I had barely even heard of gooseberries before I came to England – except as an exotic-sounding jam that I had never tasted – so when I first stumbled on these green jewels at a a pick your own farm in Derbyshire some years ago I was delighted. I snapped up a small box of them to accompany the myriad boxes of strawberries my then eight year old son and I had already picked. Unfortunately I had absolutely no idea what to do with them, and had neither enough gooseberries nor time to make jam. I’m ashamed to say they lingered unused and lonely in my fridge for days until I was forced to throw them away.
Over the ensuring years I’ve tasted gooseberry jam, gooseberry pie and gooseberry fool – all of which I loved – but I’ve never had the courage to buy the berries again and cook with them myself. And you really do need to cook gooseberries. Eaten raw they are unbearably sharp and tart, not to mention chewy. This is a fruit that is best served gently stewed.
Recently my friend Katie from Q Gardens had some gooseberries for sale at her stall at our local market. Katie explained that once you’ve stewed the gooseberries, which is actually the work of only a few minutes, the puree you are left with is lovely served over cereal or mixed into yogurt. Whole gooseberries can also be cooked in pies and crumbles. You just need to top and tail them first. That means to cut the tiny brown stem from the top and the little green ‘tail’ from the bottom of the berry. This is easily done with scissors.
Incidentally, while the Canadian in me would pronounce the name of this fruit as ‘Gooseberries’, saying ‘goose’ like the bird and ‘berry’ like, well, berries, here in England it’s pronounced ‘Gusburry’. I’ve never quite understood this as we say ‘goose’ and ‘berry’ similarly to North America when referring to birds and fruit. It’s one of those great British mysteries. Like why ‘Derby’ is pronounced ‘Darby’, ‘shire’ as ‘sheer’ and ‘Birmingham’ as ‘Birmingum’. But I digress.
Fool is a classic English dessert traditionally made with sweetened cream and pureed fruit. It’s been around since the sixteenth century and it’s a great way to use up fruit that it is a bit over ripe or on the tart side. My recipe incorporates yogurt to try to make the recipe a bit healthier. I say ‘try’ because you really do need to add sugar to gooseberries and as the other ingredient is double or heavy cream, making this dessert healthy is a bit of a gargantuan task. It does however, taste delicious, and in moderation it’s just lovely.
- 2 cups gooseberries, topped and tailed
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon water
- ¼ cup St Germain liqueur or undiluted Elderflower cordial
- 1½ cups double or heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ½ cup vanilla yogurt
- fresh mint to garnish
- Place the gooseberries in a saucepan.
- Stir in the sugar and the water.
- Heat over low heat, stirring frequently, until the fruit begins to break apart. This will take between ten and fifteen minutes.
- Remove from the heat and stir, breaking any remaining pieces of fruit down so that the fruit is a rough puree. Don't worry about the seeds.
- Remove the gooseberry puree from the saucepan and place in a bowl.
- Let the mixture cool and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 24 hours.
- Remove the gooseberry puree from the fridge. Drain away any runny liquid using a sieve.
- Stir the St Gemain liqueur or Elderflower cordial into the gooseberry puree.
- Whip the cream and the tablespoon of sugar in an electric mixer until soft peaks form.
- Whip in the yogurt.
- Fold the gooseberry puree very gently into the cream and yogurt mixture. It's okay if you can see ripples of puree.
- Spoon gently into 6 serving dishes.
- Garnish each fool with a couple of mint leaves.
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