Make this gooseberry crumble while you still can
Summer fruits like whitecurrants and loganberries are a scarcity most of the year
Although we can buy strawberries in January and asparagus in December, if we really want to, some produce is only widely available in its season. Fruits that grow well in cooler climes seem particularly seasonal in our shops. Blackcurrants, whitecurrants, loganberries and cranberries, where they are stocked at all, are only available for a few short weeks before they are gone for another year.
Their scarcity makes them precious. I am guilty of buying them whenever and wherever I see them. Gooseberries definitely fall into the category of short season fruits. They grow particularly well in Ireland. For some reason they are not widely available frozen either, so the pressure is on to make the most of them while they are here.
If you buy or grow more gooseberries than you need for this tart, freeze the remaining fruit on an open tray before transferring them to a freezer bag or box. They are a little quicker to top and tail when they are frozen, though I would recommend wearing an insulated glove to prevent numb fingers.
Gooseberries range from tart green cooking varieties to yellow and red sweet dessert varieties. These red gooseberries are from my father-in-law’s garden. He is a whizz at growing just about anything and he keeps our freezers topped up with his wonderful produce.
You can use either green cooking gooseberries or early season underripe dessert gooseberries for this tart. The acidity in the underripe or cooking varieties means the fruit holds its own under the sweet crumble. If you have ripe dessert berries, try cooking them with a little less sugar – after all you can always serve the tart with a bowl of sugar on the table, for those with a sweet tooth.
For this tart, I have used a food processor to make the pastry, which is a handy shortcut for many cooks, but it is important to remember to pulse rather than over-process the dough.
GOOSEBERRY CRUMBLE TART
For the sweet pastry:
120g plain flour
60g butter, diced (softened)
50g caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 egg yolks
For the gooseberry filling:
500g gooseberries, trimmed (fresh or frozen)
75g caster sugar
1 tbsp water
Optional: pinch mixed spice (or orange zest)
For the crumble topping:
100g plain flour
100g butter, chilled and diced
100g porridge oats (or flakes)
50g-75g macadamia nuts (or hazelnuts), lightly toasted
1 Grease and a 20cm loose bottomed tart tin.
2 To make sweet pastry in a food processor: blitz the flour, butter and sugar together until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the vanilla and egg yolks, pulsing the machine for only a few seconds to bring the mixture together into a firm dough (alternatively make pastry by hand, first rubbing the flour and butter together using your fingertips, before adding the sugar. Use a knife to work the vanilla extract and egg yolks into the dry mixture). Add an extra teaspoon of water if needed to bring it together. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes.
3 For the gooseberries: Place the gooseberries and sugar in a heavy-based saucepan and add a splash of water. Bring to a simmer for 10 minutes (discard 100ml liquid if you feel it is too liquidy to fill a tart). You can add any spices at this point, if you wish to. Set aside to cool.
4 For the crumble: In a mixing bowl, use your fingers to rub together the flour and butter to fine breadcrumbs, then stir in the sugar. Add a splash of water and rake through with a fork. Chop the nuts and stir them and the oats through the mixture.
5 Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured work surface to 2mm thickness and use to line the tart tin, then prick several times with a fork. Cover the pastry with parchment paper and fill with baking beans. Bake in an oven preheated to 180 degrees Celsius, fan, for 20 minutes. Remove the beans and paper and return the pastry case to the oven for five more minutes until it is a light golden colour.
6 Once the pastry case is baked, fill the pre-baked tart case with the gooseberry filling. Arrange the crumble over the top of the fruit.
7 Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes until golden on top and bubbling around the edges. Serve hot with whipped cream, ice cream or custard.
Variation: Add elderflower cordial instead of sugar to the gooseberries for a lovely flavour.