Seasonal suppers: why being a gooseberry is no insult

A sweet and savoury approach to a seasonal challenge

Every year around this time, our kitchen is full of green gooseberries. I can’t help ordering them because they’re a challenge for every chef and cook

Every year around this time, our kitchen is full of green gooseberries. I can’t help ordering them because they’re a challenge for every chef and cook

 

You’re a gooseberry! To be honest, I never dwelt on the significance of the meaning of these words. I just knew they weren’t good; an everyday insult meant to demean.

Every year around this time, our kitchen is full of green gooseberries. I can’t help ordering them because they’re a challenge for every chef and cook. What will we do with them, my chefs ask? Other than jam that is. Yes, we all know gooseberry jam. Equal quantities of berries and sugar brought to the boil until setting temperature is achieved. I prefer to pass it through a fine sieve, though the seeds are edible. For birds, perhaps.

Fold this jam into whipped cream and smashed meringue for a nice alternative to strawberry fool. If you get sweeter gooseberries (more often than not, they’re as tart as hell) fold them in as well. Sprinkle with icing sugar.

If you have a less sweet tooth, I’d pair the gooseberry jam with a nice Irish sheep’s cheese, such as Cáis na Tíre. This is a beautiful cheese from Tipperary that rivals Manchego.

On the more savoury side, I like to pair these tart berries with fish. This may seem unorthodox, but is a combination I have come across in Spanish cooking, in particular from Elena Arzak, one of the few female chefs in the world to hold three Michelin stars.

Clean and cut the gooseberries in half. Place in a pot with some mussels, an onion, a clove of garlic and a little white wine. Cover and steam until the mussels open. Remove the halved gooseberries and set them aside. Deshell the mussels and allow to stand with the gooseberries. Pass the liquid through a sieve and add a good dash of cream. Reduce until it coats the back of a spoon. Add the mussels and the gooseberries and season to taste.

Pan fry a monkfish fillet in a hot pan with some oil and butter. Plate up with the sauce and garnish with some chopped lovage.

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