Vive La Gooseberry

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Its the beginning of August and there’s an abundance of delicious summer fruit available to us; strawberries and red currants are both at they’re peak although we’ll need to wait a couple more weeks for the best of the British raspberries. At the tea room we’ve taken full advantage of the fruits on offer with some delicious dishes such as summer pudding, baked cheesecake and raspberry and thyme custard tarts.

If there’s one native summer fruit that’s fallen from favour in recent years it’s the gooseberry. This much overlooked fruit was very popular in the early 1900’s but in the last hundred years demand for the humble gooseberry has greatly fallen. Compared to its more glamorous cousins the gooseberry has a rather dowdy and frumpy reputation; the baggy cardigan of the soft fruit world if you like. However I beg to differ, its both more versatile than the strawberry and far more flavoursome than the blueberry, the full flavour and sharp tang means the gooseberry has much to offer.

Gooseberries are delicious cooked alongside savoury dishes particularly oily fish such as mackerel or salmon and they also make excellent jams and chutney. However when a box landed in the kitchen earlier in the week they were only ever destined for dessert. After toying with the idea of either a crumble and a gooseberry meringue tart after a chat with May I finally settled on creating a lemon and lime syllabub with a gooseberry compote. Syllabub, an old English dessert, is simply a mix of lightly whipped sweetened cream and alcohol and its absolutely perfect to top a sharp fruit compote. If gooseberries aren’t your favourite you could make the compote with apricots or rhubarb and replace the lime and lemon juice with orange and the wine with mead. Later in the year for an autumnal twist apples and blackberries would be delicious teamed with a cider syllabub.

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Gooseberry Compote

250g gooseberries

4 tbsp caster sugar.

Zest of 1 lime or a tsp of elderflower cordial.

Syllabub

284ml whipping cream

50g caster sugar

50ml white wine

Zest and juice from half a lemon and lime.

  1. Place the gooseberries into a saucepan with the sugar and the zest or cordial and cook over a low heat until the fruit has softened and the sugar has melted. Stir gently and continue to cook for around 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Once cooled put into the fridge and leave for at least 2 hours but preferably overnight.

  2. Whip the cream and sugar until it reaches soft peaks then fold through the wine, zest and juice.

  3. Alternately layer the compote and the syllabub into glasses and place into the fridge for around an hour to set. Garnish with lime slices and mint leaves. 

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