It's green and hairy but the gooseberry must not be allowed to disappear, says Elaine Lemm

The green, hairy and particularly tart British gooseberry must not be allowed to disappear. There has been much talk about the demise of the lovely gooseberry due in part to the newer upstart, the blueberry. Thankfully though, just like rhubarb and another vintage – some say old-fashioned – fruits and vegetables, chefs and home cooks alike, are recognising the role of these foods. They are, after all, our food heritage, with some gooseberry recipes dating back to the 15th century.

Summer could never be the same without gooseberries. Gooseberry Fools, pies, crumbles and creams are all intrinsic parts of the British summer. Gooseberries also bring a welcome tartness to foods that until this point on the calendar was the responsibility of rhubarb and cooking apples. Just think, what would oily mackerel, duck slices or pork do without a big dollop of tart gooseberry relish on the side?

Add to the versatility in recipes, that cooking gooseberries couldn’t be simpler, they freeze well and take very little preparation, it is any wonder the gooseberry has been around so long. So, thankfully, it looks like the poor old “Goose Gob” may well have a well-earned reprieve.

Roasted Gooseberry Recipe
Forget throwing gooseberries into a pan and boiling the life out of them. This recipe for Roasted Gooseberries is just as easy, but the resulting cooked fruits retain their shape and have an intense flavour. The finished compote is then perfect for a pie filling, added to cream and custard for a classic Gooseberry Fool, works as a chutney base, and is suitable for freezing.

500g Gooseberries, topped and tailed if needed
30g caster sugar
A splash of Elderflower cordial (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

Scatter the gooseberries on to a baking sheet and sprinkle with the sugar. Roll the gooseberries around to make sure they are coated in sugar.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, or until the berries are collapsing but not mushy, they will also have released juice.

Tip the gooseberries and the juice into a bowl and squash very gently with a fork to break up the fruit and release more juice.

Check the sweetness and add sugar to your personal taste. If you intend to use with fish or meat then go easy on the sugar.
The compote will keep well in the refrigerator for a few days, and is also good for freezing. Use within a couple of months if frozen to make sure you eat the compote at its best.

Simple Gooseberry Relish
This super-simple gooseberry relish recipe has a lovely balance between sweet and sour, thus making it a great accompaniment for fatty meats and fish, duck. It uses red gooseberries, but green will work just as well.
25 g very finely chopped red onion
1 tsp very finely chopped garlic
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
6 tbsp water
450g Gooseberries topped and tailed
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
Salt and pepper
In a medium-sized saucepan heat the oil, add the onion and cook gently for 3 minutes. Add the finely chopped garlic and cook for a minute more. Raise the heat slightly and add the vinegar, cook for one minute to produce a thick glaze.

Add the water and stir, and then tip the gooseberries and ginger into the pan. Over medium heat, cook for 20 minutes, stirring from time to time. Keep an eye on the pan to make sure the relish doesn’t burn, if it starts to stick lower the heat and cook a little longer. The relish will thicken as it cooks but should never be too thick or sticky.

Remove the pan from the heat, leave to cool slightly (about 10 minutes) then taste and check for seasoning. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Fill hot jam jars with the relish, cover with a lid and leave to go cold. Store the jars in the refrigerator and use within three weeks.

About The Author

Following a successful career as a chef and restaurateur, Yorkshire's Elaine Lemm is a highly respected food and drink writer and recently voted one of the top 50 in the UK. Elaine is a member of the Guild of Food Writers and author of three books,The Great Book of Yorkshire Pudding, The Great Book of Rhubarb and The Great Book of Tea.

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