I lived in Cholmeley park, Highgate, North London, from the age of seven to twenty and after that sporadically between travels and non-committal boyfriends. It was my childhood home, a big, dark and damp Edwardian house with oak herringbone parquet floor, a dark green Aga in the kitchen and, at the end of the garden, a group of prickly gooseberry bushes. Lured by the bulbous hairy fruit, I tried it and immediately spat it out, too wincingly sour.
Today I also live in a large roomed, dank Edwardian era property, this time a two-bedroom flat in Kilburn. The humidity is checked by a gas-run Aga oven, just as it was in my family home. And I have three lime-green gooseberry bushes at the end of my garden. Unconsciously I’ve been recreating my childhood. Whenever I have a memorably vivid dream, so often I realise that it took place in that Highgate house. Highgate is in my bones.
Gooseberries are difficult to find in the shops, and can be very expensive so you are almost obliged to grow your own. It took a couple of years for them to bear fruit, so it’s not an instant fix. This year’s thorny batch, sharp, tart yet refreshing, have been used in a gooseberry fool and as a topping on a pavlova. Gooseberries also work as an English version of the Mexican husk tomato, the tomatillo, in a salsa.
This time of year is also the moment for Picota cherries, cheap as chips from Spain at a quid a punnet. Naturally other seasonal fruit can be used. I always keep a couple of bags of frozen forest berries in my freezer, to be hauled out and used for emergency puddings, or simply blended frozen to make a sorbet or granita ice.
- 250 g gooseberries, topped and tailed
- 3 tbsp caster sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla paste
- 200 ml Greek yoghurt
- 200 ml Double cream
- 3 tbsp icing sugar
- Put the gooseberries and the sugar into a medium pan and simmer until the berries have popped, Keep squishing them with your wooden spoon. Then remove from the heat and let cool
- Add the vanilla paste to the Greek yoghurt, then add the double cream and icing sugar. Whisk until thick, but not too much. Leave to chill in the fridge for half an hour or so.
- Mix half the gooseberries into the creamy mixture, scoop into bowls, top with a spoonful of the gooseberry coulis. Serve.
- 6 egg whites
- 370 g caster sugar
- 1 tsp cream of tartar
- 600 ml Double cream, whipped
- 150 ml Gooseberry coulis
- Preheat the oven to 180c
- In a scrupulously clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks
- Tip the sugar onto the silpat/parchment lined baking sheet and heat in the oven for 10 minutes. Then remove.
- Lower the oven to 150c.
- Gradually, using the silpat/paper, tip the caster sugar into the egg whites while whisking to stiff peaks. Add the cream of tartar
- Scoop or pipe out a pavlova shape onto the silpat/parchment lined baking tray.
- Bake for at least two hours. If it's raining, you may have to recrisp the pavlova by putting it back in the oven.
- Leave the pavlova to cool.
- Whisk the double cream until thick and ladle onto the pavlova.
- Top with the gooseberry coulis.
Cherry summer pudding
- 350 g cherries, pitted
- 100 g caster sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla paste
- 50 g butter, room temperature
- 5 to 8 slices stale white Mother's Pride style bread, crusts cut off
- Put the fruit and sugar into a medium sized heavy bottomed saucepan and simmer over a low to medium heat for 10 minutes until all the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and let cool.
- Grease the pudding bowl.
- Drain off the juice into a shallow bowl.
- Dip each slice of bread in the fruit juice and line the sides and base of the pudding basin with the slices, slightly overlapping.
- Spoon the fruit into the bread-lined basin then add more slices to cover the top.
- Place a saucer that fits inside the rim on top, add a weight such as a tin of beans, and place inside the fridge for a couple of hours.
- To serve, either dip the bottom of the bowl briefly into hot water or use a palette knife to looses the sides. Flip it over onto the serving plate. Serve with cream or icecream.