream and egg mix over a pan of gently simmering water until the custard thickens. (If using a thermometer, it needs to reach 82ºc to cook the eggs, or alternatively place the mix on a Thermomix and cook to 82ºc.)
Turn into a Pyrex bowl or similar, cover and cool, then refrigerate until cold.
To assemble, first blend half of the strawberry purée with the custard.
To serve, spoon some of the leftover purée into the base of each tall glass. Spoon in the fool mix, sprinkle with pink peppercorns and add some sliced strawberries for garnish if wished. Serve with the pink pepper shortbread biscuits.