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Decorate the tart with flaked almonds and a whole Cape gooseberry. Photo: Rituparna Banerjee/Mint
Decorate the tart with flaked almonds and a whole Cape gooseberry. Photo: Rituparna Banerjee/Mint

Very, very good gooseberry

This citrusy, tangy fruit makes a great ingredient for jams and frangipanes

In the absence of actual sunshine over the last few wintry weeks in Delhi, the orange orbs of Cape gooseberries beaming from market stalls have provided some comfort. I always eagerly await the Cape gooseberry season but when I served up these tartlets the other night there was some confusion among my guests over what Cape gooseberries actually are.

The confusion has something to do with the name—for many of us “gooseberry" means the hairy, sour, green fruits we grew up with, rendered edible only by the liberal addition of sugar. Cape gooseberries, or physalis, to give them their botanical name (in India they are also known as rasbhari due to their intense juiciness), look a bit like little orange cherry tomatoes (or tiny suns) nestling in green papery leaves and taste refreshingly bright and slightly sour. These days they grow very happily in India but are thought to have originated in Brazil. My two South African guests also confirmed that the fruits must have broken the journey from South America in their homeland, where they also grow in abundance, and acquired the name most commonly given to them.

Where I come from, Cape gooseberries are woefully underused and probably because they are so expensive, are usually only deployed as cake decorations or in luxury fruit salads. I love the bountiful Indian Cape gooseberry season—the citrusy, tangy fruit is wonderful to eat as it is but I also like to make enough jam to brighten up breakfast for the foreseeable future and always try to find a new way to sneak it into my baking.

This year I decided to use the jam I’d made in a Bakewell tart, named after the English town where they originated. The traditional Bakewell tart is made with raspberry jam but the slightly sharp taste of the Cape gooseberry jam seemed very happy with the buttery almond frangipane filling. You could also substitute other seasonal fruit jams—cherry, plum or apricot would all work well. The icing is optional—you could serve it without—but this one made with fresh orange juice seemed to pick up the citrus notes of the Cape gooseberry perfectly.

Cape Gooseberry Bakewell Tartlets

Makes 6 individual tartlets

Ingredients

Pastry shells

200g plain flour (maida)

100g cold butter cut into cubes

6-7 tbsp iced water

Filling

6 tbsp Cape gooseberry jam (see recipe or use shop-bought—Bhuira makes a very good version)

100g soft butter

100g caster sugar

Finely grated zest of one small orange

2 eggs

25g plain flour

100g ground almonds

Icing

200g icing sugar, sifted

A few tsp of orange juice

6 Cape gooseberries with their leaves still on

A handful of flaked almonds, lightly toasted

You will need 6x9cm tartlet tins (alternatively, you could make one big tart) and a large baking sheet.

Method

First make the pastry cases. Put the flour and butter in a bowl and mix the butter lightly into the flour with your fingertips until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add enough iced water to mix into a smooth dough. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. When the pastry has chilled, roll it out thinly (about millimetre) on a lightly floured surface. Cut out six circles about 2cm larger than the tartlet tins. Press one circle into each tin and trim the edges. Put a circle of greaseproof paper (or a muffin case) on top of each of the pastry cases and fill with baking beans or dried lentils (this stops the pastry puffing up in the oven).  

Put the filled tartlet tins on the baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the papers and beans/lentils and put the tartlets back in the oven for 5 minutes. The pastry should now be cooked and lightly browned. Leave to cool for a few minutes, then take the pastry cases out of the metal tins—they are now ready to fill.

For the frangipane (filling), beat together (with a wooden spoon or electric mixer) the butter, orange zest and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs, then fold in the ground almonds and flour.

Put one tablespoon of the Cape gooseberry jam in each pastry shell and spread out evenly. Divide the frangipane between the tartlets, and spread to cover the jam. Put the tartlets back on the baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes until the top of the frangipane is well browned. If you’re not icing the tartlets, sprinkle them with flaked almonds in the last few minutes of baking. Take the tartlets out of the oven and leave to cool before icing.

Put the icing sugar in a bowl and stir in the orange juice, a few drops at a time, until you have thick icing. When the tartlets are cool, smooth a spoonful of icing over each, then decorate with flaked almonds and a whole Cape gooseberry.

Cape Gooseberry Jam

Makes 1 jar (around 400g)

Ingredients

500g Cape gooseberries, leaves removed and washed

300g caster sugar

Put a couple of clean saucers in the fridge or freezer.

Method

Place the Cape gooseberries in the heaviest-bottomed pan you own (it’s very easy to burn this jam). Place over medium heat for about 5 minutes until the juice of the berries starts to run. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. 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 another couple of minutes. Keep an eye on the jam, stirring regularly to prevent sticking or burning. When the jam is ready, pour into clean, warm jar. Because of the relatively low sugar content, this jam needs to be kept in the fridge.

Pamela Timms is a Delhi-based journalist and food writer. She blogs at Eatanddust.com.

Also Read | Pamela’s previous Lounge columns

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