When my friend Debbi told me she was busy making gooseberry jam one evening, I had a vivid image of goose-shaped berries dangling on a vine. Although I still haven't seen the actual plant, I have been enjoying the cape gooseberries from the farmers market. I learned about their health benefits, such as possibly helping high blood pressure, improving bone strength and anti-inflammatory properties. And I truly love their singular flavor, the sugary autumn scent and their gorgeous golden color. My first bite tasted like a juicy, sweet and tart tomato, but a handful later I could taste delightful flavors of strawberry, preserved lemon, mango and maybe pineapple. My taste buds were dancing and I was thinking, where have they been in my 50-plus years?
I was excited to offer them plain to my family but was not very successful winning anyone over. So, I started experimenting, using them in sweet and savory dishes. I made salad, curd, chutney and tarts. When I made a crustless creme fraîche cheesecake with the curd and roasted gooseberries, I had my friends Henry and Carol taste test it. They said it's a real winner — they loved its lightness and creaminess with the unique flavor of the berries. (It's also gluten-free, by the way.) That's the story of my discovery of gooseberries. Let me know what you do with them.
Make the gooseberry curd (below) ahead or while the cake is baking. You can roast the gooseberries in the oven with the cheesecake for about 25 minutes (see below).
Ingredients and method:
3 cups cream cheese (at room temperature)
2 cups creme fraîche
½ cup sour cream
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3 whole eggs
2 egg yolks, separated
Butter an 8-inch springform pan well and lay an 8-inch circle of parchment paper on the bottom. Heat the oven to 325 F.
In a large mixing bowl, add the crème fraîche, cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, salt, vanilla, lemon zest and cornstarch. Using an electric hand mixer, beat all ingredients until they are combined. Beat in the eggs one at a time until just incorporated.
Pour the mixture into the springform pan and wrap the outside of the pan with heavy-duty foil to cover the bottom and sides to prevent the water bath from leaking into the pan. Set a kettle to boil. Place the springform pan in a deep roasting pan and set it on the lower-middle rack of the oven. Pour the boiling water into the roasting pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
Bake for 50 minutes. Turn off the oven and crack open the door (wedge a wooden spoon in the door if needed). Let the cheesecake sit there for another 30 minutes. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack for at least 3 hours.
Run a thin knife around the edge of the cake before opening the spring lock and removing the sides of the pan. Slide a thin spatula between the parchment paper and bottom of the pan to carefully transfer the cheesecake to a serving platter.
Spread on a layer of curd and top it with fresh or roasted gooseberries.
Cape Gooseberry Curd
½ cup finely chopped gooseberries
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup sugar
A pinch of salt
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks, separated
5 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon cornstarch
In a stainless steel saucepan, whisk gooseberries, lemon juice, sugar and salt together. Add the eggs, yolks and cornstarch, whisking well. Cook on medium-low heat, continuing to whisk. When the mixture starts to thicken, add butter, still whisking constantly. Once you see the first bubble from the curd, turn the stove off and remove the pan from heat. Strain the curd through a mesh sieve into a bowl and let it cool for 20 minutes. Refrigerate until ready to use.
2 handfuls of gooseberries
1 tablespoon brown sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
A few sprigs fresh thyme
Toss berries with the brown sugar, cinnamon and thyme. Place the mixture in a baking dish and bake it in the 325 F with the cheesecake for about 25 minutes until the berries are soft and caramelized. Remove the baking dish and let it cool. Serve the roasted berries on top of the cheesecake.
You can find Home Cooking with Wendy Chan (she/her) classes benefitting local charities on Facebook.