Monday, 4 July 2011

Pick-Your-Own & Sweet Gooseberry Pie

Ticehurst Fruit Picking

Living as I do in essex, but very much on the outskirts of East London, I'm not in what you could call a rural area. However with only a fifteen minute journey into the countryside and just 45 minutes away from central London via train I feel I can enjoy the best of both worlds.

I spent last weekend exploring various parts of East Sussex and discovered some real hidden gems and it is my latest aim to visit new parts of my own county, Essex.

I visited Bodiam, Rye and Hastings on Saturday and noticed you couldn't travel for more than a few miles without spotting a road-side seller offering local cherries and the like. I was intending to stop off at one of these on the way home on Sunday and get some soft fruit.

Happily on our return across the county towards Kent where we were planning on stopping off for some lunch, we came across an almost concealed sign in the village of Ticehurst announcing "Mill Hill Maynards Farm, Pick Your Own", and thought we don't mind if we do.

The sun was shining and my mum, brother and I grabbed a punnet each and hit the strawberry patch first. I think it's fair to say my mum, Vicky, actually ate more than she collected here. I couldn't blame her, the fruit was ripe, soft and deliciously juicy.

We also picked a colloshal of raspberries, some delicious cherries and a few gooseberries

It was a thoroughly enoyable couple of hours and once weighed we paid just over £6 for over 2kg of fruit, a mere fraction of what this would cost in a supermarket.

The fruit was enjoyed in various ways and I made a glorious gooesberry pie on the Monday for which the recipe can be found below.

Any fellow Essex-county people please do post and let me know of any 'pick-your'own' sites in the local area as I'm keen to do this again throughout the summer.

Sweet Gooseberry Pie

The sugar in this recipe offers a nice balance to the sharpness of the fruit, and the port makes for a deliciously boozy, syrupy filling.

125g Butter, salted
70g Icing Sugar
3 egg yolks
250g Plain Flour
450g Gooseberries, washed
115g Caster Sugar
2 Tbsp Port (could use a fruity red wine as an alternative)
1Tbsp Vanilla Extract
1 Clove
1 Tsp Ground Cinnamon

Pre-heat oven to 180C.

Sweet Pastry

With a wooden spoon mix the butter and icing sugar together in a bowl and then add two of the egg yolks.

Sieve in the flour and use your hands to mix it all up until it resembles breadcrumbs (like a crumble mixture).

Add a drop of warm water in and keep mixing, adding water drop by drop till the pastry starts to come together.

Roll into a ball and wrap in clingfilm, then chill for 20-30 minutes in the fridge.


Put the fruit into a saucepan over a low heat with a tablespoon of water.

Simmer for a few minutes.

Crush the clove and add to the fruit with the cinammon for a little spice.

Add the sugar, Port or wine, and vanilla extract to the pan and cook until soft. Should take between 12-15 minutes.

Roll out the pastry and cover the base of a small pie plate, then remove the excess and cut a large enough lid for the pie.

Press the base into the dish and then pour over the fruit mixture.

Pop the lid on then press down all around using your thumbs.
With any excess pastry you can cut out shapes and decorate the pie lid.

Brush the pie with the remaining, whipped egg yolk and place in the oven for 25-30 minutes until your lid is nicely golden.

Remove from the oven and leave to stand for at least ten minutes to allow the fruit to cool a little.

I served this with some vanilla ice cream and it was a delicious summery pudding, enjoyed by the family.

Serves 4

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