One of the most rewarding aspects of my baking life in India is being able to experiment with exotic fruit without having to take out a second mortgage. At home in Scotland, mangoes, lychees, papayas are the foie gras of the fruit world, flown halfway round the globe to be nibbled and savoured.
Many of these fruits I had never seen in abundance until I came to India. The voluptuous bunches of pink lychees in the Delhi markets are a far cry from the hard brown balls we used to find in our Christmas stockings. In the summer, as well as gorging on mangoes I’ve popped them into muffins. Until recently, I thought the only purpose of cape gooseberries was to pep up lacklustre fruit salads. I now discover their citrusy softness is perfect in cakes, tarts and puddings.
In Scotland, where we tend to buy cape gooseberries by the handful rather than kilo, jam is one of the fruit’s most glorious incarnations, fabulous on toast but positively addictive in these jam tarts. I’ve sneaked some ground almonds and sugar into the pastry, taking them from packed lunch standby to dinner party diva.
Culinary capers: (below) The gooseberry meringue pie; and jam tarts. Priyanka Parashar/Mint
Cape gooseberries also make for an unusual, delicious curd, which, on a whim, I made into a meringue pie. It involves a few extra steps but the soothing texture, knockout flavour and vibrant, sunshine colour make it more than worth the effort.
Cape Gooseberry Jam
500g cape gooseberries, leaves removed and washed
Put a couple of clean saucers in the fridge or freezer.
Prick each fruit with a pin once, then place in the heaviest-bottomed pan you own (it’s very easy to burn this jam). Add a splash of water, put on the lid and place over medium heat for about 5 minutes until the berries are soft.
Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Boil, stirring regularly, for 5 minutes. Lower heat. Put a small teaspoonful of the jam on a cold saucer. When the jam has reached setting point, it will wrinkle slightly when pushed. If it doesn’t, boil for a couple of minutes. Keep an eye on the jam, stirring regularly to prevent sticking or burning. How long it takes can vary between batches of fruit. One batch took me 3 minutes, another 35.
When the jam is ready, pour into clean, warm jars. This jam will only keep for about a week in the fridge.
Cape Gooseberry Jam Tarts
125g plain flour (maida)
75g cold butter
25g ground almonds
25g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
½ tsp orange flower water
12 tsp cape gooseberry jam
You will need a 12-hole tart tin and a 3-inch pastry cutter. Sift the flour into a bowl then grate in the butter. With a palette knife, gently stir in the butter until all the strands are coated with flour. Stir in the almonds and sugar.
In a cup gently beat the egg yolk, orange flower water and a tablespoon of water. Quickly add most of the liquid to the flour mixture. Stir until it starts to come together, adding a little more of the liquid if necessary. The pastry should form into a firm but not wet ball. Cover with cling film and chill for 30 minutes.
Heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Flour a clean work surface then roll the pastry out thinly. Cut out 12 circles and gently press them into the tart tin. Put one teaspoon of jam in each tart and bake for about 10 minutes or until the pastry is starting to turn a pale brown (for detailed tips on baking pastries, log on to www.livemint.com/applepie.htm).
Cape Gooseberry Curd
400g cape gooseberries
200g caster sugar
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
50g unsalted butter
2 eggs, beaten then strained through a small sieve
Cook the berries with the lemon zest and 50ml water until they’re very soft, then push them through a fine sieve. Put the purée in a heatproof bowl with the butter, sugar and lemon juice over a pan of simmering water. When the butter has melted, whisk in the eggs. Keep stirring until the curd thickly coats the back of a spoon. Again the time can vary, but it took me about 30 minutes. Pour the curd into a clean jar and seal. Once opened, use within a month.
For a cape gooseberry meringue pie: With pastry made from 100g flour and 50g butter, line an 8-inch, loose-bottomed cake tin. Bake the pastry shell, empty (“blind”) for about 15 minutes. Spread curd over the bottom of the pastry case and top with meringue made from 2 large egg whites whisked with 80g caster sugar until firm enough to hold the bowl upside down. Bake at 150 degrees Celsius until the meringue is pale brown.
Pamela Timms is a Delhi-based journalist and food writer. She blogs at http://eatanddust.wordpress.com Write to Pamela at firstname.lastname@example.org