Ed Smith shares his tips on food to feed friends, family and self with minimal effort, using little but the best of Borough’s carefully grown and procured produce. This time: gooseberry and praline fool
Gooseberries are one of those seasonal ingredients I can’t resist (others include asparagus, alphonso mangoes, loganberries, damsons, and quince). It doesn't matter if I’ve already planned the week’s meals or haven’t got enough hands to carry them home, I’ll grab a punnet regardless.
The first gooseberries of 2019 were on display at the front of Elsey and Bent on my most recent visit to the Market. I was staring down the barrel of a long day travelling all over London, and only had that evening to use them before heading away on holiday. Not a practical purchase—but on the plus side I was carrying a cool bag (long story) so, true to form, bought a box without further consideration. And only then started to think about how I would use them.
Sweet, sharp or savoury?
You can veer off in a number of different directions.
Traditionally in Britain, these tart orbs—like veiny, bristly green grapes—are sweetened and stewed and used as the feature element of a dessert or cake. They can be baked into custard tarts, polenta cakes, crumbles and / or bars (see the crumble bar recipes on page 120 of The Borough Market Cookbook); cooked into a sloppy sauce to be spooned over an almond cake; or cooled and placed next to something chilled and milky, like a panna cotta.
Alternatively, gooseberries can be used alongside fatty, savoury foods like mackerel, pork chops and belly. You still need to mellow the tartness a little with sugar, but should also sharpen with a splash vinegar. If you’re into fermentation, they also brine very well.
I digress. As mentioned, I had a relatively hectic day ahead, would not have much time to cook, and in any event had most of my meal for that evening planned already. Plus, this is a column about quick assemblies requiring minimal effort—the most obvious thing to do would be to whip up a fool. So, I grabbed some double cream and Greek-style yoghurt from Neal’s Yard Dairy.
A quick, smart fool
Fools make an excellent summer pudding, but you do need something crunchy to go with or in them—a biscuit, tuille or meringue. Indeed, I almost bought a meringue or two from Comptoir Gourmand to smash into the fool (a topical foolish Etonian mess?) but stopped to try the hazelnut, vanilla and cinnamon brittle at Food & Forest and figured this could and should be chopped into crunchy cumblets, stirred though and scattered over. So that’s what I did when I eventually got home. And it was super.
Use scissors to top and tail a punnet (about 400g) of gooseberries. Add 50g sugar and 100g water and gently stew the berries for 5-10 mins, so they burst but still hold some shape. This leaves the gooseberries quite tart, but the nut brittle is sweet and fool mellow—they balance each other well. Leave to cool to room temperature, while chopping the brittle with a big knife into granola-sized pieces.
Add about 50g cooled cooking juice and 250g double cream to a large mixing bowl and whip to ribbon stage (it’ll take just a few flicks of a balloon whisk). Add another 50g juice and 150g Greek-style yoghurt and whip away again. This second whipping stage requires more effort and time but keep going and suddenly you’ll notice the cream and yoghurt is light and voluminous. You can do this in advance of dinner, but too long in the fridge and the fool seizes a little. An hour or so is fine, if you don’t want to do it to order—but don’t spoon the gooseberries over until the moment you plan to eat.
Fold half the brittle through, then decant the fool to a wide bowl or a platter with a dip in the middle and lip at the edge. Spoon the gooseberries over the top and scatter with the remaining brittle.