This recipe started out as an experiment and up until the very last minute I thought it had failed.
For a few months now, I have been walking past ‘Indian Gooseberries’ in the supermarket wondering if they could be used in the same way as regular gooseberries. Having never cooked with those either I couldn’t even make an educated guess and kept walking by, growing more and more inquisitive with each trip to the supermarket. When the theme for this month’s Sweet Adventures Blog Hop was announced as “Berry Nice to Meet You” (meaning we had to submit a recipe featuring berries of some sort) I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to finally stop and buy some of the gooseberries rather than just staring them out!
After a bit of Googling I didn’t find any recipes that used alma (the Hindi name for the fruit) in a sweet capacity with most people talking about using them in chutneys, pickles or eating them raw with a little salt. Still, I was determined to give it a try and encouraged by a tweet from Indian chef and food writer Maunika Gowardhan confirming that they could be used in sweet dishes too. Awesome. All good.
That was until I tried one. Wow. I don’t think I can find words to accurately describe just how sour and bitter they are so I’ll simply tell you that I can actually feel my salivary glands contracting just thinking about them. I was apprehensive but hoped that enough sugar could counteract the bitterness and decided to make these mini gooseberry meringue pies with the sweet pastry and meringue adding some extra sweetness into the mix.
It seemed like a great plan but when I’d added more sugar to the gooseberry filling than I was comfortable with (actually not that much thinking about it now but I generally cook with as little sugar as possible) and having reached the point where I wasn’t willing to add anymore, I was ready to admit defeat. It was still so sour and bitter! With the pastry cases and meringue all ready to go I pushed on but I could feel a cloud of failure looming overhead.
Much to my surprise (and relief), they actually turned out just fine. As the pies are mini, not much filling goes into each one and the pastry and meringue do counteract the tartness as hoped. Not satisfied with relying on my own assessment, I enlisted some taste testers who all said they thought the balance of sweet vs. tart was perfect, apart from one friend who’s a super sweet tooth – if you’re one too you may want to add some extra sugar or maybe a different filling like this cherry one would be a better choice.
If you’re somewhere where you can only get regular gooseberries then you can definitely use those but if you can, I’d encourage you to try almas at least once. An excellent source of Vitamin C and antioxidants, almas are revered in Indian Ayurvedic medicine for their remedial properties, considered effective in lowering cholesterol, enhancing fertility and reducing the risk of certain cancers among many other benefits. Perfectly good reasons for eating one of these little pies if you ask me! Or several if you’re super health conscious…
For the vanilla pastry:
100g flour, sifted
25g ground almonds
25g icing sugar, sifted
50 butter, chilled & chopped into cubes
1 egg yolk (keep the white for the meringue)
1 vanilla pod, split and seeds removed
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 tbsp cold water
For the gooseberry filling:
200g Indian gooseberries*, top and bottom cut off
50 ml elderflower cordial
3 tbsp water
* if using regular gooseberries you may want to reduce the amount of sugar.
For the meringue:
1 egg white
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
50g icing sugar
Place flour, almonds, sugar, butter in food processor and pulse until mixture resembles breadcrumbs (if you don’t have a food processor use a large bowl and rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips). Add egg yolk, vanilla seeds, vanilla extract and the water a little at a time and pulse until ingredients clump together (if making by hand, mix with a wooden spoon).
Turn mixture on to floured surface and bring together into a smooth ball, adding a few more drops of water if it seems too dry. It shouldn’t be sticky but if it’s too dry it will crack when you roll it. Wrap in cling film and chill for 30 mins.
To start the filling, count the gooseberries and add to a small pan. Cover and simmer until soft (about 40 mins) adding more water if the mixture starts to dry out to prevent burning. As the gooseberries soften they will break apart and the seeds can be removed easily. Make sure to count the number of seeds to make sure you got them all! Once soft, mash the mixture into a thick puree using a potato masher. Set aside.
Roll out the pastry on to a lightly floured surface until about 1/2 cm thick and use a round cookie cutter (mine was 6 cm across) to cut out 12 circles. Line a mini muffin pan (mine had 12 holes each measuring 5 cm across) with the circles and prick the bases with a fork. Cover with cling film and chill for another 30 minutes.
Pre heat oven to 180°C/350ºF.
Take the muffin pan out of the fridge and push pastry up to the edges if it has shrunk. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and leave to cool. Place a baking sheet in the oven to warm up.
Beat the egg white and cream of tartar using an electric whisk until soft peaks form. Add the sugar a teaspoon at a time until it is fully incorporated and the meringue is thick and glossy.
Once the pie crusts have cooled, fill them to just below the top and then pipe the meringue on top creating a little peak on each as you pipe. Place the muffin pan on the pre heated baking sheet and bake for 8-12 minutes or until the meringue starts to brown. Allow to cool and lift the pies out of the pan using a blunt knife.
This post is part of the Sweet Adventures “Berry Nice to Meet You” Blog Hop hosted by Christina from The Hungry Australian. If you’d like to join the hop, click here for instructions. To see other entries in the hop, click on the thumbnail images below. Learn more about the Sweet Adventures Blog Hop here.