We planted three gooseberry bushes in our newly-designed fruit, flower and vegetable garden last year. They fruited — though not prolifically — and the moment the fruits were ripe, the blackbirds devoured them. This year I was more savvy, and netted them against any hungry avian predators. Success! We now have a bumper crop.
What could be more splendid than the unpretentious gooseberry? I'm in love with these humble, unfashionable fruits. One of our bushes has produced green verging on golden orbs; the other two jewels of blushing pink and red. To pick them this morning — spearing my fingers on half-inch thorns — was a masochistic delight. What to do with them? So many recipes entice: gooseberry crumble, gooseberry pie, gooseberry fool, gooseberry jam . . .
But, to start with, I opted for something simple, and utterly wonderful and flavoursome: stewed gooseberries with home-made custard (or crème anglaise, as they say in French).
I topped and tailed them, then simmered them in a little sugar and water. Amazing how this simple process miraculously transformed these tart little bullets into a delicious, pulpy, sweet-sour purée. The custard was easy: egg yolks beaten with a little cornflour added to a warmed-up mixture of milk, sugar and vanilla. Why on earth do we ever buy that synthetic tinned stuff?
A dessert made in heaven. Especially with a dollop of Madagascan vanilla ice cream.