Gooseberries are excellent for jams or chutneys but they are also a diverse baking ingredient. There is an old-fashionedness to them that evokes fictional summer picnics from a children’s novel; especially when they are served up in desserts such fools or trifles. A chef's favourite is to use them in a savoury sauce, as an accompaniment for strong fish such as mackerel. The refreshing tartness makes the berries ideal for cutting through the strong, oily flavours.
Gooseberries come in both red and green but many are variant of the two colours. Their hue darkens as they mature on the bush. The berries are not always appetising when eaten raw but when they do reach that sweet spot, when perfectly ripe and sun kissed, they are delicious.
Once you pick or buy your gooseberries it is best to store them in the fridge, alternatively they freeze quite well.
Their bushes will grow in many kinds of soil but they thrive in a bright, sunny position in rich, well-drained ground. Funnily enough it is against the law to grow gooseberries in some American states as they can get a pathogen in that area, called 'white pine blister rust' and there is fear of it spreading. It is perfectly ok to grow them in your garden on this side of the Atlantic, and they can even flourish in a container with the right care. Do look out for the thorns and try and get to your berries before the birds swoop down and munch them all.
200g of cold butter, cubed
250g of plain flour
1 egg yolk
60g of demerara sugar
50g of demerara sugar
50g of butter
100g of ground almonds
400g of gooseberries
1/2 tbs of honey
Rub the butter into the flour until it looks like rough breadcrumbs. Add in the sugar and combine. Add in the egg yolk and bring the mixture together with your hands. Wrap the pastry in parchment and place it into the fridge to cool for at least an hour.
Pre heat your oven to 180 degrees and place a large flat baking tray into the oven so that it heats as well.
To make the filling beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, add the egg until combined, then add the ground almonds and mix until it forms a paste.
Roll your pastry into a large circle about 5 mm in thickness. I do this on a sheet of parchment that I can then use to transfer the finished cake onto the hot baking tray. I have the parchment sitting on a large chopping board so it is easy to get it into the oven.
Spread the filling in the centre of the pastry circle leaving at least 5cm around each edge.
Toss the gooseberries in the honey and pile them in the centre of the circle. Fold the edges of the pastry up so that it slightly overlaps the fruit.
Carry your large chopping board over the oven. Carefully drag the sheet of parchment onto the hot baking tray. This step will help to prevent that dreaded soggy bottom. Bake for about a half an hour, until the pastry is golden and the gooseberries are soft. The berry juice may drizzle down the sides of the pastry. If you prefer to hide this you can dust some icing sugar over it before you serve.
230g of soft butter
220g of golden caster sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
230g of plain flour
200g of gooseberries, topped and tailed
30mls of elderflower cordial
the zest of 1 lemon
70g of demerara sugar
Pre heat your oven to 180 degrees and line 9 inch square cake tin with parchment.
Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Slowly add in the eggs, if the mixture begins to separate add some of the flour. Once the eggs are combined add in the flour. Stir in the gooseberries and scrape into your prepared tin.
Bake for about 35 minutes or until a skewer comes out of the sponge clean.
While it is baking stir the cordial, lemon zest and sugar together and then pour them over the hot cake as soon as you take it out of the oven. The sugar should melt and sink through the cake.
Leave the cake in the tin until cool.
3 gelatine leaves
260 mls of cream
260 mls of milk
1 tsp of vanilla
25g of caster sugar
100g of gooseberries, topped and tailed
1/2 tbs rosewater
1/2 tbs honey
100g strawberries, stalks removed and cut into cubes
Place the sheets of gelatine into a large bowl, just cover them with cold water and set them aside.
Pour the cream and milk into a saucepan, stir in the vanilla and sugar. Bring to a simmer.
While the cream mixture is heating squeeze the (now soft) gelatine leaves to remove any excess water. Remove the cream from the hob and whisk in the gelatine until it has dissolved entirely.
Divide the mixture between four bowls or pots and once cooled slightly place these into your fridge to set. It will take over an hour to firm up.
Place the gooseberries into a heavy based saucepan with the rosewater and honey and simmer until they soften and the mixture thickens. Stir in the cubes of strawberry.
When you are ready to serve the panna cotta spoon the fruit mixture on top.