But this year, they are open daily, even on Sundays! So Lundulph and I made our way there, through the lovely cafe they have next to their farm shop. Armed with a stack of punnets, we wandered into the fields along with a few other hard core PYO-ers. The weather was overcast and it drizzled a couple of times, so overall it was a fairly quiet day.
Soon we realised that we might have been overly enthusiastic on what we could actually carry, but still we persisted. In season were Loganberries, black currants and gooseberries, sugar snaps and mangetout. If I'd had a couple of spare hands I wouldn't have bothered picking the sugar snaps, they were so very tasty, I'd just have eaten them right there next to where I picked them.
I bought vanilla ice cream and mixed in the Loganberries. This didn't work at all, so I'll be needing some sort of jam related additive to get through that ice cream.
So what to do with a full punnet of gooseberries? Lundulph has been hankering for a crumble for ages, but that won't really work with gooseberries, I thought. But pie on the other hand would work just fine. OK, decision made - gooseberry pie. But what to cover it with? I really didn't fancy making pie lids. Hm, pie, slightly sour tasting fruit, some sort of lid contraption. Hang on, lemon meringue pie - slightly sour fruit with meringue on top. There it is - I'll make gooseberry meringue pie.
So off to our local supermarket to get butter to make the pastry and what do I see - ready made pie shells from sweet pastry. Waitrose's finest goes in the shopping basket. Then a whole bunch of eggs and off home.
But the gooseberries can't just go into the pie shell as they are - once the meringue goes on top, it'll have to be baked at low temperature. Think, think, think.
Ah yes! Cook the gooseberries with a bit of sugar, but not too much. So here goes:
1 ready made pie shell, about 25 cm diameter
1 kg fresh gooseberries
1 dl dark muscovado sugar
3 medium egg whites at room temperature
2 dl granulated sugar
- Place the pie shell onto a baking sheet, ready to be filled.
- Remove all the sticky out bits of the gooseberries - the little "crown" where the flower used to be and the stalk - and wash.
- Put the gooseberries in a saucepan on medium-low heat. Add the muscovado sugar and stir.
- Simmer for 15 - 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Pre-heat the oven at gas mark 1 (140 degrees C).
- Drain the liquid from the gooseberries, but save it for use elsewhere. Then put the berries into the pie shell and spread out evenly.
- Place the egg whites in a glass or metal bowl, add the sugar and place over a bain marie on low heat. As the water heats up, whisk the whites with the sugar until a firm meringue has formed.
- Take off the heat and spread over the gooseberries in the pie shell. If you want, put some in a piping bag and pipe decorations.
- Bake in the oven for 1 h, then either serve nice and hot or leave to cool completely.
Keep stirring until the sugar has dissolved and some of the riper berries burst and spill out their juice. Don't deliberately break the berries, though.
I finally also got to try out my new blow torch to singe the edges of meringue like I've seen in some really fancy photos. Well, that's not easy either and will require some practice.
So how was it then? Well, actually very tasty indeed, I was surprised, given it's been ages since I cooked. The gooseberries had kept their flavour and some of them didn't burst during the cooking. The meringue went nice and dry on top, but there was some gooey bits in the middle. The pie shell was quite good too, albeit a bit on the crumbly side, but it certainly didn't go soggy as I feared. I think I'll make my own pie shell next time. But on a Wednesday after work, it was sufficiently quick to do as described above.