AS a kid, whenever I asked the question how I’d been born my mother would brush me off by saying I had been found under a gooseberry bush. This time of year I spend plenty of time hanging around them, collecting box in hand.
They are cheap enough in the shops but free gooseberries taste even sweeter, albeit with the addition of a few tablespoons of sugar. I have my own special hunting ground in one of the local parks where I also pick blackcurrants, cherries, apples, damsons and plums in season. I’m not telling you where!
I am usually surprised no one else bothers but this year I thought someone had beaten me to it at the bigger of two bushes. There were only gooseberries at the highest levels but once I’d got my eye in I found more. The smaller, more accessible bush, had hardly been touched. I quicky collected a shade short of two pounds.
Some of them were going to make a gooseberry fool, the most spectacular and cheapest of desserts and, more to the point, the only way I can get my wife to eat them. This is a deluxe version of the recipe I gave last year here and this time with measurements.
To fill two large wine glasses you need 300g of gooseberries but taste one first to judge how much sugar you’ll need. I used two tablespoons and then a bit. Last year I used elderflower gin but it has gone off so I added a capful of my favourite gin, a tablespoon of water then nipped down the bottom of the garden and nicked four of my neighbour’s heads of elderflowers. As they were next door that counted as foraging. On the way back I took some fragrant (unidentified) blossoms from my hedge. That wasn’t. You will also need thick yoghurt and, if you’re being really snazzy, some crème fraiche and ice cream.
First top and tail and wash your gooseberries. That removed a caterpillar. Put them in a heavy bottomed ban with the sugar, liquids and very well shaken blossoms. Using a simmer plate and the lowest heat, watching like a hawk, I cooked the berries until soft, about 20 minutes.
I strained the gooseberries and reserved the best ten for garnish. I measured the liquid and used only half of it, putting it in the blender with the cooked berries and pressing the button. This is a very good suggestion from Nigella Lawson, on whose recipe mine is loosely based. This is to stop the puree being too runny. I put the remaining liquid in a shallow box to freeze to make water ice.
Now mix half the resultant puree with a few tablespoons of yoghurt and leave in the fridge to cool. Check the water ice after a couple of hours and mush up with a fork.
This is a last minute assembly job. In two large wine glasses I put some ice cream in the bottom followed by layers of yoghurt-puree mix, the remainder of the gooseberry puree, some crème fraiche, splinters of water ice and finally the reserved gooseberries, garnished with a spring of garden mint.
It tasted as good as it looked. You could simplify this, as Nigella does, and just have yoghurt and puree but don’t forget the water ice, something for nothing. As were the gooseberries. We reflected that in a restaurant this dessert would easily have cost £6.50. Not bad for an hour’s foraging.