Gooseberries are the least cherished of the summer berries. We tend to leave them in the culinary wilderness in favour of their more sassy, sweet cousins, the strawberry and raspberry. They’re in season at the moment and these tart, green orbs deserve to be celebrated. There is a bit of work involved in preparing them – they need to be topped and tailed. I find pouring myself a glass of wine and sitting down makes this a much more palatable task.
They’re versatile and sit as well in sweet dishes as they do in savoury. Oily fish like mackerel and herrings are a classic match with gooseberries. Grill the fish and serve the fruit thinly sliced as a foil for the rich fish. Alternatively you can make a gooseberry chutney, flavoured with spices to add some zing. Place a chopped onion, a kilo of gooseberries, a couple of teaspoons mustard seeds, a teaspoon ground coriander, 400g soft brown sugar and 200ml of cider vinegar in a pan and cook until thick. Bottle in sterilized jars and seal. The chutney would work equally well with cheeses, roast pork, gammon or duck.
For the recipe here I’m serving sea trout, also in season, with some gooseberry ketchup. The lovage plant in my garden is out of control now, as I yearned for, and I added some chopped rough stalks to the ketchup to great effect. If you can’t access lovage, substitute a teaspoon of fennel seeds. The lightly spiced, sweet sour ketchup goes beautifully with the rich fish – add a few thin slices of gooseberry and lightly pickled cucumber for extra zing.
For the sweet side of things, it’s a good idea to treat gooseberries in the same way as rhubarb. They have a similar tartness that needs a good dousing of sugar. The fruit is lovely whizzed into a creamy dessert like a fool or cheesecake or in a pie. For the recipe this week I’m going for a classic crumble with the addition of Bramley apples. Serendipitously gooseberries and elderflowers share a season and are perfect for each other. The warm fragrant blossom adds a sweetness to the lip puckering berries. Crumble needs custard and the recipe here has the addition of some elderflower cordial. Whether you add ice cream or cream is up to you.
For the gooseberry and lovage ketchup
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons local rapeseed oil or olive oil
¼ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon garam masala
2 tablespoons chopped lovage stalks
2 tablespoons tomato puree
250g gooseberries, topped and tailed
125g dark brown sugar
100g castor sugar
200ml cider vinegar
Cook the onion and garlic in the oil until soft and golden.
Add the allspice and garam masala and cook for 20 seconds. Mix in the tomato puree and cook for a minute. Add the gooseberries, lovage,sugars and vinegar. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until thick and chutney like. Blend to a smooth puree and then pass through a sieve. Check seasoning. Place in a clean bottle and chill until needed.
For the pickled cucumber
100ml cider vinegar
50g castor sugar
Salt to taste
Peel the cucumber and cut in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds with a teaspoon and slice the cucumber. Boil the vinegar, water and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Season with salt and cool. Pour over the cucumber and leave for an hour to infuse.
For the sea trout
4 x 175g sea trout fillets
Oil for rubbing
Rub the trout with oil and season with salt. Place on a smoking hot non stick pan ( or line a dodgy pan with parchment paper) and cook for a couple of minutes to seal. Lower the heat and turn over. Cook for about 3 minutes each side depending on thickness. Allow to rest before serving with some of the pickled cucumber, gooseberry and lovage ketchup and some thin slices of gooseberry.
425g peeled, cored and chopped Bramley apples ( approximately 3 apples)
325g gooseberries, topped and tailed
150g castor sugar
Place apples, gooseberries and sugar in a pan and cook until apples are just cooked through. Place in a buttered baking dish.
For the crumble topping
200g plain flour
200g castor sugar
Rub the butter into the flour to resemble coarse crumbs. Mix in the sugar.
Spoon onto the apple and gooseberry mixture and bake in a 180oc preheated oven for about 30 minutes or until the topping is golden and crisp.
For the elderflower custard
150ml whole milk
250ml whipping cream
4 tablespoons elderflower cordial
4 egg yolks
50g castor sugar
2 tablespoons cornflour
Scald the cream, milk and cordial together.
Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour together and pour over the hot cream. Return to pan and stir until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon.