In Cooking with Fire (Storey Publishing, 2014), author Paula Marcoux shares the rich history and cultural context of open-fire cooking, with tips and best practices along the way. From roasting on a spit to baking in a Tannur, these rediscovered techniques and recipes capture the flavors of wood-fired cooking. The following recipe is from Chapter 3: “Pots and Pans.”
You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Cooking With Fire.
This buttered gooseberry recipe is straight from the manuscript recipe book of a 17th-century English noblewoman. Both the ingredients (acid fruit and egg) and the technique (thickening with yolks) cry out for a clay pot to cook it in. When a bumper crop of gooseberries first persuaded me to try this recipe, I was astounded: this is what English ladies ate before they invented lemon curd! Since gooseberries are very seasonal, I have on occasion substituted other tart fruits like cranberries and diced rhubarb. You can use it as a filling between cake layers or in tart shells, or just straight-up lashed with crème anglaise or whipped cream.
• 9 ounces slightly underripe (green) gooseberries
• 1 cup sugar
• 6 egg yolks
• 1/4 teaspoon rosewater (optional)
1. Prepare a little nest of coals and ashes that just holds your clay pot. Add the butter, and, when it starts to melt, the gooseberries and about 3/4 of the sugar. Heat slowly, cooking until the berries explode. Remove the pot from the heat and place on a warm, forgiving surface.
2. Beat the yolks with the remaining sugar and optional rosewater in a medium, heatproof bowl. Look at the fruit in the clay pot: is it still simmering even though it’s off the fire? If so, wait until it stops, and then be patient another minute or two while the mixture cools a bit more.
3. Then, whisking the yolks with one hand, add a dollop of the hot fruit to them and combine quickly and thoroughly. Use a silicone spatula to scrape the tempered yolk mixture into the clay pot of fruit, instantly stirring the whole mess thoroughly together, scraping up from the bottom. The residual heat in the berries and the clay pot should be enough to cause the yolks to thicken the mixture subtly. (If somehow it has cooled too much, return the pot to the coals for a moment, never leaving off stirring from the bottom, until the mixture coalesces and coats a spoon without running.)
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Recipe reprinted with permission from Cooking With Fire: From Roasting on a Spit to Baking in a Tannur, Rediscovered Techniques and Recipes That Capture the Flavors of Wood-Fired Cooking by Paula Marcoux and published by Storey Publishing, 2014. Buy this book from our store: Cooking With Fire.