Tag Archives: gooseberries

Gooseberries Galore

Gooseberries bumper crop

I couldn’t finish this megaseason for the humble gooseberry without sharing a few of the recipes I’ve tried this year – as well as the usual pies, crumbles, fools and shortbreads, of course, and stowing far too many in the freezer, to say nothing of giving lots away. I have two gooseberry bushes at the allotment, one green variety, Invicta, a highly prolific and viciously prickly, mildew-resistant form, which never fails to produce excellent crops, and a red dessert variety, Pax, less prickly, but not as prolific. Despite netting, it’s always a race to get to the berries when they turn red before the birds do! This year, though, I was onto them and have picked the berries red, rather than waiting for them to turn black – result! They made a divine cloud-like fool, with just puréed gooseberries (500g), cooked with a dash of elderflower cordial and 75g sugar, cooled, sieved to remove the seeds and skins, then folded into 150ml softly whipped cream. Heavenly.

Pink gooseberry and elederflower fool

The Invictas, on the other hand, are so prolific that I didn’t know what to do with them all. Picking them is a challenge (especially with a wedding coming up, and trying to keep my hands and arms scratch-free!), so I decided to be brutal and prune the bush drastically in the process. This had the added advantage of allowing me to sit in the shade of my established apple tree, out of the scorching sun, to take the individual berries off the branches – much less risky!

Gooseberry branches picking

So what to do with all this fruit? Online research suggested a gooseberry chutney courtesy of Nigel Slater, not cooked to death as with many chutney recipes, but a lighter preserve, perfect for spicing up cold meats and cheese – definitely worth a try.

Gooseberry Chutney

Gooseberry chutney

 250g granulated sugar
2 large onions
300g tomatoes
1 kg gooseberries
200g raisins
150ml cider vinegar
150ml white wine vinegar
15 cardamom pods
12 black peppercorns
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp salt

Peel and chop the onions, then put in a large pan. Add the chopped tomatoes, raisin and vinegar ( I used all cider vinegar as that’s what I had). Open the cardamom pods and crush the seeds with the black peppercorns, then add to the pan with the coriander seeds. Simmer gently while you top and tail the gooseberries.

Add 750g gooseberries to the pan and 1 tsp salt, then cook over a gentle heat for 30 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. After 30 minutes, stir in the sugar until it dissolves , then cook for a further 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining gooseberries and cook for another 2-3 minutes until the added gooseberries are just cooked. Pour into sterilised jars, cover and seal. Set aside for at least a week before serving with cold meats and/or cheese.

My final gooseberry suggestion for this season is a delicious gooseberry & elderflower yogurt ice cream. I suppose it’s not unlike a frozen fool, but this time with yogurt to cut through the richness – mmmmm…. don’t mind if I do.

Gooseberry & Elderflower Yogurt Ice Cream

500g gooseberries, topped and tailed
75g elderflower cordial
125g granulated sugar
150 ml natural yogurt (full-fat)
150ml double cream

Cook the gooseberries over a gentle heat with the elderflower cordial and the sugar until softened – about 5-10 minutes. Allow to cool completely, then purée in a blender and sieve to remove the seeds.

Stir in the cream and natural yogurt and mix well. Transfer to an ice cream maker and churn until it resembles soft ice cream. Transfer to the freezer to finish.

Serve with gooseberry pies or crumbles, or just as it is, in a bowl, with a big grin on your face. This is so good….

Soft fruit harvest

 

 

 

 

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Season of plenty

The problem with writing an allotment blog is that there’s so much to do in the summer months that you don’t have time to write! Hence the lack of updates recently…

In a brief bid to remedy the situation, and thanks to my son taking some lovely photos of my burgeoning allotment this month, I thought I’d add a quick photomontage to keep things up-to-date.

Allotment with me July 2014

Despite the soggy start to the year, the mild spring and the recent spell of hot weather have meant it’s been a great season for most things so far. Raspberries and soft fruit came earlier than usual and went over quickly, but my well-stocked freezer bears witness to the plentiful pickings! I managed to harvest enough redcurrants to make my annual redcurrant jelly (indispensable with roast lamb: mix with grated orange rind and fresh mint from the garden for a delectable sauce), but then the blackbirds managed to get underneath my netting and stripped the lot overnight. Note to self: make sure netting goes to the ground ALL the way round next time. Gooseberries were equally prolific and in fact there are still some of the dark red dessert variety (Pax) left on for one more pie (see below). The early plums have just started and the autumn raspberries too…

plums and dahlias

The flowers are heavenly as ever: for me, one of the huge boons of having an allotment is being able to keep the house filled with vases of flowers from the first daffodils of spring, through wallflowers, sweet williams and poppies to the joys of sweet peas and dahlias in the summer months right up to the end of autumn. Bliss.

Asparagus, broad beans, peas – mangetout and sugar snap – and far more salad than I could ever eat have ensured a wealth of produce to choose from on the vegetable front. Courgettes are coming on stream too now and the beetroot are doing well as ever.

Allotment produce beetroot carrots

In a bid to halt the badgers that decimated my sweetcorn crop last year, I’ve erected a sturdy (I hope) chickenwire fence around the sweetcorn. I’m hoping the butternut squash underplanting the corn will manage to grow through and beneath the wire and not be constrained – so far so good. Let’s just hope the badgers aren’t sufficiently determined this year to flatten and trample the lot…

sweetcorn barricade

The onions don’t look as plump as they have in previous years, which makes me wonder whether I didn’t keep them sufficiently well watered earlier on. Garlic was a complete failure again, succumbing to black rot despite being planted in autumn in a bed which had never grown alliums before. The only saving grace was the elephant garlic I planted just as an experiment, which seems to have escaped the mould, as I had been promised it would. In future, I might just give up on the normal garlic, which obviously doesn’t like my heavy soil, and concentrate on the elephantine variety. Leeks always do well, thank goodness.

Leeks July 2014

Today I’m going to make a start on summer-pruning the fruit trees, which have put tremendous growth on this year, although they aren’t quite as weighed down as they were in last year’s epic fruiting season. Probably just as well! I’m expecting the early red Katy apples at home to be ready any day now – they always make me think of the perfect apple tree a child might draw. Bright red apples, sweet as you like, BUT they don’t store, so have to be eaten straightaway or transformed into a delicious pink juice.

I’ll leave you with one of my favourite recipes for using up a glut of gooseberries:

Gooseberry & Crème Fraiche Tart

Sweet pastry:

5oz plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1oz caster sugar

pinch salt

2 tsp milk

2 1/2 oz butter

1/2 beaten egg

Sift flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl. Stir in sugar, egg and milk until evenly mixed, then work in butter (I find it easier if you grate it from cold) using fingers. Knead lightly to form a smooth dough, then chill in fridge for 30 mins. Do not leave too long, as it will set really hard and be impossible to roll!

When chilled, roll out on a floured surface (it will be very fragile, but can be patched if necessary!). Line a 9″ tart tin, then bake blind at 200°C/Gas 6 for 10 mins, then remove foil and beans and cook for another 5 mins until just set and golden.

Filling:

1lb gooseberries, topped and tailed

1 pot crème fraiche (200 ml)

4 egg yolks

3oz caster sugar

1 tsp balsamic vinegar

Turn oven down to 160°C/Gas 4 and arrange gooseberries in the flan case. Whisk egg yolks, crème fraiche, sugar and balsamic vinegar together and pour over gooseberries. Cook until the custard is set – about 45 minutes depending on your oven. Lovely served warm, or equally delicious chilled the next day. Enjoy!

I often make twice the amount of pastry and freeze half, so I can use a whole egg rather than have half going spare. Similarly, the 4 egg whites you’ll be left with from the custard are perfect for my macaroon recipe (see https://rhubarbandraspberries.wordpress.com/2014/01/06/mouth-meltingly-good-coffee-macaroons/) or for Nigella’s chocolate macaroons in How to be a Domestic Goddess….