There are some fruits, vegetables and herbs that I love, but am strangely reluctant to buy. This is my parents’ fault. Or perhaps it could be more fairly described as being the fault of a few particularly hardy plants that, even though they are often severely neglected, continue to grow in Mum and Dad’s garden. Whatever, certain items are never on Mum’s shopping list yet, when in season, always in plentiful supply.
Rosemary is one example, though I have generally not had too much trouble getting around this particular purchasing problem (in my experience, you’re never more than 100m from a stray and untended rosemary bush or, more respectably, your own rosemary pot).
Rhubarb and gooseberries also fall into the category of items that I assume should be freely available. But it’s rare that you walk past a wild rhubarb plant or gooseberry bush in London.
I was therefore very glad that the gooseberry bushes happened to be absolutely loaded with fruit when I took advantage of my parents hospitality over the weekend. I picked (in no time at all) well over 2kg of the little green chaps without really making a dent in this year’s crop.
Mum commandeered about 1.5kg of them for a gooseberry crumble. And an excellent crumble it was too.
She used her trusty 35 or so year old Good Housekeeping book for the crumble ratio (which, I’m guessing, went something along the lines of: rub together 12 oz (oz because it’s old – translate here) plain flour, 8 oz butter, 4 oz caster sugar and a pinch of salt until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs), but went freestyle on the fruit, adding a couple of bashed sprigs of elderflower, a tablespoon or two of elderflower cordial, and a couple of desert spoons of caster sugar to the gooseberries. These were stewed for just a few minutes and then the crumble mixture was spooned loosely over them, before being placed in the oven for 30 mins at 220 degrees.
Dad and I may have meddled a little and overzealously ‘browned’ the top. I say may as we prefer to play the excuse, not the blame game (i.e. we prefer the excuse that, because M&D have been away, the Aga is off and we basically still don’t really know how to use the electric oven (they’ve only had it for 15 years); rather than Mum’s version, which is that one of us changed the setting to ‘turbo grill’ when she wasn’t looking and then ignored it for 10 carbon inducing minutes). Nothing that a little scraping couldn’t solve though – it still tasted great.
I took the remaining fruit and followed Lucas Hollweg’s gooseberry fool recipe from the Sunday Times Style magazine when I got home that evening. I’ve copied his recipe below as it worked very nicely (and with this pay wall malarky, I can’t just hyperlink to the website).
Which leaves me with only about 500g of gooseberries for the rest of the year. Please let me know if you stumble across an errant patch of gooseberry bushes that I can scavenge from.
Lucas Hollweg’s gooseberry fool (serves 4)
500g gooseberries, topped and tailed; 1 tsp orange zest, finely grated; 100g caster sugar; 5 tsp undiluted elderflower cordial; 250ml double cream; 250ml greek yoghurt.
Put the gooseberries in a saucepan with the orange zest, 75g of the sugar and 1tbsp water. Bring to the boil and then turn the heat down low for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the berries have softened and slumped. Add 2tbsp of the elderflower cordial and stir well. Leave to cool and then chill in the fridge.
Put the cream and yoghurt in a mixing bowl with the remaining sugar and cordial. Whisk well until it holds it shape and loosely swirl in two-thirds of the gooseberries. Spoon into glasses and chill in the fridge for an hour or two.
Top each fool with some of the remaining fruit. Serve.
Some more gooseberry pictures: