A Glut of Courgettes

A Californian proverb says…”never give your true friends zucchini in July”.  Certainly once the courgettes start coming in earnest, usually early August here, but it depends on the weather, it takes a concerted effort to keep up with them.  But keeping up with them is the most important weapon in dealing with a glut of courgettes.  It’s easy to eat even a dozen finger sized courgettes, and they taste great then, but let them become longer than your hand and you’ve got problems.  Despite the Californian proverb, even in these times when everyone seems to be a gardener, I can usually still find a genuinely grateful recipient of baby courgettes.

It might seem sensible not to plant too many seeds in the first place, but the main reason I grow courgettes is to eat their flowers, and for this I need at least four plants.  Of course, to allow for failures, you plant at least a couple more and before you know it you have a glut.  You can use courgettes for chutney, but they are a watery vegetable (technically fruit) with a mild flavour and to get the best out of them they should either be fried or roasted.

I begin with my recipe for deep-fried courgette flowers; you can include some baby courgettes if you don’t have sufficient flowers.  They are a wonderful dish to nibble alongside drinks whilst sitting in the sun and entirely worth the little effort involved in growing courgettes.  The recipes that follow are the others that form a regular part of my courgette cooking repertoire in July and August and if a couple of larger specimens escape notice and have to end up on the compost heap – who cares?!



24 freshly picked courgette flowers (or a mixture of flowers and baby courgettes)


5 oz plain flour

2 teaspoons curry powder

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

8 fl oz sparkling mineral or soda water

Oil for frying


Whisk together the flour, curry powder and salt then add the sparkling water and whisk until smooth.  Leave the batter to stand for at least 10 minutes (or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator).

Heat the oil to 190C.

Dip the flowers into the batter, rolling them to coat evenly then shake off any excess.  Fry no more than 6 flowers at a time.  Remove when the batter is golden and drain on kitchen paper.  Season with salt and serve immediately.

If using courgette slices instead of flowers, slice them diagonally, about ¼” thick.


Griddled Courgettes


This is my preferred way of cooking courgettes as a side vegetable.  I use a heavy ribbed griddle pan, but alternatively you could put them on the barbeque.  A flat cast iron pan would also work, but you won’t get the attractive ribbed pattern.

Preheat the griddle pan whilst you prepare the courgettes so that it gets very hot before you cook.

Slice the courgettes lengthways.  If they are long, cut the courgettes into shorter lengths first so that you have slices no more than 3″ in length.

Pour a good layer of olive oil into a shallow dish (the one you are going to use to serve the courgettes at table will be fine).  Season with salt and pepper, then turn the courgette slices so that they are oiled and seasoned on both sides.

Lay the courgettes across the griddle turning them over once the bottom has good griddle marks across it.

Whilst the courgettes are cooking chop some herbs – mint or thyme both go particularly well with courgettes, but marjoram is another good alternative.  Sprinkle the chopped herbs in the dish that you originally used to oil and season the courgettes – it should still have a little oil and seasoning in it.  As soon as the courgettes are browned on both sides put them into the dish and turn them so that they become coated with the herbs.  If you have a lot to cook you can keep them warm in the oven as you go, but you will need another plate for the initial seasoning if this is the case.

You can toss the cooked courgettes with a sprinkling of sherry or herb vinegar before serving if your wish.  They are equally good cold in a salad.

Courgette Frites


A less healthy side dish than griddled, but a bit healthier than chips and just as delicious!

Cut courgettes into slices and then into batons.  Salt them and leave to drain for 5 – 10 minutes.  You can rinse after salting but then dry on kitchen paper.  Unlike the fritters below the courgettes should remain in distinct batons, not be squeezed into a mass.  Toss the dried batons in semolina flour to lightly coat and then deep fry at 180°C until golden.  Turn out onto fresh kitchen paper and then serve.



Courgette and Feta Fritters

Makes 6 fritters

4 small courgettes (about 250g)

Teaspoon salt

3 tbsps flour

1 egg

4 spring onions, chopped

Chopped dill or mint

½ slab feta cheese (100g)


Coarsely grate the courgettes into a nylon sieve sprinkling with the salt as you go so that it is evenly distributed.  Mix with your hands to further ensure this when all are grated.  Stand the sieve above a bowl for 15 minutes, at the end of which a considerable amount of liquid will have drained off.

Whilst the courgettes are draining, sieve the flour into another bowl, add an egg and beat to make a stiff batter.

Squeeze the courgettes to release any remaining liquid and stir these into the batter together with the chopped herbs and spring onions.  You can add pepper, but it won’t need any more salt.  Crumble in the feta cheese and mix again then fry in oil in a preheated and oiled frying pan, turning after about 4 minutes to brown each side.



Tian of Courgettes and Tomatoes

A Tian is a shallow earthenware baking dish – usually oval, but I also have a round one.  The idea is just to place overlapping rounds of courgette and slices of tomato in alternate rows until the dish is full.  Then season with salt and pepper and strew with herbs.  Pour a good stream of olive oil over the top and then bake in a moderate oven for about an hour.

Once the vegetables are cooked they don’t actually go that far, depending on the size of your dish probably just enough for 2 or 3 people.  If I need to feed more I use a slightly deeper oval dish, with a layer of lightly cooked onions and peppers as the base before the layer of courgettes and tomatoes as described above.


(Greek Courgette Pie)


20cm diameter baking dish

500g of courgettes


6 spring onions

3 tbsps chopped fresh herbs – dill is traditional in Greeces, but I more often have mint and parsley

200g feta cheese

2 small eggs




Filo pastry (4 sheets)

Olive oil or melted butter


Grate the courgettes into a nylon sieve lightly salting as you go.  Place the sieve over a bowl and leave for half an hour.  Whilst the courgettes are draining preheat the oven to 180˚C.

After half an hour, press the courgettes against the sieve to squeeze out more juice and then transfer them to another bowl and mix with the herbs, feta, chopped spring onions.  Beat the two eggs in a measuring jug and add milk to bring the liquid level up to 150 ml.  Season with pepper (you won’t need any more salt).

Brush the inside of the baking tin with olive oil or melted butter and lay a sheet of filo pastry over.  Brush this with more oil or butter and then add the filling.  Top with two more sheets of oiled filo pastry and bring over the filling to seal.  Brush with ore oil or butter and then bake in the pre-heated oven for about 40 minutes.

If served hot the pastry will remain crisp, but the flavours develop if refrigerated overnight and served cold the next day – the pastry however will no longer be crisp.

This quantity gives four portions and could alternatively be made as four individual pies.


Roast Courgettes


Usually when I am roasting courgettes they are part of a selection of vegetables, but it is useful to know this method of cooking them because they absorb far less oil than frying and the flavour is intensified as some of their water content evaporates.   Just place slices or rings on an oiled roasting tray, season with salt, pepper and herbs and roast until they are golden.

Currant Recipes

From article Currants – black, red and white

Redcurrant Jelly

Currants are high in pectin and so will form a gel even when diluted.  Recipes for Redcurrant Jelly differ tremendously in the amount of water added, from none to 400ml per kilogram of fruit.  The yield can be almost doubled by adding the full quantity of water but obviously the flavour will be less intense and the set slightly less firm, and if you add more water than necessary you will have to boil until to drive it off and achieve a set.

Whitecurrants can be used in place of, or in equal proportion to, redcurrants.    As whitecurrants ripen they develop a pink colouration although the jelly will not be quite so deep in colour as when redcurrants are used in isolation.  This can however have the advantage when showing off added ingredients.  I particularly like to use whitecurrants to make a mint jelly, which is exquisite with lamb and /or young spring vegetables.

I do not believe the currants require long cooking to extract their juice.  Provided they are reasonably ripe when picked, 5-10 minutes should suffice rather than the three quarters of an hour stipulated in many recipes.  The yield may possibly be slightly lower but the flavour will be fresher.  Do lightly press the fruit with a wooden spoon before turning into a jelly bag for overnight straining but do not be tempted to squeeze the bag again or the juice will be cloudy.  Actually, the straining does not take all night, it will have stopped dripping after a couple of hours.  Measure the strained juice and then return to a clean pan and bring back to the boil.  Only when boiling point has been reached add sugar – at the rate of 450g for every 600ml of juice and then continue boiling until setting point is reached.  If adding mint (or other herbs) briefly blanche them in white wine vinegar  before adding them to the jelly once setting point has been reached – 1 tablespoonful of chopped herbs blanched in 2 tablespoonfuls of wine vinegar for every 600ml of juice.



Currant Shrub

The following recipe is taken from River Cottage Handbook No.2 – Preserves by Pam Corbin.

A shrub is an old-fashioned kind of drink: essentially a delightfully fruity, alcoholic cordial.  Based on sweetened rum or brandy, it is traditionally flavoured with acidic fruit such as Seville oranges, lemons or redcurrants.  Keep back some of the juice after straining redcurrants to make jelly and you will find this lovely tipple very simple to make.

Serve as an aperitif, either on its own or mixed half and half with dry martini and finished with a splash of fresh orange juice. (Or warm, as we did at the shoot.)

Makes about 1 litre

300ml strained redcurrant juice *see note below

600ml rum or brandy

Finely grated zest of 1 orange

1 tsp grated nutmeg

300g granulated sugar


*When making redcurrant juice add 400ml of water to 1 kg of redcurrants.  This dilution is important because the pectin in the redcurrants reacts with alcohol to form a gel.  This jelly does dissolve on heating (hence the reason we served the shrub warm!).

Mix the redcurrant juice, rum or brandy, orange zest and nutmeg together in a large, wide-necked jar.  (The wide neck is important as, even diluted, you may get a gel before the sugar is added).  Seal the jar tightly and leave for 7-10 days in a cool, dark place.

Transfer the currant and alcohol mixture to a pan, add the sugar and heat gently to about 60˚C.  When the sugar has dissolved, strain the liqueur into a sterilised bottle and seal with a cap.

Store for several months in a cool dark place so the shrub can fully mature before you take the first tipple.  Use within 2 years.

My Note: I find this rather sweet and am happy to dilute it with an equal volume of water when serving.


Raw Blackcurrant Ice Cream (or Fool)


Serves 6

1 vanilla pod

10 fl oz single cream

4 egg yolks

5 oz caster sugar (vanilla sugar if available)

10 fl oz double cream

2 lb blackcurrants

light muscovado sugar (to taste)

lemon juice

2 tbsps crème de cassis (optional)


Heat the single cream and vanilla pod to just below boiling point, leave to infuse for 15 minutes.

Whisk the egg yolks and caster sugar together until pale and fluffy then pour on the warm cream, removing the vanilla pod.  Return the mixture to the cleaned pan and heat gently, stirring all the time, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon.

Whisk the double cream and fold through the custard mixture, cover and put in the fridge.

Process the raw blackcurrants in a food processor until puréed and then pass through a nylon sieve to remove the pips.  Add the crème de cassis and sweeten to taste with muscovado sugar.  Add a good squeeze of lemon juice to sharpen.  Stir the purée into the ice cream mixture.

Leave until thoroughly chilled before transferring to the ice cream maker, or, if serving as a fool, chill in serving glasses for 6 hours.



Blackcurrant Leaf Sorbet

Serves 6

8 oz caster sugar

1 pint water

3 good handfuls of small blackcurrant leaves

grated rind and juice of a lemon

1 egg white



Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves, then turn up the heat and boil for 10 minutes.  Add the blackcurrant leaves and lemon rind and leave until cool.

Pour the cold liquid through a sieve into a bowl and add the lemon juice.

Lightly whisk the egg white to loosen it then and fold through the mixture before freezing in an ice cream maker.  If you are not using an ice cream maker, it will be easier to part freeze the mixture before adding the egg white, this time whisked to soft peaks.


Summer Pudding

Elizabeth David says …”Although nearly everybody knows of this wonderful pudding, authentic recipes for it are rare”. She goes on to give the following:

For four people stew 1lb of raspberries and ¼ lb of redcurrants with about ¼lb of sugar.  No water.  Cook them only 2 or 3 minutes, and leave to cool.  Line a round, fairly deep dish (a soufflé dish does very well) with slices of one-day-old white bread with the crust removed.  The bread should be of the usual thickness for sandwiches.  The dish must be completely lined, bottom and sides, with no space through which the juice can escape.  Fill up with the fruit, but reserve some of the juice.  Cover the fruit with a complete layer of bread.  On top put a plate that fits exactly inside the dish, and on the plate put a 2 or 3 lb weight.  Leave the pudding in a very cold larder or fridge.  When ready to serve turn the pudding out onto a dish (not a completely flat one, or the juices will overflow) and pour over it the reserved juice.  Some people put strawberries into summer pudding.  To me that’s a waste of strawberries.  They don’t go well with raspberries and redcurrants.

Although I concur entirely with her view on strawberries I do like to include a few blackcurrants – not too many or they will overpower.  It is also perfectly fine to include some whitecurrants but the predominant fruit must remain as raspberries.  The proportion of fruit to bread is also an issue – I like my summer pudding to be predominantly fruit so always make a large version – double the above – small or individual puddings always seem overly “bready”.


Currant and Raspberry Compôte

Less of a recipe but more a plea not to overcook fruit for this refreshing fruit salad, which I love to eat for breakfast with yoghurt.  Cook only the currants, with as little sugar as you can take (start with 100g of sugar to a kilo of fruit).  When the currants have started to release their juices remove them from the heat, taste again and adjust the sugar then stir in the raspberries.



Cherry Recipes

Dessert cherries should be served simply and not cooked, several of the following recipes are accompaniments for raw cherries.  Cooking cherries are however too sour to serve raw and they can be bottled in alcohol or a light sugar syrup, turned into jam or baked in classic desserts such as Clafoutis.  For more ideas see “Fancy being a Cherry Grower” article.


Leche Merengada is a Spanish type of frozen milk shake, a light ice cream made with whites of egg only.  When a chilled espresso coffee is poured over it is known as Blanco y Negro.

The flavour is quite subtle – cinnamon and lemon peel and it is this subtle flavouring that I particularly like and now often substitute for vanilla ice cream.  In my version of the recipe you will see that I have reverted to an ice cream made that includes the egg yolks, with the beaten whites folded in during the freezing process – but it is up to you how rich you want to make your ice cream.  It is wonderful with Pedro Ximenez poured over and also a great partner for cherries.

A Spanish dessert of leche merengada ice cream with iced coffee poured over it.

250ml/10 fl oz full-fat milk

250ml/10 fl oz whipping cream

Rind of 1 lemon, pared into broad strips with a potato peeler

1 cinnamon stick

150g/5½ oz caster sugar

1 tbsp brandy

3 eggs, separated

Chilled espresso coffee*

Ground cinnamon for serving

Put the milk, cream, lemon, cinnamon stick into a saucepan and bring steadily up to simmering point.  Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for at least 45 minutes.

Separate the eggs and whisk the yolks with the sugar until pale and fluffy.  Pour the milk and cream through a strainer (to remove the flavourings) onto the egg yolk mixture.  Whisk to combine and then return to the cleaned saucepan.  Heat gently, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens slightly.  Add the brandy and refrigerate until completely cold.

Whisk the egg whites until they hold their shape.  Fold this into the cold flavoured cream mixture.  Don’t worry if the beaten egg whites aren’t fully incorporated – just combine roughly and it will mix together as it churns.   Churn in an ice-cream machine until frozen.  If you do not have an ice-cream maker, pour the milk mixture (without the egg whites) into a shallow container and freeze until the edges are icy.  Turn out into a food process and combine with the egg whites.  Return to the freezer until the edges are again icy, then whisk in the food processor again.  Repeating this process a couple more times as the mixture freezes will give the best texture, but do it at least sufficient for the egg whites to be smoothly incorporated.


75ml whipping cream

150g good dark chocolate, grated or broken into small pieces

Knob of butter

This is very simple to make – just heat the cream and then stir in the chocolate until it has melted.  Add a knob of butter and stir that in too.  Serve warm with chilled cherries – or poured over a Knickerbocker Glory.


This is a French favourite.  The cherries can be stoned first, but this takes time, especially if you don’t have a cherry stoner.  If you are happy to leave the diner to remove the stones as they eat it is much simpler and they do add flavour to the dish.  Dukes would be my ideal choice of cherry for this dish, which can easily taste bland if the fruit is too sweet.

Finally, although often served in individual terracotta dishes, if you use metal the batter will rise much better.  Little frying pans are ideal.  For a 20cm/7” pan you will need:

500g of cherries, stems removed

Approx 1 tbsp unsalted butter

2 tbsps caster sugar

80g flour

Cinnamon & nutmeg

60g plain flour

2 eggs

200ml milk

Preheat the oven to 180˚C/Gas Mark 4.

Grease the frying pan or metal dish with butter then lay the washed and de-stemmed cherries on top.  Dot with the remaining butter and a tablespoon of the sugar.  Cook in the oven for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile make a batter with the remaining ingredients (including the remaining tablespoonful of sugar).  Pour over the cherries and bake for a further 20 minutes until the batter is puffed up and golden.  Serve sifted with a little icing sugar and serve with thick cream.


1 lb/500g cherries

10 oz/250g granulated sugar

6 fl oz/175ml raspberry or cider vinegar

6 fl oz/175ml water

10 cloves

2 cinnamon sticks

2 tsps pink peppercorns

½ tsp allspice berries

Wash the cherries.

Put all the remaining ingredients in a large pan and bring to the boil.  Put the cherries in and bring back to simmering point.  Turn off the heat and leave to cool in the liquid before putting into sterilised jars.

Serve as an accompaniment to cold meats or terrines.


This recipe came from the River Café.  It is essential to buy good fresh almonds – Marcona preferably, rather than ready chopped.  I usually serve it with raspberries, but it would also be a perfect accompaniment for cherries.

For an 11″ tart

Sweet pastry:

8 oz/225g plain flour

5 oz/140g butter

2½ oz/70g caster sugar

1 large egg yolk


12 oz/350g unsalted butter

12 oz/350g caster sugar

12 oz/350g blanched whole almonds

4 eggs

  1. Make the pastry by combining the ingredients in a food processor.  Wrap and chill for at least half an hour then roll thinly and press into the tart tin.  Chill again whilst you heat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.  Bake blind for 15 minutes until the pastry is just lightly browned.
  1. Meanwhile prepare the filling.  Chop the almonds in a food processor until they are quite fine, but not powdered.  Add the butter and sugar and blend then beat in the eggs one at a time.
  1. Reduce the oven temperature to 150°C/Gas Mark 3.  Pour the filling into the pastry case and bake for 40 minutes.
  1. When the tart is cool sift with icing sugar and serve with raspberries or other seasonal fruit and crème fraîche.

Recipes with the Scent of Summer


Although these sorbets will all look similar they each have distinctive and unusual perfumes and flavours.

Rose Geranium

There are several varieties of geranium that have few or no flowers but scented leaves.  There are orange and lemon scented varieties but I think the rose scented varieties, such as Attar of Roses or Lady Plymouth are the most interesting.  The following recipe produces an intensive flavour reminiscent of Turkish Delight.

12 rose scented geranium leaves

8 oz/225g caster sugar

1¼ pints/700ml water

Dissolve the sugar in the water in a saucepan, then turn up the heat and boil for 10 minutes.  Lightly bruise the geranium leaves and add them to the hot syrup.  Cover and leave until cold.  Chill the syrup in the refrigerator then strain to remove the geranium leaves.

Freeze in an ice cream maker.


Elderflower has a musky scent that people tend to either love or hate.  An egg white added to the syrup before freezing produces a lighter, more delicately flavoured sorbet.  Pick the elderflowers on a dry day and choose those whose creamy flowers are not yet dropping.  Shake them well to displace insects.

5 elderflower heads

8 oz/225g caster sugar

1 pint/600ml water

grated rind and juice of 1 lemon

1 egg white

Make a syrup from the sugar and water by boiling for 10 minutes as in the previous recipe.  Add the elderflower heads and leave until cold then add the juice and rind of the lemon.  Chill in the refrigerator then strain, add the loosely whisked egg white and freeze.

Blackcurrant Leaf

Although the blackcurrants themselves are not yet ripe this sorbet can be made at the same time of year as the elder flowers, just pick small light green leaves from this years growth and leave the larger leaves to shade the ripening blackcurrants.  This scent of this sorbet transports me back to the blackcurrant bushes I used to play under as a child.  The flavour is exquisite.  I believe that peach leaves can be used in the same way although I have never tried this.  Proceed as for the elderflower sorbet, substituting 3 good handfuls of blackcurrant leaves for the elderflower heads.


Serves 4-6

6 nectarines

3 oz/75g vanilla sugar

1 oz/25g unsalted butter

1lb/450g puff pastry

Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas mark 6.

Choose a heavy 10″ frying pan that can be transferred to the oven.

Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the base of the pan and place over a moderate heat until the sugar has caramelised, do not stir it whilst this is happening but shake the pan occasionally to help it to brown evenly.  Remove from the heat and dot with the butter.

Place half a nectarine in the centre of the pan and then arrange the rest in slices (6 per nectarine) around the outside.

Place the pan back on a very low heat for a couple of minutes whilst you roll out the pastry just fractionally larger than the pan.  Lay the pastry on top of the nectarines, tucking the edge inside the pan.

Transfer the pan to the oven and cook until the pastry is risen and brown (about 20 minutes).

Remove from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes then cover with a plate and invert.


10 fl oz double cream

8 fl oz full cream milk

½ oz fresh verbena leaves, finely chopped

3 egg yolks

4 oz caster sugar

Scald the milk and cream before adding the chopped verbena (otherwise the mixture might split).  Leave to infuse for 30 minutes.

Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until pale and then stir in the strained cream.

Return to a heavy based pan or double boiler and cook gently until the mixture thickens slightly.  Chill thoroughly before churning in an ice cream maker.


Gather the rose petals or lavender heads on a dry day, preferably in the morning.  For rose petals snip away the hard white section at the base of each petal.

Lay the flowers on a wire cooling tray placed over a baking pan.  Put them in a warm dry place – an airing cupboard is ideal if you have one, the warming drawer of an oven is another option.  You don’t want much heat, so don’t worry if you only have room temperature, it will just take a little longer.

Rose petals will be dry enough to add to sugar after just a couple of hours, lavender heads are best left overnight.

When the flowers are no longer moist you can mix them with caster sugar.  You can just layer the two in a jar, which enables you to sift the flowers out when you use the sugar, or, for a stronger flavour, whizz them up together in a food processor.   Use two or three times as much sugar as petals.  Store in an airtight jar in the larder.

There are many ways you can use the flavoured sugar, but remember that the fragrance will be reduced in cooking, so it is most effective sprinkled over a dish before serving.

Lavender Shortbread

4 oz butter

2 oz Lavender sugar (or a teaspoon of dried lavender)

5 oz plain flour

1 oz rice flour

You can use a food processor to mix the ingredients provided you do not over process, otherwise the mixture will become greasy and unworkable.  Simply soften the butter and then add the sugar, process briefly to blend before adding the two flours and processing again briefly.

Roll the mixture out on a floured surface to give a rectangle of about 5″ x 8″ and then cut into fingers about 2½” long to make about 12 fingers.

Bake at 150ºC for 15 minutes, until lightly golden.  Sprinkle with more lavender sugar whilst still warm, then move to a rack to cool.

Gooseberry Recipes


Pairing Mackerel with Gooseberries (or sometimes Rhubarb) seems to be a West Country tradition.  The sour flavour cuts the oiliness of the mackerel perfectly.


Serves 6

675g/1½ lb culinary gooseberries

25g/1 oz butter

sugar (to taste)

salt, pepper, ginger or nutmeg

6 mackerel

salt and pepper

Top and tail the gooseberries then wash them and place them in a saucepan with the butter.  Cover and cook over a low heat until they begin to soften and the juices run.  Remove the lid and continue to simmer until the gooseberries have collapsed and most of the liquid has evaporated.  Since the sharpness of the gooseberries will vary it is difficult to be precise about the amount of sugar they may need but the point of the sauce is that is makes a sharp counterpoint to the oily mackerel.  Therefore add it just half a tablespoon at a time with the salt, pepper and ginger or nutmeg.  Keep warm or reheat when needed.

Prepare the cleaned mackerel by cutting a couple of diagonal slashes into the flesh on each side and season inside and out.  Cook on a hot barbeque or under a preheated grill for about 8 minutes a side.


12 oz/350g dessert gooseberries

9 fl oz/250ml full cream milk

Pinch of salt

Vanilla pod

9 fl oz/250ml double cream

5 egg yolks

3.75 fl oz/100 ml elderflower syrup

Sugar to taste – depending upon the sweetness of the gooseberries and also of the elderflower syrup, this may range from none up to about 3 oz/75g

Put the gooseberries in a saucepan (no need to top and tail), with a splash of water to prevent them sticking.  Cook over a low heat until they are soft.  Drain off the juice (I keep this for making jelly, especially if I am making other gooseberry recipes at the same time).  Pass the gooseberries through a sieve – you need 100ml/3.75 fl oz of purée.

Whilst the gooseberries are cooking you can heat the milk with the vanilla pod and salt to just below boiling point.  The vanilla pod can be washed and used again (store in a jar of caster sugar).  Whisk the egg yolks and elderflower syrup together then pour on the hot milk.  Return the mixture to a clean saucepan and heat gently, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens enough to just coat the back of the spoon.

Taste the gooseberry purée and sugar to taste before stirring in the custard.  Bear in mind that once frozen the taste will seem slightly less sweet (the salt included earlier was to enhance the perception of sweetness).

Stir the purée into the custard and chill thoroughly.  When completely chilled, add the cream and then churn until frozen (or serve unfrozen as a Fool).  If you do not have an ice-cream maker, lightly whisk the cream before folding into the custard.  Freeze the mixture until the edges are icy then use a fork to mix the frozen part into the rest of the mixture – repeat this process once or twice more as the mixture freezes.


Makes 6 (large) individual pies

8 oz/225g plain flour

5 oz/140g butter

2½ oz/70g caster sugar

1 large egg yolk

2 lb/1kg gooseberries

9 fl oz/250 ml elderflower syrup

caster sugar (approx 300g/12 oz)


5 egg whites

10 oz caster sugar

Make the pastry in a food processor and then rest in the fridge.

Top and tail the gooseberries and then put them in a pan with the elderflower syrup.  Unless the gooseberries are a dessert variety they will need some sugar too.

Cook gently to dissolve the sugar and then more rapidly, without a lid, until the gooseberries are soft and the elderflower syrup reduced.  Cool.

Roll out the pastry and use to line individual pie dishes, or one large dish.  Return to the refrigerator to rest while you preheat the oven to 190° C.

Bake the pastry blind for 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven whilst making the meringue but turn the heat up to 200°C.

Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, then add half of the sugar whilst continuing to whisk.  Fold in the remaining half.

Fill the pies with gooseberry compôte and top with the meringue.  Return to the oven for 5 minutes until the meringue is crisp and brown.  It can be served at this point, i.e. whilst the meringue is still soft but I prefer it a little crisper which can be achieved by turning the heat down very low and leaving the topping to dry out somewhat.

Gooseberry, Meadowsweet and Wild Strawberry Jelly

This recipe requires only the juice that will have been exuded when cooking gooseberries for a pie or other dishes.  You will need at least half a pint of juice to make it worth making the jelly.  Sterilise small jars and keep them in a low oven whilst you make the jelly.

Depending on the dish for which the gooseberries were originally intended, meadowsweet may be added whilst the gooseberries are cooking (about 10 heads per pound of gooseberries).  Alternatively you can infuse the hot juice with them now and then remove and strain the juice before proceeding to make the jelly.

Measure the juice and add sugar at the rate of 8 oz per half pint of juice.

Heat gently, stirring until all of the sugar has dissolved.  When the sugar has dissolved, increase the heat so that the jelly comes to a rolling boil.  It will take no time at all to reach setting point (105˚C).  When setting point has been reached, remove the jelly from the heat and stir in as many wild strawberries as you have been able to muster.  Skim any scum from the surface of the jelly.  Let the jelly cool for no more than 5 minutes, this will help the strawberries disperse evenly throughout the jelly rather than floating to the top.

Pour into the warm jars, but do not seal until completely cold.  In the meantime cover the jars with a clean cloth.

Stephen Markwick’s Provençal Fish Soup

If there is one recipe that epitomises Stephen’s cooking this is it.  As he says in his book, A Very Honest Cook, from which this recipe is taken, he’d get lynched if it was ever off the menu.  Now that he is retiring his customers will have to learn to make it for themselves.  That will actually be an excellent discipline to have learnt as it’s a very economical recipe producing fantastic flavour from very little actual fish – just the bones for stock (which is essential to the flavour) and a little smoked haddock.  The tricky part is thickening the soup with aioli without it splitting, Stephen’s soup is always velvety and homogenous, mine, I have to admit, often had globules of aioli floating in it until I learnt his secret of thinning down the aioli.  But even if I don’t get the texture perfect every time the flavour is always fantastic.  This recipe, a spiced up version of the one he learnt from Joyce Molyneux, who in turn was taught it by George Perry-Smith, must not die out!

Fish Stock

Stephen says… “Homemade fish stock is what makes our fish soup taste as good as it does but I’m not pretending it’s not a chore.  It’s worth making this amount so you have some extra to freeze.  The key thing is to get the right kind of bones – you don’t want bones from oily fish like mackerel and even plaice will make a stock taste bitter.  I also don’t use shellfish trimmings as so many people can’t eat shellfish.  The best bones to use are from prime white fish like turbot, halibut, sole and John Dory – the better the fish the better the stock.”

Actually I don’t find making fish stock much of a chore.  Unlike meat stock it mustn’t cook for too long or the bones will become gluey and bitter, so 20 minutes is all you need.  For this reason I have used fish to teach stock making principles in my cookery classes where the time is too limited for the long simmering required to make meat stock.

1kg (2lb 4 oz) fish heads, bones and trimmings (see above)

1 onion

1 leek, trimmed and washed

A stick of celery

Any fennel trimmings

Parsley stalks

2 tbsp olive oil and a good knob of butter

A few black peppercorns

A couple of bay leaves

Remove the gills from any fish heads (insert your fingers behind the gill, twist and pull or simply cut out with scissors).  Wash the bones several times to get rid of the blood (otherwise it will make the stock cloudy).

Cut up the vegetables roughly.  Pour the oil in a large pan, add the butter and cook the vegetables and bones over a low heat until the bones start to go opaque.  Add the peppercorns and bay leaves, cover with cold water – and a little white wine if you have some.  Bring to the boil, skim and then turn the heat down to the lowest setting you can for just 15-20 minutes then strain.

Cool and refrigerate, or freeze for up to 2 months.

The Soup

Serves 4-6

1 onion

2 cloves of garlic

1 stick of celery

⅓ of a cucumber, peeled

1 small fennel bulb

1 tsp each freshly ground cumin, fennel, dill and coriander seeds

Small pinch ground fenugreek

½ dried chilli, finely chopped

3 tbsp flavourful olive oil, e.g. Spanish

1 x 200g tin chopped tomatoes

225g (8 oz) smoked haddock fillet, skinned and boned

½ bottle very dry white wine

1 litre (1.5 pints) fish stock

Fish bits (see method)

1 tbsp each chopped parsley, dill, coriander and basil

1 small pinch of saffron soaked for 5 minutes in a little warm wine or water

Juice of 1 lemon

Aioli (see below)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve:

Rouille (below)

Croutons (below)

Grated parmesan cheese

Cut the vegetables into smallish dice, add the ground spices and season with salt and pepper.  Heat the olive oil in a large pan and fry the vegetables until beginning to soften then add the smoked haddock and fry another couple of minutes.  Add the chopped tinned tomatoes and white wine and simmer for about 10 minutes before adding the fish stock.  Bring back up to simmering point and continue to cook on a low heat for another half an hour.

Finally check the seasoning and stir in the chopped herbs, saffron and lemon juice (unless you are going to freeze the soup, in which case don’t add the herbs and lemon juice until you heat it up).

Take the soup off the heat and whisk in the aioli to taste (about a tablespoon per portion).  Make sure you do this off the heat or the aioli will split.  Just before serving you can add some bits and pieces of whole fish for extra texture.  I use the off-cuts of any fish we have on the menu but you could use a chopped up salmon fillet or a few prawns it you eat shellfish.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with pots of rouille, garlic croutons and grated parmesan.


Stephen says… “You can make this in a food processor but if you have a decent sized mortar and pestle it’s just as easy, and more satisfying, to do by hand.  I also think the texture and taste are far better.  It’s easy to “over-process”aioli or mayonnaise in a blender, which can cause it to separate when added to the soup.  The crucial thing is to have all the ingredients at room temperature.”

4 large cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

1 tsp flaked or coarse sea salt

2 large fresh egg yolks, at room temperature

150ml (5 fl oz) fruity extra virgin olive oil e.g. Provençal or Spanish

150 ml (5 fl oz) sunflower oil

Freshly ground black pepper

Put the garlic into a mortar with the salt and pound until you have a smooth paste.  Work in the egg yolk.  Pour the two oils into a jug and then gradually drip the olive oil, drop by drop, into the egg and garlic mixture whisking continuously as you do so.  Keep on adding oil very slowly until the mixture begins to stiffen then increase the speed you add the oil to a steady fine stream.  Once all the oil has been incorporated add a little warm water, half a teaspoon at a time, to lighten and loosen the mixture.  For fish soup I add a bit more water so that it amalgamates smoothly and doesn’t break up into globules or curdle.


2 whole roasted peppers from a jar or tin

2 cloves of garlic

1 finely chopped fresh birds eye chilli or ½ tsp chilli flakes

10-15 ml (a scant tbsp) olive oil

½ tsp salt

This is really easy.  Put all the ingredients in a liquidiser goblet and blitz until smooth.  Check seasoning, adding a little extra salt or ground chilli if you think it needs it.

Garlic Croutons

A good way of using up old bread.  Cut into medium thick slices and shallow fry them in a mixture of olive oil and sunflower oil until crisp and golden.  Remove the pan and whilst they’re still hot rub with a cut clove of garlic then cut them into cubes.  Put them in a cool oven to finish crisping up or cool and store in an airtight tine – refresh in the oven or a dry pan just before using them.


Oily Fish Recipes


 This recipe comes from Sicily where fennel grows abundantly in the wild.  If you do not grow fennel you might find it quite hard to buy.  If so you will have to substitute it with the fennel bulb (including the green frondy tops if you are lucky enough to buy a bulb with them still attached).

Serves 2

 Large bunch of fennel

1 onion, chopped

pinch of saffron

4 anchovy fillets (optional)

2 tins of sardines in olive oil

good handful of currants

handful of pine nuts

olive oil

breadcrumbs (from approx. 2 slices of stale white bread)

clove of garlic

 Bucatini pasta (thicker than Spaghetti – with a hollow centre) or other dried pasta

 Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil (containing at least 5 pints of water).  Put in the fennel and blanch for a minute.  (If you are using bulb fennel you should slice it and cook it in the boiling water until tender).  Lift out the fennel (a blanching basket makes this easier, but you can use a draining spoon).  Refresh the fennel under cold water and press to drain the excess water.  The water in which you blanched the fennel will be used for cooking the pasta and also in the sauce.

 Heat the oven to 150C/Gas Mark 3.  Pour a couple of tablespoons of olive oil into a baking tray (you can use the oil from one of the cans of sardines) and add the clove of garlic, cut into slices, to flavour it.  Put into the oven to heat for a couple of minutes and then spread the breadcrumbs out in the tray.  Turn them so that they are lightly coated with oil (adding more oil if necessary).  Return to the oven so that they toast whilst you cook the sauce.

 Put the chopped onion into a frying pan with a ladleful of the water from the pasta pot and a pinch of saffron.  Cook over a fairly high heat until the water has evaporated.  Meanwhile add two tablespoons of salt to the pasta pot (the water for cooking pasta should be as salty as the sea – it won’t all be absorbed by the pasta) and bring it up to a rolling boil.  When the water has evaporated from the onions cook the pasta (if using spaghetti break it in half) putting it into the boiling water and give it one stir to make sure it isn’t stuck together.  Check the time because you need to have the sauce ready by the time the pasta has cooked (about 10 minutes but check the pack).

Add the chopped anchovies and the oil from one tin of sardines to the onions.  Turn the heat down so that it cooks more gently.

 Chop the fennel and add it to the onions together with the pine nuts and raisins.  Finally add the sardine fillets.  You can slightly loosen the sauce with a little of the pasta water if it needs it, as this will help it to combine smoothly with the pasta.

 Check the pasta is cooked by biting it; it should still have a little “bite” in the centre.  Drain and toss immediately with the sauce.  Top with the toasted breadcrumbs before serving.


 Pairing Mackerel with Gooseberries (or sometimes Rhubarb) seems to be a West Country tradition.  The sour flavour cuts the oiliness of the mackerel perfectly.

 Serves 6

 675g/1½ lb gooseberries

25g/1 oz butter

sugar (to taste)

salt, pepper, ginger or nutmeg

 6 mackerel

salt and pepper

 Top and tail the gooseberries then wash them and place them in a saucepan with the butter.  Cover and cook over a low heat until they begin to soften and the juices run.  Remove the lid and continue to simmer until the gooseberries have collapsed and most of the liquid has evaporated.  Since the sharpness of the gooseberries will vary it is difficult to be precise about the amount of sugar they may need but the point of the sauce is that is makes a sharp counterpoint to the oily mackerel.  Therefore add it just half a tablespoon at a time with the salt, pepper and ginger or nutmeg.  Keep warm or reheat when needed.

 Prepare the cleaned mackerel by cutting a couple of diagonal slashes into the flesh on each side and season inside and out.  Cook on a hot barbeque or under a preheated grill for about 8 minutes a side.