There was a recent fuss in the press about how traditional British summer berries are being squeezed out by North American blueberries. Shock, horror!
Well, as always, there is more to this than the media would have you believe. For starters, up in Scotland, we used to go out into the woods every year and eat as many blaeberries (the smaller Scottish cousins of blueberries) as we could find, returning home with faces, hands and tongues stained purple. They were also much sweeter and had a lot more flavour, at least in my (biased) opinion, than the imported mega-berries you see today…
Another “casualty” in the berry wars is apparently the gooseberry, but I can’t understand why it is not more loved. OK, you don’t usually eat them raw, but they can be stewed with a little sugar to make a wonderful fruity, sharp compote, or added to a crumble. They also make wonderful jam, a rich, deep red, which keeps its tang. Plus, they look cute!
And then, there is the classic gooseberry fool, which is also incredibly simple and has a name which always amuses small children. A creamy base (custard, cream, yoghurt, or a combination of each) which is combined with a little gooseberry compote, then dollop a good amount of “pure” compote on top. Simple, and delicious. You can also adjust the colour to your preference – use green gooseberries, get a green fool. Use those tinged with red, and you get a pudding that has a brilliant, garnet-red colour.
For the base, I have used a mixture of thick yoghurt and (shock!) bought custard. If you buy good-quality, fresh custard, it makes life so much easier. A cheat, I know, but I am just a home cook, not a professional chef, and I am allowed to cheat from time to time! If you prefer, you can use just yoghurt, or even lightly whipped double cream, but I think the yoghurt is nice as it has a thick, rich creaminess which is lovely with the fruit.
For the gooseberry fool (serves 4):
• 400g gooseberries
• 100g sugar (more or less, according to taste)
• 150g thick Greek yoghurt
• 150g good quality custard
Top and tail the gooseberries, then put into a saucepan with the sugar and a couple of spoonfuls of water. Cook gently until the gooseberries are cooked and the mixture is a little thick (not too much water, but also not too jammy). Sieve if you like, or keep all the seeds and skins in there. Allow to cool.
Combine the yoghurt and the custard, and add one-quarter of the gooseberries. Mix well. Add another couple of spoonfuls of gooseberries, and swirl together (don’t mix, we want it to have a “ripple” effect). Spoon into glass serving dishes, and divide the remaining gooseberries between the dishes. Chill until ready to serve.
Worth making? If you can get gooseberries, this is an easy and delicious way to transform them into a classic British pud. Just be sure to adapt the base (yoghurt, cream, custard) to your taste. With the yoghurt and not too much sugar, why it might just be healthy!