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FOOD Gooseberry goodness



Fruits of local summers

Red Cabot

I remember tasting fat, purple raspberries under the bushes in my grandmother’s garden. I remember picking and eating hairy gooseberries that exuded a summer sweetness and a tangy tartness. We all remember picking blackberries along the hedgerows. The flavours and nuances of fruit remain wrapped up in our own memories and consciousness.
I also have less-welcome memories of fruit coming in plastic wrap and black plastic trays. The inevitable soft, mushiness of fruit from shop shelves that seemed to deteriorate somehow very fast when you took them home. Strawberries became available in December. They looked like strawberries, but somehow they did not correlate with my own sensory memories of picking smaller, Irish strawberries: the burst of intense flavour and mouth-joy these smaller versions delivered. My vision of fruit narrowed to peaches, easy peel satsumas, the ubiquitous standard banana and those standard rosy apples that tasted like woolly cotton wool.
I don’t know where I have been, but it seems to be only this year that I have re-discovered the joys and wonders of fruit – local, Irish fruits, and fruits from non-commercial origins/sources.
I am in love with fruit, hairy, nobbly, warts and all. I reserve my right to enjoy it in its natural state. I refute the idea that it must all look or be packaged the same. Indeed I go so far as to say this may even be a state of un-naturalness. The joy of buying fruit is often, for me, stripped away by knowledge of intensive growing conditions, preserving or gas flushing and the treadmill of supermarket shelves, market demands and downward pressure on prices. Sterile and sanitised. Not what true fruit is about.
Local, home-grown fruits are a COMPLETELY different story, however! Get your hands on some, especially during this great summer we’re having. Local fruit bushes are full of gorgeous gooseberries. I just ate cherries last week grown in Co Wicklow. Last year we enjoyed blueberries from Ballycroy. Get out there and enjoy it. It is your realm – enjoy it’s bounty. Somehow people think of buying an apple in the shop before finding one locally from a local source. This has to change. There is an abundance of local fruits all around us

The ‘snow’ part refers to the stiff, whipped peaks of egg whites, which are mixed with a simple gooseberry blend. You get classic tartness and sweetness, with a natural, engaging ‘greenness’ full of goodness – and great fun to make with kids around.

What you need
300g gooseberries
80g caster sugar
100ml water
3 free-range eggs

What you do
Some people make a fuss about taking off the tops and tails off the fruit. If they’re hard and hornlike, take the time to remove them; if they’re not and you’re not bothered (like me), just muddle through and it will all work out in some way!
Simply boil the water, add the sugar and stir to dissolve it, then add the gooseberries and then let the mixture cool. When it has, blitz the cooled gooseberries mix in a mixer. Break open the eggs and separate the whites.
Whip the whites until stiff and add the gooseberry mix spoonful by spoonful to the whipped whites. Place in the freezer for one hour and then scoop out in bowls. Serve with a touch of jam or mint for colour and taste contrast.

Always on the look-out for interesting combinations, I made this simple chutney and served it with pork chops one night. The gooseberries acted like the famous apple/pork combination: ripe, green sweetness with acidity to cut through any pork fattiness. This chutney is also good with smoked mackerel and any oily fish.

What you need
200g gooseberries
40g caster sugar
2 tsp white wine vinegar
Knob butter

What you do
Simply heat the gooseberries and sugar in a pan, add butter and keep stirring gently. How much you stir it and how roughly will determine whether they break up and mush or retain their shape. Do whichever you prefer. Cook for anywhere between 5-10 mins.
My version was too sweet at first, so I have tried and tested this version, which has more bite. I love the contrast with summer mackerel fillets.

Red Cabot is interested in food, nature and small things. He sells his food at Westport Country Markets in St Anne’s Boxing Club, James’s Street car park, Westport, every Thursday, from 8am to 1pm.