Gooseberries are a difficult fruit. Their untidy habit has made them persona non grata in most modern gardens - understandable when one considers they belong to an era when seasonal eating was a necessity rather than a lifestyle choice.
My guess is that very few children today would know what a gooseberry looked like, let alone have tasted one.
We called them goosegogs and, despite their breathtaking astringency - make that downright sour - ate them straight off the bush.
My mother made them into pies and crumbles and sometimes a fool, not with cream but folded into custard.
The fact is that no matter what you do with gooseberries they remain true to themselves and retain their distinctive flavour.
I do see gooseberry plants for sale in nurseries and punnets of fruit in supermarkets so assume that they still have a following, albeit a diminishing one.
We grow two varieties. One produces small berries, which are ideal in today's recipe; the other, an ancient heritage variety, has enormous fruit that ripens to a deep purple in early summer.
The birds adore them so I have to harvest promptly.
When gooseberries are baked in a custard their flavour does not leach, and the resulting contrast of flavours is delicious.
VANILLA GOOSEBERRY TART
11/4 cups flour
1/4 cup icing sugar
125g cubed cold butter
About 2 Tbsp iced water
1 whisked egg white
Put flour, icing sugar, salt and butter in processor bowl.
Pulse until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
Add water and pulse until mixture begins to clump.
Turn out on to a floured surface and bring together to form a ball.
Roll out pastry and line a 23cm tart tin with removable base.
Chill for 30 minutes.
Heat oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Cut a circle of baking paper to fit the bottom of tart.
Weight with ceramic baking beads, dried beans or rice.
Bake for 20 minutes.
Remove paper and beads and brush pastry base with egg white.
Return to oven and bake until base is golden.
3 medium eggs
1/2 cup caster sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
250-300g small gooseberries
Icing sugar for dusting
Whisk eggs and sugar together.
Stir in cream and vanilla.
Scatter berries evenly over tart base. Place tart tin on an oven slide for easier handling.
Carefully pour custard mixture over fruit.
Bake until custard is set (mine took 35 minutes).
Dust with icing sugar and serve with sweetened whipped cream.
- The Southland Times
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