Last week I had a sudden urge and appetite for gooseberries. To me they're an inherit part of summer and the tastes I associate with this time the of the year. They bring back childhood memories and their sweet and tangy taste always reminds me of the desserts my mum used to make. After noticing that they simply don't seem to be very widely available, I finally managed to find some gooseberries and started to think about what to do with them. I wanted something a little special and a real treat. As usual, my two men were my test subjects and they were somewhat sceptical about the crème fraîche, but ended up really loving the combination of sweet, tart and slightly sour tastes. So, here's what I decided to do and I hope you'll like it.
This recipe will serve 6 people. It is a little time consuming, but it's definitely worth it as a big treat. And something else: I made Italian meringues which are a little denser, more stable but also slightly more chewy than French ones. If you prefer your meringue to be overall crisper, then I'd say you should go with the simpler (but less stable), French one. To make the Italian meringue, you will need a sugar thermometer.
For the gooseberries:
- 900g fresh gooseberries, tops and tails trimmed
- 100g caster sugar
- 75ml marsala wine
For the meringue:
- 4 large egg whites
- 250g caster sugar
- 75ml water
For the cream:
- 250ml crème fraîche
- 1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out
Preheat your oven to 180C. Cut off the ends of the gooseberries, lay them into a baking tray, sprinkle the sugar over them and add the marsala wine. Put the gooseberries into the oven and leave to bake for about 25 minutes. Take out of the oven and give them a gentle stir without breaking them too much. You just want the wine and sugar to mix with the berries. Turn your oven down to 100C, the temperature you will need for the meringues.
To make the meringue, whisk the four egg whites until stiff. Now pour the sugar and water into a pan and gently heat up until dissolved. Now turn the heat up and put your thermometer into the syrup. On a high heat bring the sugar syrup to 120C. Take off the heat, put the mixer with the egg whites back on and very slowly and in a constant stream, pour the syrup into the egg whites whilst continuously whisking. Once all the sugar syrup is combined with the eggs carry on whisking for about 5-10 minutes until the mixture is glossy. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Leave the meringue mixture to cool down before putting 6 heaps on the baking tray. They don't need to look even or pretty, but if you insist, you could pipe the mixture into perfect little shapes. Put the tray into the oven and bake the meringues for two hours. Once the time is up, turn the oven off and leave to cool the meringues inside the oven.
Cut the vanilla pod along the length and scrape out the seeds. Add to the crème fraîche and give it a good whisk. Once your meringues have cooled down, top with the gooseberries and add a generous dollop of the vanilla crème fraîche on top. Serve to be enjoyed straight away.