Spring brought with it more fruit blossoms than any pastry chef could ever wish for. Anticipating the first Summer harvest always generates excitement in the Ballymaloe kitchen. Apart from a scant number of strawberries, the first substantial crop always comes from the green gooseberries bushes. The first small green gooseberries always have the most intense flavour. Biting into a raw berrie shocks the pallet into summer mode! Once picked the berries must be “topped and tailed”. A pleasant job for those that have time to sit in the sun. Young staff members need only stand still for a moment to be drafted in to help!
This year the first garden gooseberries made their way into the pastry kitchen and onto the menu during the first week of June. The sharp acidity of theses berries made them perfect for small bite sized tartlets. By mid June the berries become less tart and were used to make fantastic pies and glazed custard tarts.
It must have been fate that wild elder flowers would bloom in the same season that gooseberries ripen. They compliment one another in a way that could not possibly be coincidence. One of my very favourite desserts is made by simply poaching gooseberries with a few elderflower heads, and when served with homemade caramel ice cream, I can’t imagine anything better.