Gooseberries are truly northern fruit. They don't crave hours of sunshine: cool and damp suit them best. They like Britain and the British like them. We appreciate their tartness and sudden flavour - and, of course, they slot happily into the sort of pudding- making we excel at. I don't think that any other European country, except perhaps Germany, has ever really seen the point of gooseberries, although the plant is native to the region.

We, on the other hand, revel at this time of year in gooseberry pies, crumbles and fools; but the season is a short one. Gooseberries, like apples, fall dramatically into two camps: sweet eaters and tart cookers. The cookers, small, hard and green, have been with us for a couple of weeks now, but those finest of eaters, fat, honeyed and tawny Levellers, are only just arriving. You may also come across red gooseberries (excellent for making jelly), but you could be forgiven for thinking that there are no other types. In fact, there are always lots of varieties of any domesticated fruit, but the big growers whittle away the outsiders - types that don't fit their scheme of things.

Eaters should not be eaten until they are ripe to bursting, translucent and taut-skinned. They're not worth cooking - the heat destroys their seductive flavour. Heat, on the other hand, is the making of a cooker. It brings out the green, fruity flavour while softening the carcass. Sugar, honey, or some kind of sweetener is essential, though if you throw in a couple of sprigs of sweet cicely you can reduce the need a little.

How sweet the cooked gooseberries should be is a personal matter, but, as you sweeten, bear in mind any other additions to follow. The gooseberries in a pie should be layered generously with sugar. In a crumble with a high ratio of topping to fruit, you need less. The gooseberry puree for a fool will be muted by the addition of cream or custard.

Gooseberries going into a pie or crumble, or being cooked and mashed roughly, will need to be topped and tailed first. On the other hand, when they are to be sieved, there's no need to do anything but pick them over, discarding damaged or mouldy fruit.

Drop a head of elderflower, if available, in with your gooseberries as they cook - an old-fashioned bracing of flavours that is back in fashion. If the elderflowers are past it, a generous slug or two of some sort of sweet muscat wine is your nearest worthy equivalent, though dearer. Some of elderflower cordials can be used instead, but several of those I have tried bear little resemblance to their namesake.

Other good partners are orange juice and zest, and almonds and orange flower water. Of course, the inherent tartness of gooseberries stands them in good stead when it comes to fatty meats and oily fish. The classic, savoury marriage is mackerel with gooseberry sauce (the French, who don't pay gooseberries much attention, call them groseilles a maquereau, mackerel currants), but there's no need to stop there. Gooseberries will go nicely with herring or salmon, or indeed with pork, duck or goose.

Pork medallions with

gooseberry sauce

This sauce is lifted with orange and fresh ginger, but is otherwise made along the lines of a standard gooseberry sauce for savoury purposes. Though it is particularly pleasing with pork, it would go as well with any oily fish. If you prefer a smooth sauce, rub through a sieve before serving.

Serves 3-4

Ingredients: 1 1/2 oz (45g) butter

12oz (340g) gooseberries, topped

and tailed

juice of 1 orange

1/2 in piece of fresh ginger, grated

1-3oz (30-85g) sugar

1tbs sunflower oil

1 sprig thyme

1 pork tenderloin

salt and pepper

Preparation: Melt 1oz (30g) butter in a pan and add the gooseberries, orange juice, ginger, 1oz (30g) sugar, and thyme. Cover and cook over a low heat until gooseberries begin to soften and yield up their juices, then raise heat slightly. Simmer until tender enough to mash to a lumpy puree. Taste and add a little more sugar if needed, and pepper to taste. The sauce should be agreeably sweet-sour.

Meanwhile, slice the pork tenderloin into discs about 1/2 in thick. Beat lightly with a rolling pin to flatten. When the sauce is ready, heat the oil and remaining butter in a pan and fry the pork 'medallions' over a moderate heat until just cooked through. Serve on a bed of gooseberry sauce.

Roast salmon with

gooseberry stuffing

A perfect June party dish, especially if you use wild salmon. Originally I made it to serve hot, but the cold leftovers were just as good, if not better. Serve hot with a jug of melted butter to serve as a sauce, or cold with mayonnaise.

Serves 6-8

Ingredients: 3-4lb (1.35-2kg) tail piece of salmon, filleted

8oz (220g) gooseberries, topped

and tailed

2oz (55g) butter

2oz (55g) breadcrumbs

1tbs chopped parsley

2 spring onions, finely chopped

a little melted butter

salt and pepper

Preparation: Melt half the butter in a saucepan and add the gooseberries. Cover and cook over a low heat until the juices begin to run, then raise the heat slightly. Continue cooking until fruit is very tender. Mash coarsely and stir in the remaining butter, enough breadcrumbs to bind, parsley, spring onions and salt and pepper.

Sandwich the two pieces of salmon together with gooseberry stuffing. Lay on a buttered baking dish and brush lightly with melted butter. Cover with foil. Bake at 180C/350F/gas mark 4 for 20-30 minutes until the salmon is just cooked through. Carefully pull the skin off the upper half. Serve hot or cold.

Gooseberry and mascarpone cheesecake

This is a rich, elegantly simple sort of a cheesecake, with the usual biscuit base but a topping made with Italian mascarpone cheese which softens the sharpness of the gooseberries very well. One small warning (and this goes for Tiramisu as well): mascarpone should be very thick and very creamy, but on a hot, steamy summer's day it has a nasty tendency to curdle to a grainy mush. Get it home from the shop and into the fridge as soon as possible and leave it there until you are ready to use it.

Make sure that the other ingredients are properly cold, too, and mix with a light hand.

Serves 6-8

Ingredients: For the crust: 6oz (170g) digestive biscuits, crushed

3oz (85g) unsalted butter, melted

For the topping: 8oz (220g) gooseberries, topped and tailed

1oz (30g) butter

4oz (110g) vanilla sugar, or castor sugar with 1/2 tsp vanilla sugar

2 egg yolks

10oz (285g) mascarpone, chilled

Preparation: Line the bottom of a 7 1/2 in-8in (17.5-20cm) loose-based cake or tart tin with greaseproof paper. Mix the crumbs thoroughly with the butter and press into the tin. Chill for half an hour.

Meanwhile, cook the gooseberries with the butter and half the sugar until very tender. Mash well, but leave a few nice, telling knobbles. Cool thoroughly. Beat the egg yolks with the remaining sugar until pale. Fold lightly into the mascarpone until evenly mixed. Now add the gooseberry puree and stir lightly - don't worry about mixing it evenly. Spoon the mixture over the crumb base, smooth down and chill for at least 4 hours until just set. Unmould just before serving.

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