We English diners aren’t blessed with much, but we’re pretty blessed when it comes to summer fruits. We’ve been through rhubarb, strawberries, cherries and greengages already this summer: now it’s the turn of the gooseberry.
There are several different varieties of this lovely, fragrant berry, some very sharp and best used for cooking (they’re very good simmered down and served with rich meats like duck and goose), and some so sweet they can be eaten raw. Its flavour character and the texture it cooks down to means that it fits well into the sort of recipes you might cook with rhubarb – and if you don’t have any gooseberries, you can make this fool with rhubarb and emerge happy. I very much like the texture of the soft seeds and flesh of the fruit in the mouth, and don’t sieve the gooseberry puree in this recipe to remove them. Try it both ways, and see which you prefer.
Gooseberries have a fantastic affinity with elderflower. It’s just one of those happy coincidences, like strawberries and black pepper (try it some time). If you made the elderflower cordial I encourage you to make every June (or if you have some from the supermarket in the cupboard), use two tablespoons of it in place of the sugar in this recipe. To serve two, you’ll need:
450g dessert gooseberries
2 tablespoons sugar OR elderflower cordial
400ml whipping cream
400ml custard – make the custard using this recipe or buy some from the supermarket chiller cabinet
Top and tail the gooseberries with a sharp knife, and put them in a small saucepan. Add the sugar or elderflower cordial to them and put over a low heat. As they simmer, the berries will collapse into a thick sauce. Remove from the heat, taste for sweetness, adding a little more sugar or cordial if necessary, transfer to a bowl and put the gooseberries into the fridge to chill for a couple of hours. Make up the custard and put it in the fridge to chill with the berries.
When the gooseberries and custard are nice and cold, whip the cream into soft peaks. In glasses, layer the custard, gooseberries and cream to serve. Some like to swirl them in the glass, but I think this is far prettier served in distinct layers.