Gooseberries and The Walled Garden

I have amazing memories of visiting  “pick-your-own” farms as a child, they seemed to be everywhere, maybe it was because we lived on the edge of The Vale of Evesham, one of England’s prime fruit growing areas. So last weekend, on a fabulously sunny day, I thought Imi and I might have fun picking some gooseberries and strawberries up the road in Cheddar. Sadly we arrived to discover that we could only buy the ready-picked punnets of fruit and a pretty surly woman assured me that there was NOWHERE locally that your could pick your own. Is this true? If anyone knows otherwise, please do let me know. It does seem quite logical, I can’t see how the farmers ever made any money; my sister and I always went for the eat one, keep one, eat one, keep one approach. In fact I once came out in a terrible rash after gorging on strawberries, or maybe it was raspberries? I can’t remember.

Any how we couldn’t drive straight home on such a glorious day so we dropped into one of my all- time favourite places –  The Barley Wood Walled Garden  (it does pop up in my blog a lot, I promise that I’m not on a PR drive for them – I just happen to love it) First we visited the teeny shop in the shed, I bought some gooseberries and  Imi spent her pocket money on a crochet “Happy Bird” that she christened Alfred. I had to share the pictures with you, they are everything I adore about England. The gardens are heaven and I loved the fact that Imi was in a school dress at the weekend ( her primary school doesn’t have a uniform so she feels a bit left out ). Of course we swung by the restaurant as well, and had some of the ridiculously delicious toffee-appley cake (Will you ever share that recipe with us boys? – I notice that it’s not in the cookbook) and whilst Imi drank her elderflower cordial I tried some of the very subtle and refreshing pine cordial.

We headed home after a dash around the vegetable patch – I do have serious garden envy although I need to get real; I only just manage to keep up with the bindweed in our tiny shoebox. When we got home I decided to go two ways with my gooseberries, firstly the most obvious and indulgent gooseberry fool and then secondly a very, very tasty and healthy breakfast option with oat groats and yoghurt.

Let’s begin with the gooseberry fool, which along with rhubarb fool has to be one of the simplest, most divine English puddings on offer and not one to mess around with too much. My only tweaks/suggestions are to cook the gooseberries in elderflower cordial (always a fabulous combination) and to sprinkle with a few ginger nut biscuit crumbs.

Gooseberry Fool

450 g gooseberries, topped and tailed
4 tbsp  of elderflower cordial
300 ml double cream
A few ginger nut biscuits, crushed to a crumb with a rolling pin.

Cover and simmer the gooseberries with the elderflower cordial for about 5-10 minutes until they have all split. Now spoon out the gooseberries and reduce the liquid by boiling to at least 1/2. Don’t sieve – you want the skins and seeds for texture.

Now taste – it must be intensely sweet and sour at the same time. Allow to cool completely and then chill in the fridge.

Whip your double cream until it is thick but not stiff, it always sets up more as it sits, and fold in the gooseberries. Taste again – you might need a little more sugar.

Now spoon the fool into little glasses or  vintage tea cups and sprinkle with a few bashed up ginger nut biscuits if you feel like it.

 

I’ve never been all that keen on porridge –  it’s the rather sludgy, slimy texture.  And I’m afraid that no amount of cream, superior pin head oats or expert spurtle stirring can convince me. Oat groats though,  are something else with their slightly chewy texture and bite. I prefer to call them oat berries (groats just sound too hefty and wholesome) since whole grain wheat and rye are referred to as berries so I can’t see a problem. Cook up plenty of oats and keep them in the fridge for up to a week but do warm them through in a small pan or microwave before serving, as they seem very starchy when chilled.

Oat berries, gooseberries and honeyed yoghurt

250 g oat berries (groats)
500 g ( ml) water
450 g gooseberries, topped and tailed
4 tbsp elderflower cordial
Natural yoghurt (Greek if you’re feeling indulgent) and honey to taste.

Place the oat berries in a large saucepan without any water and roast them directly over a high heat, giving them a good shake from time to time until they smell toasty (about 3-4 minutes).

Now add the water and simmer for about 30-40 minutes until the grain is tender but still slightly chewy.

Cook the gooseberries as we did for the fool above and spoon into bowls (or glasses). Sprinkle over a couple of good spoons of oats and top with a good dollop of honey-sweetened yoghurt.

And, talking of gardens I’m very excited because later this week I’m going to be working at Highgrove and getting a glimpse of the Prince’s gardens. I’m teaching a bunch of primary school kids who have been awarded a day of cooking, painting and gardening as a prize for their outstanding gardening blogs.  There’s more about the Prince’s Mygrove challenge here.

 

7 thoughts on “Gooseberries and The Walled Garden

  1. Liz Fildes

    Hi Jenny Look up ‘chosen hill farm’ on google – it’s out near Chew Magna somewhere. We picked strawberries and gooseberries there last couple of years. Kids were asking last week if they could go again and this has just prompted me to do something about it- thanks!

    Liz

    Sent from my iPhone

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  2. Helen Gilks

    Hi Jenny, I think there is somewhere in Tockington that does Pick Your Own. Thanks for the gooseberry recipte – I have some in my fridge so now know what to do with them. By they way you take great photos. Helen

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  3. Sasha Lubetkin

    I always love your blog, Jenny, and the pictures on this page are wonderful. The Walled Garden sounds wonderful – must visit it one day. As to Highgrove, there’s an interesting (if rather scathing) diary piece in today’s Guardian about HRH’s husbandry:

    “The spider pen letters of Prince Charles continue to prompt speculation about what he would actually do given a modicum of power and direct influence. No one really knows, but our man in Tetbury, Gloucestershire – close to Highgrove House, Charlie’s manor – says the omens are not good. In a nutshell: “Moved location of popular organic Veg Shed at cost of £100k and then shut it down. Given up on egg production after fox killed half a dozen chickens. Now closed down showcase Highgrove shop in centre of Bath after just four years.” God knows what he’ll end up doing to Buck House when he gets his hands on it. Perhaps he may have grown into the role by then.”

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    1. Jenny Chandler Post author

      Oh Sasha, this is fascinating stuff – that must have been one hell of a “Veg Shed”. I’d love to take you on an excursion to The Walled Garden this summer during Imi’s holidays, that’s as well as our St Mark’s road trip.

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