As a child, I was lucky enough to grow up in a household where we made the best possible use of our garden. This included quite a large fruit and vegetable garden that was about 50ft long by the width and a little bit more of our 1950’s end of terrace house. This meant that all year round we had access to fresh and seasonal fruit and veg.
My sister and I were taught how to know when things were ripe for picking – a cunning way to deploy child labour. We learned early on what it meant to have a “glut” of something and also that this meant learning to be very creative to disguise the fact that we were having different versions of the same thing every day!
One such fruit that we always had a ridiculous glut of was gooseberries. Or, if you are blessed with a Bristolian accent like me, Guzbrizz. Small, round, green, hairy and tart. I feckin loathed them by the time I moved out of our family home. Never really touched a gooseberry since; except for recently when, as part of my #foodieproject2014* I find myself searching everywhere for green gooseberries. They have fallen a tad out of fashion apparently, and so this is why they are difficult to come by, unless of course you grow your own. But I had to get some because I also had spotted a load of wild growing Elderflower and in the spirit of keeping going with my #foodproject2014 I had to make Green Gooseberry and Elderflower Compote and defeat was not an option!
Cue panic buying gooseberries in the one place I could find them locally followed by a spot of ditch climbing and tree jostling to be able to harvest the Elderflower. Having just the right amount of both in my possession I made the compote. Quite a lot of it as it turns out and, contrary to my childhood memories, actually really quite delicious! It was clear I was going to have to think about what I could do with it all! So below is the very very easy recipe for Green Gooseberry and Elderflower Compote (courtesy of “The Festive Food of Ireland”, by Darina Allen) and some suggestions below for what to do with it all once you’ve made it – all delicious options!
900g / 2lb green gooseberries, topped and tailed and washed.
3 Elderflower heads (decent size).
450g / 1lb white granulated sugar
575ml / 1pint of cold water
Put the elderflower head in a stainless steel pan, add the sugar and cover with water.
Bring slowly to the boil and continue to boil for 2 minutes.
Add the gooseberries and simmer just until the fruit bursts.
Remove the Elderflower heads.
Either decant into sterilised jars or set aside to cool for use straight away in any of the following ways.
Mix the compote with whipped cream and use as an alternative filling in a sponge cake.
Mix the compote with lightly whipped cream and vanilla custard.
Decant into a serving glass / bowl and grate good quality white chocolate over the top (I suggest Green & Blacks)
Mix the compote with whipped cream, a little vanilla bean paste and crushed meringue nests.
Serve with a dusting of crushed ginger nut biscuits over the top.
Use the compote mixed in with whipped cream, icing sugar and a little vanilla bean paste and spread over the top of a cooked meringue. Reserve a little of the compote to dot on the top of the whipped cream mixture.
Decant the compote filling into either one large pie dish or several smaller ramekins.
Make a crumble topping using oats and chopped pecan nuts mixed with a little ground ginger, muscovado sugar and some unsalted butter. Drizzle maple syrup over the top.
Bake in the oven until the fruit is piping hot and the topping is toasted and golden brown.
As an Accompaniement to Oily Fish
The sweet tartness of the gooseberries will cut through the rich oilyness of fish such as Mackerel and Herring.
It would also be a great accompaniement with fresh poached River / Rainbow Trout, served hot or cold.
Serve the compote cold with these dishes.
*#foodieproject2014 is my attempt at cooking my way through a book of Irish traditional dishes and their link to the seasons and festivals in Ireland. It is a book I picked up a couple of years ago from a second hand bookshop in Clonakilty. I’m about a third of the way through it and this recipe above is actually in relation to May Day but is delayed due to the fact that the gooseberries were not available to buy anywhere until now!