English Gooseberry Creams with Elderflower and Gooseberry Compote

This week we have a new birthday to announce – a whole gaggle (not sure how many) of fluffy, speckled, very baby pheasants. The recent neurosis we’ve been undergoing concerning the safety of the ducklings will not be quite so intense in this case because pheasants are much more cautious mothers. Hence the difficulty of doing a head count and only just managing to get them photographed, left. Our wildlife meadow is excelling itself with a breath-taking abundance of new life, which includes glimpses of a very handsome, long-legged and long-eared baby hare. I didn’t have the camera handy, I’m afraid, but hidden in the tree-house in the early morning I was able to observe him venturing out of the long grass, doing a recce and looking so bright-eyed, shiny and very pleased to be alive. The warm and sunny Suffolk summer in all its glory makes me very pleased to be alive too, and as predicted last week we have a bumper crop of very English gooseberries. I hadn’t fully appreciated their Englishness till I met a very snooty publisher in New York, who did not want to publish my Summer Collection. ‘What’, she said staring up at me after a bored flip through the pages, ‘on earth are gooseberries? What ours are this week are young, firm, very green berries busting with fragrant flavour. Right on cue are the elderflowers as well, which used to be tied in muslin and cooked in with the gooseberries. Now that we can buy elderflower cordial it’s all much simpler. Together they give you as good a taste of an English summer as you will get, and this recipe is cool, light and perfect for serving in hot weather.

Serves 4

English Gooseberry Creams with Elderflower and Gooseberry Compote
 1½ lb (700 g) young gooseberries
 3 tablespoons elderflower cordial
 1½ oz (40 g) golden caster sugar
 3 leaves gelatine
 2 fl oz (55ml) milk
 ½ pint (275ml) natural fromage frais
 Pre-heat the oven to 180°C, gas mark 4
You will also need four 6 fl oz (175 ml) capacity pots, lightly greased with flavourless oil.


Start off by topping and tailing the gooseberries, using a pair of scissors, then arrange them in a shallow baking dish. Sprinkle them with the sugar and pour in the elderflower cordial mixed with 1 tablespoon of water.

Now bake (uncovered) in the oven for 25-30 minutes. After that you need to puree a quarter of the cooked gooseberries, leaving the rest on one side. Next place the leaves of gelatine in a bowl and cover with cold water, then leave them for about 5 minutes till softened.

Meanwhile heat the milk gently in a saucepan, then squeeze the leaf gelatine with your hands to remove any excess water, and add it to the hot milk. Give it all a thorough whisking till it dissolves. Now in a measuring jug measure out 8 fl oz (225ml) of the puree (any left over can be added to the rest of the gooseberries). Add the gelatine mixture followed by the fromage frais, and whisk everything together.

Divide the mixture between the four pots, cover with clingfilm and chill in the fridge till set. Let the rest of the gooseberries cool, then cover them and chill till needed.

Serve with the creams unmoulded on serving dishes with the gooseberries poured over.

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