Glorious gooseberries

This week I was given a bucketful of gooseberries,  what a treasure!  For those who haven’t tried them it’s a great shame as they are one of summer’s finest fruits.  I can’t really describe the flavour – it would be like trying to liken the flavour of quince to another fruit, simply not possible.

If you cannot find them fresh, they can be bought frozen now, which is a good compromise.

Gooseberries are quite tart but when made into jam or a pie are simply exquisite and so today I decided to make a latticed gooseberry tart.  the sweet short crust pastry is a perfect balance to the flavour and astringency of the gooseberries and a little sweetened whipped cream to the side is a perfect complement.

For a few years it was quite difficult to obtain gooseberries as the bushes had developed a mould that wiped out a great number.   A new variety I’m told is not susceptible to this problem and so we have abundant gooseberries available once more.  I love the older variety which can still be found in an old country garden here and there.  I think the flavour is more intense, though this might well be my imagination, or the fact that they bring back memories of my Nan’s kitchen where each summer gooseberry tarts were made by the dozens for family and friends to enjoy over the Christmas break.

Here is the recipe for the tart, and pictures of the gooseberries and the finished tart follow.

Latticed Gooseberry Tart

Serves 6

125g butter

125g sugar

1 egg, lightly beaten

250g plain flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

A little beaten egg white

For the filling

600g gooseberries (topped and tailed)

1 cup sugar, approximately

Approximately 1 tablespoon of cornflour, mixed to a paste with just a little cold water.

To make the pastry, whisk or cream the butter and sugar together, then whisk in the egg until well combined. With a metal spoon fold in the combined flour and baking powder and mix to a soft dough.  Wrap in cling wrap and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

To make the filling, place the gooseberries in a saucepan and bring to the boil over a gentle heat.  Simmer only until the gooseberries are just cooked.  Add the sugar and stir to dissolve.

Bring back to the boil and thicken with the cornflour paste, stirring constantly.  The mixture should thicken to a custard type consistency, though not too thick.  You may need a little more cornflour paste but use with care – too much will mean losing that wonderful gooseberry “zing” and the mixture will by its very nature thicken as it cools.  Check for sweetness and add more sugar if needed.  Leave to cool.

Heat oven to 170°C.  Grease a 20cm pie plate.

Roll out two thirds of the dough on a lightly floured surface. Brush all over with the lightly beaten egg white, then fill almost to the top with the cooled fruit.   Roll out the other piece of dough and cut strips of pastry 8mm wide and place, lattice style, over the fruit and press edges of pastry together to seal.

Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 150 degrees C and cook a further 20 minutes approximately until the crust is golden brown all over.

The tart is best left to stand for a couple of hours before serving, when it will then cut out beautifully and is delicious served with sweetened whipped cream and/or a home-made vanilla ice-cream.

Here is the tart, fresh from the oven.  I dust it with icing sugar just before serving.

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