Thursday, 12 July 2012

Gooseberry Elderflower Syllabub

Gooseberries 'Invicta'

If you love rhubarb, chances are you also appreciate gooseberries which share an acidity that people seem to either love or hate.  This sharpness does mean both fruits need quite a bit of sugar to make them palatable to most.  You could add a leaf or two of the herb sweet cicely which is a natural sweetener and reduce the amount of sugar.  At this time of the year gooseberries have a grassy tartness which I love.  A week or two from now they will have mellowed to a yellow gold colour and need less sugar.  There are a few red varieties, such as 'Pax', which are sweeter and look pretty but the old variety green 'Invicta' is good for me.  It fruits reliably and prolifically and has good flavour.  Having picked these beauties from my allotment I couldn't wait to get cooking with them.

Like rhubarb, gooseberries are good with oily and smoked foods such as mackerell and are useful for cutting the richness of fatty foods such as pork, duck and goose.  Their possibilities for puddings are many, from crumbles, tarts, jams, jellies and sorbets to creamy panna cotta, fools and ice creams.  They make a fine take on Eton Mess and are gorgeous in a Gooseberry Meringue Pie.  Pair them with cream for a luscious pudding, such as this rich syllabub which complements the poached fruit perfectly. 

Toasted Hazelnuts
With a history going back to at least the 17th century, originally syllabub was a frothy drink made by milking directly from the cow into a bowl of wine, cider or ale which you consumed on the spot.  It progressed to a firmer textured cream by the whipping in of tart fruit syrups or wine.  As the resultant dish was more stable it was possible to keep it for a day or two.  Hannah Glasse describes a recipe for 'Everlasting Syllabub' in her book The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, first published in 1747 which calls for  "Rehnish wine, half a pint of sack and two large Seville oranges".   She also stipulates the addition of calf's foot jelly.  A step too far for me.  

Here then is my easy version.  Wine or elderflower cordial to flavour the syllabub? The choice is yours. If you opt for elderflower then you might want to leave it out of the poached gooseberries. 

Gooseberry Elderflower Syllabub
Gooseberry Elderflower Syllabub
for 4-6 servings

100ml sweet white wine or elderflower cordial
Finely grated rind and juice of 1 lime
50g caster sugar
300ml double cream
600g Gooseberries
125g caster sugar (if you add sweet cicely, reduce the sugar content to around 100g, taste and adjust as necessary)
2 tablespoons elderflower cordial
50g hazelnuts, toasted, skins removed and roughly chopped

Mix the first three ingredients together and leave to stand for several hours or overnight so that the flavours are fully blended.   

Wash and top & tail the gooseberries.  Gently melt 125g caster sugar and the elderflower cordial in a heavy based pan and add the gooseberries.  Cook gently until the fruit is soft but not mushy (about 10 minutes).  Leave to cool completely then refrigerate.
Start to whip the double cream and, as you do so, add the liquid.  Continue until soft peaks form.  This will happen very quickly (the mixture will stiffen further in the fridge).  Spoon gooseberries into serving glasses top with the syllabub.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours (will keep in the fridge for at least 24 hours) and, when ready to serve, scatter with the toasted hazelnuts to add texture.

A version of this article also appears on James Ramsden's blog