There’s no fool like an old fool …. your writer assures. Whilst a little risqué, I wish to honour and lament a rare creature. Considered diligent, prim and proper, a tad drab, maybe even old maid-ish, there was never a significant other, no-one significant or otherwise, she chose and enjoyed her chosen ‘gooseberry’ status. People who thought they knew her always considered her rather antisocial but she was charming if not a tad business-like, warm yet aloof, in conversation. Had she been left a bundle by her family? Aux contraire. Legal secretaries command significant salary but she utilised her gifts, honed an extraordinary skill, perfected a craft subsequently taking to generously paid ‘evening work’. The post becomes a little risqué as mentioned, so for those of you who are delicate flowers please avert your gaze.
For many years, she hid her latent ‘talent’ under a bushel or indeed a Dirndl skirt. Her ‘talent’ revealed to a few of us during a particularly boozy Christmas party in the late 70’s, whereupon she removed the metal cap from a bottle with an unusual opener (to gasps of astonishment from a few girls who were in the powder room at ‘that’ law society bun fight) She made her very discreet reveal ironically at the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple, London.
She sat diligently on her asset during the day and her Agent, yes Agent, arranged for her to attend soirées, mostly small Soho clubs back in the day. Once cosmetically beautified and bejeweled she would burlesque her svelte booty, removing tops from Guinness bottles to the amazement of her wide-eyed onlookers. Over and above her set remittance she had negotiated commission of booze sales too. The combination of Champagne and Guinness is a Black Velvet hugely popular then and this gives an indication to her stage attire.
She could indeed remove metal bottle tops with a part of her anatomy that you would never imagined ever, ever saw light of day. I hesitate to think, and never asked, what inspired her first attempt?
Retiring from the London set in her late 30’s gave her the opportunity to retire and sell her stage wear and accoutrements. It would have been my task to remove them if she met an unexpected demise. No relatives, no obvious vices, no marching brass bands, a rather dignified exit after a brief illness which embodied her as the essence of privacy and discretion. Over the years she sent many troubled individuals in my direction. So now with posthumous permission I doff my cap. Gifting her entire estate to children’s charities, all household effects and clothes to women’s refuge, including food stuffs to be given to food banks, her cleaning lady gifted and given explicit instructions about this and more. A totally free spirit/agent with garnered equilibrium, yet she slipped through all the nets and under radar.
So this is my mini homage to all the people we think we know. For, however much, we think we know some folk there’s every chance we haven’t a clue about their secret smoke and mirrors lives.
Gooseberries are the furry little fellas that you either love or loathe? Their sweet and sharp notes do, however, make wonderful bedfellows with Elderflower and in this instance they are easy to ‘fool’. If you are familiar with a glass of cold, crisp Sauvignon Blanc these could well cheer your taste buds too.
It’s easy to warm to the nostalgia of picking them from Grannies garden, equally countered by repulsion of swampy over-cooked, brown versions served at school with thin powdery custard! Once cooked and sweetened, then fold through some whipped cream and /or proper custard, they become a foil to dismay and the dish known as a fool, which can be subsequently frozen too. A simple, seasonal and spectacular ‘Goosegog’ dessert. I urge you to try?
Not all Gooseberries are green
For those who think ‘if its green its ghastly’ there are pinky red varieties also yellowy white ones. The remains of last year red gooseberry refrigerator jam/compote thingy works wonderfully simply layered with some zesty creme fraiche, a pert little crunchy topping of Amaretti biscuit makes a fairly ‘foolproof’ dessert for a warm day. Shown here is a combination of whipped cream and mascarpone sweetened with little icing sugar and flavoured with rosewater and vanilla seed, garnished with a few fresh fragrant rose petals.
Many are baffled by what to do with Gooseberries, hence they are a rather neglected seasonal fruit, readily available canned or frozen but are in season now in the UK. A walnut and ginger biscuit crumble topping liberates them from a benign stewed fruit, to decadent and fit for the most sophisticated palate.
To make a fresh, groovy gooseberry fool or ice cream
Top and tail the fruit, wash the berries just prior to cooking. Placing the wetted fruit in a pan over a low heat, cook them gently from fresh until they collapse into their juicy bath water once in repose add sugar to taste, which will mostly depend on the ripeness of the fruit and your preference of palette. Combine with store-bought or a home-made proper custard and a shot of Elderflower cordial, add a few flowers if in season. Either process in an ice cream machine alternatively place the goop into a suitable lidded container to freeze, deploy the scrape and stir method every hour or so, to make a complex flavoured ice cream. Alternatively use ice-cube trays and swish the frozen cubes in a food processor to make a wholly gratifying variation.
To make ghastly gooseberry sorbet
Freeze, whizz and refreeze with some Elderflower cordial to make into an amuse goose… “Oh dear”, thought she? A seriously unamused goose! Deary me, it manifested into a rather grim, green, grotty, gritty, grainy granita. So as not to be outsmarted by 80 or so frozen gooseberries and a slug of Elderflower cordial, the pulp was unceremoniously walloped into a sieve and abandoned to drain.
To make gooseberry heaven …..
As it transpired this was a good idea which turned out to be a fantastic idea! For this Gooseberry and Elderflower presse when mixed in equal parts with St Germain Elderflower liqueur, and Bombay gin, shaken over ice makes the finest ever, ever, ever use for essence of gooseberry! Ding dong it’s divine!
More than a couple and there would likely be sweet clarity and explanation of being found under a gooseberry bush.
So simple success is to be had with the frozen fool, a pure and dismal failure for the sorbet this time, but tip-top notch for the Elderflower Goose-Bom’ps-tini, as if give a gin juggling care right now!
A Gooseberry & Elderflower Gin Martini will suffice, two will seal the deal. (hic)
Toot toot! x