ArchiveJuly 24, 2010

Summer Berries

Strawberries, raspberries, loganberries, tay berries and now lots of black, red and white currants. A few weeks ago we feasted on green gooseberry and elderflower tarts, compotes and fools. The gooseberries that survived will be left on the bushes to ripen. When they are plump and full of sweet juice we’ll enjoy them as dessert gooseberries – no cooking required, just pop a bowlful on the table and enjoy. If you haven’t already got a few gooseberry and blackcurrant bushes in your garden, order them now to plant between now and the autumn. One can buy strawberries and raspberries, even redcurrants ad nauseum year round but unless you have a good Farmer’s Market close to you, gooseberries and blackcurrants are virtually impossible to find in the shops.

A red currant bush or two is also worth considering – they make a divine jelly and their bitter sweet flavour and high pectin content make a delicious and valuable addition to jams and fruit salad. They too are loaded with vitamin C. All the currants freeze brilliantly, don’t bother to string them, just weigh them into manageable kilogram lots and freeze. The strings will fall off when you shake the bag of frozen berries just before you use them – I discovered that trick years ago when I was too busy to string the fruit before freezing, so I decided to throw them in and worry about the strings later.

If you are stringing the fresh currants a fork is useful and children find it brilliant fun and may even nibble some of the vitamin rich fruit.

Fresh blackcurrants make a delicious cordial that can be diluted like the well known brand and of course stored for the winter. They also make irresistibly funky blackcurrant ice pops which you’ll find the ‘grown ups’ will want to steal from the children.

Strings of black, red or white currants are also easy to frost and look delicious on a cake or dessert. The sugary coating makes them irresistible to nibble – if you can hide them they’ll keep for several days in a dry place.

Next week I’ll devote my entire article to jam-making in response to readers request but this week a few delicious puddings to make the most of the Summer berries and currants.


Gooseberry Nectar

I love to make cordials and homemade ‘lemonades’ from Summer fruits.

Makes 20 glasses (approximately) or 2 pints 5oz (45fl oz)

900g (2lbs) gooseberries

450g (1lb) sugar

600ml (1 pint) water

2 – 3 elderflower blossoms

ice cubes

Put the elderflowers into a piece of muslin and tie into a bag. Simmer the fruit until well burst and very soft. Remove the elderflower bag and squeeze into the compote to extract every last drop. Pour the stewed gooseberries into a nylon sieve, press as much as possible through with the back of a ladle or a tablespoon. Allow to cool then chill well.

Serve in chilled glasses with lots of ice, add prosecco to taste or sparkling water for a little fizz in your life.


Gooseberry, Elderflower and Strawberry Compote

Serves 8

The combination of gooseberries and strawberries is surprisingly delicious. Their seasons just overlap nicely.

the remaining gooseberry pulp may be served with yoghurt for breakfast, delicious. 



900g (2lb) green gooseberries, topped and tailed

2 or 3 elderflower heads

600ml (1 pint) cold water

450g (1lb) sugar

450g (1lb) ripe Irish strawberries

 Make the compote as in the Gooseberry Nectar recipe, cook until they just burst. Remove the bag of elderflowers. Pour the gooseberry compote into a bowl. Allow to cool completely. Add the sliced strawberries, stir gently and serve with softly whipped cream.


A fan oven works really well for meringues but don’t forget to reduce the temperature by 10-20% depending on your brand of oven.

Serves 10




4 organic egg whites

9 ozs (250g) approx. icing sugar, sieved

600ml (1 pint) chilled whipped cream

2 – 3 teaspoons rose blossom water

450g (1lb) fresh, fresh raspberries

To Decorate

organic rose petals

fresh mint leaves or sweet cicely leaves

Silicone paper

First make the meringue. Cover two baking sheets with silicone paper. Otherwise grease and flour the sheet very carefully. Draw two 25.5 cm (10 inch) circles on the silicone paper with a pencil.

Put the egg whites and all the sieved icing sugar into a spotlessly clean bowl and whisk until the mixture forms stiff peaks. This can take 8-10 minutes in an electric mixer. Alternatively you can whisk it by hand but it takes quite a long time, so if you even have a hand-held mixer it will speed up matters a lot. Divide the meringue mixture between the two circles on the silicone paper and spread with a palette knife into two even discs.

Bake in a low oven 150°C/300ºF/regulo 2 for 45 minutes or until the meringue discs will lift easily off the paper. Turn off the oven and allow them to cool in the oven if possible.

To Serve:


Strawberries with Fresh Mint Leaves

One of our favourite ways to eat strawberries and good way to perk up less than perfect berries.

Serves 8-10

900g (2lb) ripe strawberries

2-3 tablespoons castor sugar

freshly squeezed lemon juice of 1/2 – 1 lemon

2-3 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, torn or shredded

Just before serving hull the strawberries and cut into quarters or slice lengthwise. Sprinkle with caster sugar and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Scatter with torn mint leaves. Toss gently, taste, adjust with a little more sugar or freshly squeezed lemon juice if necessary. Serve alone or with softly whipped cream.



Left over blackcurrant fool may be frozen – it makes a delicious ice cream. Serve with blackcurrant coulis made by thinning the blackcurrant puree with a little more water or syrup.

Wild Food

Marsh Samphire or Glasswort (Salicornia Europaea)

For just about a month one can gather marsh samphire, they look like little succulent cacti without the prickles. Catch them in your fingers and eat them one by one scraping them against your teeth to detach the flesh from the inner spine. If you can’t gather it yourself, look out for it at local farmers markets such as Kinsale, Mahon Point and Midleton. Or contact Michelle Breen on (086)3458710.

Serves 8 as an accompaniment

225g (8oz) samphire

freshly ground pepper

25–50g (1–2oz) butter

Cover the samphire with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for about 5–6 minutes or until tender. Drain off the water, season with freshly ground pepper and toss in butter – no salt because samphire has a natural salty tang.

Serve with fish or just have a little feast on toast with Hollandaise sauce.


Thrifty Tip

Freeze summer fruits in small individual portions for a taste of Summer in the Winter, delicious with yogurt for breakfast.


Ladurée Macaroons

were only available in Paris up to relatively recently; these psychedelic macaroons are now taking Dublin by storm and are available in Brown Thomas, Grafton Street (why not in Cork?) They sell for €1.60 each and are fast becoming the new cupcakes, the ‘must bring’ pressie for the hostess with the mostest. Like all ‘new’ ideas, it doesn’t take long before someone enterprising starts to experiment. The most delicious Irish macaroons I’ve tasted are made by Iseult Janssens from the Cake Stand in Newcastle, Co Dublin – 0860407676

– 086 8141133.



Meringue with Raspberries and Rosewater Cream

Blackcurrant Fool



Serves 10 approx.

340g (¾ lb) fresh or frozen blackcurrants

425ml (15fl oz) Stock syrup (see recipe)

Whipped cream

Cover the blackcurrants with stock syrup. Bring to the boil and cook until the fruit bursts about 4-5 minutes. Liquidise and sieve or puree the fruit and syrup and measure. When the puree has cooled, add up to equal quantity of softly whipped cream, according to taste.

The fool should not be very stiff, more like the texture of softly whipped cream. If it is too stiff stir in a little milk rather than more cream.

Alternative presentation chose tall sundae glasses. Put 50ml (2floz) of blackcurrant puree into the base of the glass, top with a layer of softly whipped cream, another layer of blackcurrant puree and finally a little more cream. Drizzle a little thin puree over the top, serve chilled with shortbread biscuits.

Blackcurrant Ice Cream with Blackcurrant Coulis

Add rose blossom water to the cream to taste. Put a disc of meringue onto a serving plate. Spread with a layer of the softly whipped rosewater cream. Save some to decorate the top. Sprinkle with a generous layer of fresh raspberries (keep a few for decoration). Top with the second meringue disc. Whip the remainder of the cream stiffly and use to decorate the top with raspberries and fresh mint or sweet cicely leaves. Scatter some fresh rose petals over the top.

Blackcurrant Coulis

225 g (8ozs) blackcurrants

225ml (8fl oz) stock syrup

120 – 150ml (4 – 5fl oz) water (see below)

Pour the syrup over the blackcurrants and bring to the boil, cook for 3-5 minutes until the blackcurrants burst. Liquidise and sieve through a nylon sieve. Allow to cool. Add 4-5 fl oz (120-150 ml) water. Store in a fridge.

Blackcurrant coulis keeps for weeks and freezes very well.


Stock Syrup

175g (6 oz) sugar

125g (4 ½ oz) water

Dissolve the sugar in the water and bring to the boil. Boil for 2 minutes then allow it to cool. Store in the fridge until needed.

Blackcurrant Ice Pops

Makes 12 ice pops

Fill the blackcurrant coulis mixture into ice pop moulds freeze and enjoy.

Red Currant Jelly




Red currant jelly is a very delicious and versatile product to have in your larder. It has a myriad of uses. It can be used like a jam on bread or scones, or served as an accompaniment to roast lamb, bacon or ham. It is also good with some rough pâtés and game, and is invaluable as a glaze for red fruit tarts.

This recipe is a particular favourite of mine, not only because it’s fast to make and results in delicious intensely flavoured jelly, but because one can use the left over pulp to make a fruit tart, so one gets double value from the red currants. Unlike most other fruit jelly, no water is needed in this recipe.

We’ve used frozen fruits for this recipe also, stir over the heat until the sugar dissolves, proceeds as below.

Makes 3 x 1 lb (450g) jars

2 lbs (900g) red currants

2 lbs (900g) granulated sugar

Remove the strings from the red currants either by hand or with a fork. Put the red currants and sugar into a wide stainless steel saucepan and stir continuously until they come to the boil. Boil for exactly 8 minutes, stirring only if they appear to be sticking to the bottom. Skim carefully.

Turn into a nylon sieve and allow to drip through, do not push the pulp through or the jelly will be cloudy. You can stir in gently once or twice just to free the bottom of the sieve of pulp.

Pour the jelly into sterilised pots immediately. Red currants are very high in pectin so the jelly will begin to set just as soon as it begins to cool.

Rustic Peach Tart with Summer Berries

Serves 6-8


8 ozs (225 g) plain white flour

1 tablespoon castor sugar

4 ozs (110 g), cut into 1/2 inch (1cm) dice

cold water or cream to mix


3-4 ozs (75-110g) sugar

1 tablespoon corn flour

4 ripe peaches, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch (1 cm) thick

4 ozs (110g) blueberries

4 ozs (110g) raspberries

Castor sugar for sprinkling, about 1 tablespoon

1 x 9 inch (23cm) pie plate or tart tin.

First make the pastry, put the flour and sugar into a bowl, rub in the cold butter. When the mixture looks like breadcrumbs, add just enough water or cream to bind. Knead lightly to get the mixture to come together. Cover with wax or silicone paper and rest in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.

Roll the pastry on a lightly floured surface into a 14 inch (35cm) round approximately. Transfer to a 9 inch (23cm) greased plate or baking sheet.

Just before filling the tart.

Mix the sugar with the corn flour. Toss in the sliced peaches and blueberries. Stir gently. Add the raspberries, but don’t stir. Pour the fruit and the juices into the chilled tart shell and distribute evenly. Fold the overhanging edge to cover the outer portion of the filling, leaving a 5 inch (12.5cm) opening of exposed fruit in the centre of the tart. Brush the pastry with cream, sprinkle with a little sugar.

Bake the tart in a preheated oven 220°C/427°F/Gas Mark 7 for 8-10 minutes, lower the temperature to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and bake for 30 to35 minutes longer. Serve warm or at room temperature with softly whipped cream.

Frosted Red, White or Blackcurrants

So pretty to nibble on, use to decorate cakes and desserts.

Take about 12 perfect bunches of red/white or blackcurrants attached to the stem. Whisk one egg white in a bowl until broken up and slightly fluffy. Spread 115g/4ozs castor sugar onto a flat plate. Dip a bunch of redcurrants in the egg white, ensure that every berry has been lightly coated, and drain very well.

Lay on the castor sugar and sprinkle castor sugar over the top. Check that the entire surface of every berry is covered.

Arrange carefully on a tray covered with silicone paper and put into a dry airy place. until crisp and frosted.


Rock or Marsh Samphire with Melted Butter

 Serve alone on toast or with fish dishes.


Past Letters