I love the idea that us Britons took these gently bewhiskered berries so seriously that there were widespread gooseberry clubs and exhibiting competitions up until the First World War, originating in Lancashire, where the berry was first bred. With their sweet tartness, they’re surprisingly versatile. This recipe is easy to prepare and is an impressive choice for a dinner party.

Slow-roasted pork belly with gooseberry sauce and a port-wine reduction

Serves 6

Ingredients

Slow-roasted pork belly
1.5kg pork belly
joint, ready to roll
50ml olive oil
10 sprigs thyme
6 sprigs rosemary
3 cloves garlic
Salt flakes
Seasoning

Port-wine reduction
300ml port wine
1 shallot
150ml stock
2 sprigs rosemary
3 sprigs thyme
1 clove garlic
A knob of butter
Seasoning

Gooseberry sauce

300g goose-berries, topped and tailed
2tbspn water
2 shallots
2 star anise
1tbspn sugar
Seasoning

Method

For perfect crackling, place the meat skin-side down onto a well-salted baking tray and put into a fridge for at least 12 hours, to draw out as much water as possible. Then, pat dry with kitchen roll.
Preheat your oven to 200˚C/400˚F/gas mark 6. If it’s not already scored, use a Stanley knife to cut through the pork-belly skin.

This is the perfect tool because it will only cut through the depth of the skin, allowing it to remain dry while cooking.

Mix together the olive oil, thyme, rosemary, crushed garlic and seasoning in a bowl, then pour it over the meat side of the pork belly. Use the back of a spoon to spread it over the surface evenly. Roll the joint up, tying at even intervals with butcher’s string. Once tied, sprinkle the skin with salt flakes and pepper.

Place in a hot oven for 30 minutes and then reduce the heat to 180˚C/350˚F/gas mark 4 for a further 21⁄2 hours. By this time, the crackling should be perfect, but if you feel it would benefit from
an extra blast, turn the heat up again for the final 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the port wine, shallot, stock, herbs, garlic and seasoning in a pan and simmer, reducing until syrupy, for about 45 minutes. Add the knob of butter to make it glossy, then sieve.

For the gooseberry sauce, place all the ingredients into a small pan and simmer for about 15 minutes. (This can be stored in a sealed jar for a few days to enjoy with melted-cheese toasts.)

Serve thick slices of the roasted pork belly drizzled with the port-wine reduction, with the gooseberry sauce on the side.

More ways with gooseberries

Gooseberry oat crumble

Spread gooseberries out in an ovenproof dish and sprinkle sugar over them. Mix 100g butter and 200g plain flour until they resemble breadcrumbs, then add 100g Demerara sugar and 50g oats. Cover the fruit with the mixture and place in a moderately hot oven for about 45 minutes.

Gooseberry fool

Place 300g gooseberries into
a pan and sprinkle with sugar, then simmer until the juices run. Fold through this a half-and-half combination of mascarpone and whipped cream. Serve topped with gooseberries and with shortbread biscuits on the side.

Gooseberry meringue pie

Bake shortcrust pastry in a med-ium-sized tart tin. Cook 500g gooseberries with sugar in a pan and, once burst, mix the juices with two tbspns cornflour, creating a paste. Remove pan from the heat, add the paste, then stir in three egg yolks. Pour this mixture into the tart case and top with meringue mix. Bake for 30 minutes at 180˚C/350˚F/gas mark 4.
 

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