Summer Bounty

By | summer | 2 Comments

With August you are just beginning to realise how wonderful summer is. I had bounty of gooseberries, a good crop of raspberries and not so many red currants that have all come to an end. Gooseberries went into pie, were gently poached to serve with lots of cream and there so many I’ve also tucked them into the freezer to cheer up mid-winter evenings.  Most of my raspberries along with the red currants became summer pudding. I’m on my third one and I’ve also have one in the freezer.

This year, for the first time I made raspberry jam, just four jar because my friend Ilze had so many they were dropping to the ground faster than she could pick them. The recipe I followed Christine Ferber’s recipe, and it’s so delicious I’m going to have trouble keeping it until winter.

There is one fruit in my garden that is still going strong and will continue into the autumn, my wild strawberries or fraises de bois. I love these intensely flavoured fruit that are all the more precious because I can never gather more than a small handful at a time. Enough to top an individual tart but I don’t bother, I simply eat them warm and juicy from the sun.

Gin & Gooseberries

By | Gin, Gooseberries, summer | 5 Comments
It’s an exceptional summer in Toronto. The heat began early and by the time I returned mid-June it was very hot and humid. I love the heat, but the humidity can drain all your energy, so that by the afternoon all you want to do is snooze in a chair. The upside of all this heat is that it’s perfect weather for gin and tonic, my preference is Hendricks gin with sliced cucumber.
The heat has also made all the fruit in my urban garden ripen more quickly than usual. I managed to harvest some green gooseberries, the green ones have good acidity, which makes them a perfect foil for oily fish.
Most of my gooseberries changed colour before I could harvest them. This means my gooseberries are sweeter and softer than I like them but they can be eaten without cooking and make good desserts.
Instead of making ice cream, I prefer ice cream when it’s cold, yes it’s a quirk, that I can’t explain, but I do like ices and sorbets when it’s hot. I’ve been tinkering with this recipe since I first made it. Just gently cook 450 g / 1 pound gooseberries with 125 g / 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, stirring from time to time until soft and tender. Let everything cool slightly and then pass it through the fine grill of a food mill. Chill overnight before churning it in an ice cream machine.
You can make this recipe with green gooseberries, just check the sweetness and it will turn a paler shade of pink.

Gooseberries again

By | Gooseberries | No Comments

I’m obviously going through a green phase. Looking back on recent posts I can see a lot of green. Perhaps it’s a reaction to Toronto’s stifling heat and humidity? Green is such a cooling colour. This photo of my gooseberry bush is a few weeks old. I have stripped it of all its fruit because I like my gooseberries tart. If you leave the fruit on the bush it will start to turn a maroon colour and loose its acidity. Gooseberries are not a giving fruit; the thorns are large, sharp and numerous and it’s not a fruit you eat straight from the bush, their sharp edge needs to be tempered with sugar.

One of my favourite ways to eat gooseberries is in pie. but you have to top and tail the berries first, a tedious task. Use a lard pastry and if you need a recipe see here. Sometimes I make fool, cooked gooseberry purée stirred into whipped cream. That way I can skip the topping and tailing simply passing as the cooked berries through a food mill. With my harvest of berries I spent several evenings watching television, to prepare all my berries. I made a pie, and froze the rest. Gooseberries freeze very well. Then I discovered there were still some berries that I’d missed in the deeper reaches of my bush. So despite the heat, I put on a long sleeved shirt and wrestled them into my bowl. I’d had it with topping and tailing so my first thought was to turn them into ice cream. However,  it seems to be my summer of ices so I went against my natural instinct and made gooseberry ice instead.

Now if you have never cooked gooseberries, you may not know that they turn pink when they are cooked, yes even the green ones. The ice is simple – 500g of berries gently simmered with 250 ml water until very soft.  Strain the mixture through a fine sieve and stir in 100g sugar until dissolved. Chill then churn. The resulting ice is a pretty pink and divinely tart and refreshing, perfect for a hot summer’s night.


More Gooseberries

By | Gooseberries | 4 Comments


There were lots of gooseberries at the market this morning and at $5 a small box I should have opened my own stand! Perhaps gooseberries are finally catching on here, but I am not sure. Most people, even expert foodies, don’t know what to do with them. However,  one of the great things about food is that there is always something new to learn. I topped and tailed my first harvest while watching the BBC news although 30 minutes it wasn’t long enough and I found myself working right through the French news too. So be warned, it will take you a good hour to do 1 kg of gooseberries.
Gooseberries keep well in the refrigerator and also freeze well. I found some in the bottom of my freezer that I’d frozen last year, about 450 g so I put them in a frying pan added 50 g (1/4 cup) of sugar and cooked them gently and till they became very soft. Then I rubbed them through a sieve, I’d been lazy last year and frozen them straight from the bush. This yielded about 250 ml of smooth puree that I’ll turn into gooseberry fool by mixing it with about 175 ml of whipping cream, whipped. Check the tartness of your fruit, mine need a little more sweetness so I added some icing sugar, which thickened the puree too. Next on the gooseberry recipe list is ice cream.

Anton Chekhov also loved gooseberries –
“And he would dream of garden-walls, flowers, fruits, nests, carp in the pond, don’t you know, and all the rest of it. These fantasies of his used to vary according to the advertisements he found, but somehow there was always a gooseberry-bush in every one. Not a house, not a romantic spot could he imagine without its gooseberry-bush”.


By | Gooseberries | 3 Comments

Back in April, before leaving for Paris, I posted about what to eat. Early summer brings vegetables to southern Ontario but there is not much fruit. This year some water logged over ripe strawberries are the only choice until the local stone fruits arrive. The first to plant to fruit in my garden is the gooseberry bush. I don’t have to worry about anyone helping themselves because most people aren’t familiar with gooseberries and their tart taste sends them scurrying.

The French call gooseberries groseilles à maquereaux to distinguish them from red and white currants called groseilles. The translation is mackerel currants, an odd name if you don’t know that gooseberry sauce was a popular accompaniment for grilled mackerel both in France and England during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

You can leave your gooseberries on the bush until they turn dark maroon, and become soft and sweeter but gooseberries are best hard and green. It’s their acidity that makes them the perfect foil for oily fish and their summer arrival coincides with the appearance of mackerel and sardines in the market.

Gooseberry sauce is simple to make, but first you must brave the vicious gooseberry thorns and then the tedious, but mindless task of topping and tailing them. Do it sitting outside with a G & T or while watching TV and use a pair of scissors, it’s easier and safer than a knife. You can skip this step but you’ll have to puree the sauce at the end and then sieve it – more work and the texture will be smooth not a thick lumpy sauce that is preferable. Plus do you really want to have to clean a blender and a sieve?

The recipe comes from Bones.

Grilled Sardines with Gooseberry Sauce.
Serves 4 as an appetizer

12 ounces/1 dry pint /325 g green gooseberries, topped and tailed
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon sugar
2 green cardamom pods, crushed
Grated zest and juice 1 orange
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
16 whole sardines, cleaned
1 tablespoon olive oil

Rinse the gooseberries under cold running water, then drop them into a frying pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Add the butter, sugar, cardamom, and orange zest and juice and cook, covered, over medium-low heat until the berries become pale and are soft when touched, about 5 minutes. Remove the lid and raise the heat. Continue to cook, stirring until the sauce is thick and just starts to stick to the bottom of the pan, 3 to 5 minutes, then season with salt and pepper. You can make the sauce ahead and reheat it or serve it at room temperature my preference.

Preheat the grill to high. Rinse and pat dry the sardines and season with salt and pepper Clean and brush the grill with the olive oil. Grill the fish over high heat for 4 to 5 minutes on each side or until cooked.
Can’t find gooseberries, replace them with an equal amount of trimmed rhubarb. Cut the rinsed rhubarb stalks into 1/2-inch /1-cm dice, and use only 1 teaspoon sugar.

Prefer sweetened gooseberries? Then try this pie from Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes and don’t forget to use good quality rendered lard, leaf lard if you can.

Gooseberry Pie with Lard Pastry

6 cups / 2 pounds / 900 g gooseberries
1 recipe Leaf Lard Pastry, recipe follows
Lard, for greasing
1 cup / 7 ounces / 200 g granulated sugar
Pinch of sea salt
1 egg white
3 tablespoons brandy
3 tablespoons / 25 g cornstarch
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, diced
1 tablespoon superfine (caster) sugar

Preheat the oven to 425°F / 220°C.

To prepare the gooseberries, cut off their stems and tails using scissors and rinse them. Remove the pastry from the refrigerator. Lightly grease a 9 1/2-inch / 24-cm pie dish with lard and set aside.
Place the gooseberries in a large bowl, add the granulated sugar and salt, and toss to mix. Divide the pastry in half, and form each half into a disk. On a floured surface, roll 1 pastry disk into an 11-inch / 28-cm circle and line the pie dish.

Whisk the egg white with 1/2 teaspoon of the brandy and brush the mixture on the pastry in the pie dish. Pour the gooseberries into the pie dish, piling in the center. Mix the cornstarch with the remaining brandy until smooth and pour over the fruit, then dot with the butter. Brush the edges of the pastry with more of the egg white mixture.

Roll out the second pastry disk into an 11 1/2-inch / 29-cm circle and cover the pie. Trim and seal the edges well. Cut a slit in the center of the pie, brush the top with the egg white, and sprinkle with the superfine sugar. Place the pie on a baking sheet.
Bake the pie for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375°F / 190°C and bake until the pastry is golden and the fruit is bubbling, another 35 to 40 minutes. If the pastry starts to brown too much, cover the top of the pie with a piece of aluminum foil.
Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool. Serve at room temperature.

Leaf Lard Pastry

2 cups / 8 3/4 ounces /250 g flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2/3 cup / 4 1/2 ounces / 125 g chilled lard diced
1/3 cup / 75 ml ice-cold water

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a food processor and pulse to mix. Add the lard and pulse until the lard is reduced to pea-sized pieces, about 15 seconds. Turn the mixture into a bowl.
Pour the water over the flour and lard mixture and mix with a fork. Squeeze a bit of the mixture between your fingers. If it holds together transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface; if not, add another couple of teaspoons of ice water and test again. Gently knead the dough into a ball. Divide the pastry in half and flatten into 2 disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using.