I’m constantly surprised that gooseberries aren’t free.
This is because, back home in Worcestershire, my parents have three or four bushes which have in Mum’s own words “thrived through neglect“. Picking bucketfuls of fuzzy green orbs, while trying to avoid scratches on the arms and nettle stings on the legs, is a vivid childhood memory. So seeing £3-4 tags on small punnets of berries that’d only half fill a crumble always riles.
I reluctantly accept, though, that until I dig up one of the bushes, put it on the train back to London, and plant it in the tarmac outside my front window (it’ll do fine), I must spend a few pounds if I’m to get my yearly fix of this God-tier fruit.
My local grocer is about as fair as they come, so at the weekend I held my breath and snapped up his last kg of gooseberries for a fiver. I then set about trying to make them go as far as they could.
To crumble, to cake, to pie or to tart? To fool, to drink or to freeze?
In the end I decided to do a number of things, so as to enjoy the fruit to the full: a desire for granita was the starting point; a love for a light fool a deviation from that; and the rescue of a few berries before cooking, and others at the early stages of stewing, left me with different textures and levels of tartness to complete a rather delicious dessert.
The recipe below is, like this post, a bit rambling. So a few key points for those of you interested enough to dive in:
- The method allowed me to end with four or five different gooseberry dishes. There may be more efficient ways to get to each individual result, should you just want to do one of them. Go figure.
- Adjust sugar to taste. You can always add more … but you cannae take away. Relish the fact that the raw, macerated slices plus the stewed fruit pulled from the pan early on will all be fairly sour; the granita is sweet; and the creamy fool balances everything out.
- The amount this feeds is anyone’s guess – it’ll certainly suit six as a light dessert, with plenty of granita left over for another day. Probably some fool too. As far as I’m concerned, surplus gooseberry treats are a good thing.
- Traditionally a fool is simply the combination of whipped double cream and fruit compote. I put yoghurt in too, though, as it lightens proceedings and lowers the guilt-factor somewhat. That said, if you do follow me in this deviation from a classic fool, please use thick Greek yoghurt.
- You’ll have lots of puree left. I recommend using this in a gin based cocktail – a good tablespoon mixed with 40ml gin, ice and tonic water; or the same amount of puree, with 25ml gin, 25ml dry white vermouth (plus ice).
Gooseberry fool, granita and other bits
- 900g gooseberries, topped and tailed and washed
- 200g water
- 100g elderflower cordial
- 225g caster sugar
- Lemon juice to season
- 250g double cream
- 150g Greek style yoghurt (full fat)
- 150g gooseberry compote (from recipe above)
Put aside about ten gooseberries. Add the remainder of the fruit, the sugar, half the water and half the elderflower cordial in a saucepan. Place over a medium heat and bring to a gentle simmer. Turn the berries occasionally to ensure the fruit at the top of the pan cooks at the same time as those at the base.
When the fruit first looks as though it’s softening and bursting (five to ten minutes), remove about 6 large spoonfuls of fruit (around 200g) and set aside (this is your stewed fruit for later). Cook for five minutes more, remove from the heat and allow to cool a little.
Put all the fruit in a blender or food processor, and whizz until smooth. Pass this through a sieve to remove any remaining lumpy bits of skin or stalk.
Split the liquid in two. Put half back in a saucepan on a medium heat and reduce by half – so that it becomes thicker, and jammy flavoured. This is your compote for the fool. Once it’s reduced, taste for sweetness (add more sugar if you think it needs it), and add a little squeeze of lemon. Refrigerate until you need it.
Put the second half of the gooseberry liquid in a tupperware – so that it fills it to half way. Add a tiny squeeze of lemon, and the remaining water and elderflower cordial (100g and 50g respectively). Stir and freeze. This is your granita. Run a fork through the ever freezing mass every sixty minutes or so, for around five hours (when it should be fully frozen). To serve this, scrape the ice away with a fork.
To make the fool, whisk the cream until it’s thick and firm, but not yet peaking – just beyond ‘ribbon’ stage. Fold in the gooseberry puree and the yoghurt. Whisk a little more, so that the fool will just hold its form, then put in the fridge for thirty minutes to seize a little.
Ten to thirty minutes before you want to eat, slice the raw gooseberries into circles and sit them in a spoon of elderflower cordial.
Then it’s just a case of putting everything in a bowl. Use a piping bag for the fool if you want the effect in the photo; a spoon if you’re not so bothered.