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Sunday, 1 July 2007

A Gooseberry tart to warm a Glastonbury heart

I have never been happier in my kitchen than this past week; my clean, hygienic, well stocked, fully functioning kitchen. But then five days eating mud pie garnished with the fetid odour of fermenting portaloos will do that to anyone. Yes, I survived Glastonbury. A filthy, festering, fabulous, crazy escape from anything remotely resembling regular life. There was food, of course, including an astonishingly good range of veggie fare. But then there was cider (pear, apple or strawberry). As quick, regular hits of happy energy go when you are observing a fifth consecutive hour of torrential rain and you can't see your gumboot for the river of mud it's been sucked into, there really is no contest.

Upon our return to London I quickly set about restocking our nutrient depleted bodies with steaming greens and hearty bakes. But I also felt the urge to reach deep into my oven's potential and produce something so delicious it would wash away the memory of baby wipe showers forever. So I gave in to England's current obsession with the gooseberry, something I've never come across before let alone cooked with. (Which explains why I tried to eat one uncooked and I don't really recommend it. The fruit itself is quite sharp and tart, not dissimilar to rhubarb.) This recipe comes from the Glasto weekend edition of the Observer's monthly food magazine.

What you need for a Gooseberry tart

450g Gooseberries (I think you could substitute rhubarb or raspberry)
3 eggs
100g caster sugar
1 x 285ml pack of double cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the pastry

I'll give you the pastry as it appeared in the recipe. It did the job but was a bit crumbly so if you have a preferred sweet shortcrust pastry, go for it. You can get a good base from Tamasin Day-Lewis's book, The Art of the Tart.

150g plain flour
50g caster sugar
75g very cold butter (chopped)
1 egg yolk (mixed with a little ice-cold water)

How to make the pastry

Mix the flour and sugar together before adding the chopped, cold butter.
Pulse in a mixer (or rub with your hands) until it has all crumbled together.
Add the egg yolk and a little ice-cold water and mix it all together with your hands until it rolls into a neat ball.
Roll out on a floured surface and use to line a floured 26 cm tart tin. Mine fell apart a bit and I had to do a bit of cut and pasting but it all came out fine.
Leave in the fridge for 1/2 hour and preheat your oven to 180.
Remove the pastry case from your fridge and bake blind for 10-15 minutes by pricking the base, placing some ovenproof paper over it, then covering it with a layer of dried beans or rice before popping it in the oven.
Take it out and let it cool for a few minutes but leave the oven on. (You don't want the edges to brown much but you don't want the base gooey. If it comes out a bit too moist, remove the beans and pop it back in the oven for a couple more minutes.)

And for the filling

Wash, top and tail the gooseberries.
Mix the eggs, caster sugar, double cream and vanilla extract in a bowl.
Fill the slightly cooled pastry case with an even layer of gooseberries then pour over the egg mix.
Cook for 35 minutes (or until the centre is just firm.)
Gobble with thick cream in your most comfortable jim jams. For best effect, make sure you are warm and toasty inside while your mud caked wellies are in full view on the balcony outside.

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