The gooseberry season is relatively short and I always freeze a few bags to use when there is no fresh fruit available.
I like to use the bitter, hard, bright green berries rather than some of the more blushed and sweeter varieties that arrive later in the season. The frozen berries poach really well, but the key is to cook them until they are tender and about to collapse.
- 200g demerara sugar 100g egg whites
- 400g fresh or frozen gooseberries, topped and tailed
- 50g demerera sugar 2 tablespoons cold water
- 4 elderflower heads (optional)
- 2 tablespoons elderflower cordial 250ml cream, softly whipped
- 2–4 tablespoons butterscotch sauce
- 2–3 tablespoons coarsely ground almond praline
- Preheat the oven to 150°C.
- Place the demerara sugar and egg whites in a spotlessly clean bowl of an electric mixer and beat until very stiff. This will take at least 10 minutes and sometimes longer. The mixture should hold really sharp peaks and be very firm, to the point that you should have no hesitation about turning the bowl upside down in the knowledge that the meringue won’t fall out.
- While the meringue is beating, use a pencil to draw a 30cm circle on a sheet of non-stick baking paper. Place the paper on a baking sheet, pencil mark side down.
- As soon as the meringue is stiff and ready, use a large spoon or palette knife to spread it out in a circle in an even layer on the paper. I sometimes pipe a pretty raised edge to the meringue using a large star-shaped nose in a piping bag. The raised edge helps to hold the cream and gooseberries in place when the cooked meringue is filled and ready for serving.
- Place the meringue in the oven and bake for about 1 hour. You will know the meringue is cooked when it lifts off the paper with no resistance at all. Turn off the oven but leave the meringue in the oven with the door ajar and allow to cool completely.
- Place the gooseberries, sugar, cold water and elderflower heads (if using) in a small saucepan, cover and set over a gentle heat. Stir occasionally and bring to a simmer.
- Continue to simmer gently until the berries are tender – indeed, some may be starting to burst. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.
- To assemble, place the meringue on a large flat serving plate. Mix the elderflower cordial with the softly whipped cream. If necessary, whip the cream a little more, being careful that the cream does not over-whip and become grainy.
- Spread the whipped cream on the meringue. Strain the gooseberries out of the cooking syrup and scatter over the cream. (Save any excess poaching liquid for making a homemade lemonade.)
- Drizzle with the butterscotch sauce and finally sprinkle with the praline powder. If it is elderflower season, I usually decorate the entire dish with a few elderflower heads – so pretty.
- The meringue can be served immediately or chilled for a couple of hours.