Friday, 4 July 2014

Gooseberry Custard Meringue Tart

Gooseberries are such a great fruit, with an elusive taste, hard to describe. There are citrus and floral elements and depending on the variety eaten, they sometimes can be slightly reminiscent of cooking apples. The one thing that is definitely true about gooseberries is that they are tart and definitely need a little added sweetness in order to enjoy them to them at their best. I absolutely love them and each year I look forward to eating them when they come into season.

I love gooseberry pies, adore gooseberry crumble and go weak at the knees for gooseberry fool, but in the interests of expanding my culinary and gastronomic repertoire, I have been considering other ways in which gooseberries could be used.
 
Because of their tartness, gooseberries work very well as a sauce to serve alongside certain rich savoury dishes. One of the best known combinations is that of gooseberries with mackerel, where the tartness of the gooseberries cuts through the richness of the oily fish. I love this pairing, but have to admit, that what I was most interested in exploring were different and unusual ways of serving gooseberries in sweet dishes.
 
As is well established at this stage, I love lemon desserts – ANYTHING sweet with lemon in it! High on my list of favourite lemon desserts is lemon meringue pie because when well made, there is a flavour balance between the sour tartness of the lemons and the sugary fluffy meringue. I did a bit of research on the possibilities of using gooseberries in the place of lemons and indeed, I came across a number of gooseberry meringue pie recipes on the internet and was tempted to develop my own version and do a little experimentation.
 
I also came across many recipes for gooseberry custard tarts and this really began to get my taste buds going in anticipation; gooseberries go really well with custards, cream and yoghurt where the creaminess of the diary products mitigates the sharpness of the gooseberries somewhat.
 
The idea of a gooseberry and custard tart really appealed to me, but I was not ready to let go of the meringue idea completely… so I decided to marry the two ideas and this tart was born. I subsequently came across a recipe that Allegra McEvedy had written for The Guardian which was similar to the one that I present here. In fact, I rather liked her crème patisserie recipe which used cornflour rather than flour, so decided to borrow it.
 
I was extremely pleased with how this tart turned out and it is one that I will definitely make again. There is something just so summery about it and I defy anyone who is a self-proclaimed loather of gooseberries to try out the recipe and not be swayed a little in favour of the old goozgog!

Ingredients:

Pastry:
175g plain flour
50g icing sugar
100g butter, cubed
1 egg yolk
Crème patisserie:
250ml milk
2 egg yolks
45g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste/extract
20g cornflour
Gooseberry filling:
500g gooseberries, topped and tailed
100g caster sugar
2tblsp water
Meringue:
3 large egg whites
175g caster sugar
 

Method:

Pastry:
1. Sieve the flour and icing sugar into a large bowl. Add the diced butter and using your fingertips, rub into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
2. Make a well in the centre and add the egg yolk and water and mix using a fork until everything comes together. Turn out on to a lightly floured work-surface sand knead briefly to form into a ball. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge to rest for at least half an hour.
3. Place the milk in a medium sized saucepan and bring just up to boiling point. Separately, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla paste together in a medium sized bowl until light and creamy. Add in the cornflour and mix again until fully incorporated. Gradually add the milk, whisking all the time. Return this mixture to the saucepan and set over a moderate eat. Bring up to the boil, whisking continuously until the mixture starts to thicken. Allow to bubble for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and using a spatula, scrape the crème patisserie into a clean bowl. Directly cover the surface of the crème patisserie with some cling film and allow to cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until solid.
To blind bake the pastry:
4. Preheat the oven to 190C/Fan Oven 170C/Gas Mark 5.
5. Roll out the pastry thinly on a lightly floured work-surface. Use to line a 20cm round x 4cm deep tart tin with removable base.
6. Prick the pastry several times with a fork. Place some non-stick baking parchment on the pastry and then fill with baking beans. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, removing the parchment and baking beans for the final 5 minutes. The pastry should be cooked and a light golden brown colour. Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 100C/Fan Oven 80C/Gas Mark ¼.
Gooseberry filling:
7. Put the gooseberries in a saucepan with the sugar and water and place over a moderate heat. Bring to a simmer, and then increase the heat so that they are vigorously bubbling. Stir regularly to ensure that they don’t catch on the bottom of the pan. Allow to bubble until the mixture is almost jam-like in consistence (about 15 minutes). Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
Meringue:
8. Place the egg whites in a large clean bowl and using a hand-held electric whisk to the soft-peak stage. Gradually whisk in the caster sugar to create a stiff glossy meringue mixture.
9. Pile (or pipe) the meringue on top of the gooseberry mixture making sure that it is covered completely. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes and then remove and allow to cool to room temperature before serving.
To finish:
10. Remove the crème patisserie from the fridge and give it a light whisk to loosen it up a little. Spread over the base of the blind baked pastry shell. Next place the gooseberry filling on top, of this spreading it out to the edges. Finally, pipe or spoon the meringue on top of the gooseberry filling making sure that it is completely covered. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes until the meringue is crisp and a pale creamy colour. Remove from oven and allow to cool before serving.

Serves 6-8.