I’ve recently plundered the gooseberry bush at the end of my garden in Bristol and while it didn’t quite constitute a bumper crop, there were just enough there to make exactly one perfect something. There’s something so special about cooking with one ingredient you have grown yourself, especially when it’s a single crop, and honouring it by doing something special, perhaps even something you haven’t tried before.
As a private chef, I’m happiest being given free rein to cook seasonally – finding out what the customer doesn’t like, gives me plenty of opportunity to let my culinary imagination run riot, always choosing from what’s best at the time. At this time of year we are spoilt with so many delicious fruits, but sometimes the best ones have the shortest season and are quickly forgotten.
I love the tartness and luminosity of gooseberries. My parents had an abundance in their beautiful garden in the rolling hills of the Worcestershire countryside so gooseberry fool was a frequent visitor at our table. But these days I’m no fool and I’ve wised up to the potential of this quintessentially English fruit, so I decided to make a cake.
I have vivid memories of a pineapple upside-down cake at school, which I used to love but I’ve definitely moved on from tinned pineapple rings and glacé cherries. So I decided – gooseberry & elderflower upside-down cake it is! These two summery delights grow right on the doorstep, all the more reason to make the most of them (plus I had a friend coming round for tea).
Gooseberry and elderflower upside-down cake recipe
The rest is history: I poached the gooseberries very briefly in a little elderflower cordial with a splash of white wine and strained them, then reduced the liquor.
A simple sponge recipe is all you need and since it’s something I learnt at school, I always use oz instead of grams. 4oz sugar, 4oz butter, 4 oz self raising flour and 2 eggs will make one shallow cake tin, about 8”. Just line the tin with grease proof paper and put the gooseberries in the bottom then add the liquor which should be syrupy and top with the sponge mixture.
Cook at 175oC for about 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Lovely with a dollop of crème fraîche or natural yoghurt and a proper cup of tea.