Tuesday, October 2, 2012

New Berry!

Check out these little babies.  These are cape gooseberries, or ground cherries.  I first saw them being used by Chuck when watching foodtv at the gym (yeah .. don't ask!). He was making a compote to go with one of his dishes. Then, I saw them on sale at No Frills, but I resisted buying them because I had no idea what they tasted like, and even though I should have probably taken Chuck's word for it that they're delicious, I hesitated -- there were still local strawberries and blueberries abound, no to mention watermelon. So I skipped the ground cherries.

Then, in late August, when the winds were about to change, we took a short trip to Ottawa, and during one of our walks around the market, we bought a mixed fruit bowl to snack on. Low and behold, sitting on top of the blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries, was one lone ground cherry. We shared it -- each bit half of it -- and it really was delicious. I didn't think much about it, until this weekend, when I saw them on sale at our local farmer's market, and I decided that I couldn't pass them up this time. While walking home, we peeled away the little paper-like jackets and bit into the juicy fruit. What does it taste like, besides delicious? Well, to me, they taste like an impossibly sweet and fruity cherry tomato. A trustworthy second opinion said they tasted like pineapple (which, when I thought about it.. was true). Wikipedia describes them as tasting like a cross between .. you guessed it .. a tomato and a pineapple. Go figure.

In any rate they are impossible to stop eating, highly addictive, but totally worthy of being baked into something more delicious. I wanted to bring out the pineapple flavour, so I paired it with orange zest and honey in a simple, fruit-topped, sugar crusted cake. I used spelt flour for this cake, which made the texture very unique -- airy and light, almost like a sponge. The ground cherries get sliced and scattered on top of the cake, where some of them sink to the bottom during baking, and some of them stay on top. The berries on top caramelize with the help of a sprinkling of raw sugar, and ones that sink get lovely, sweet and jammy. The orange really worked well to bring out the pineapple fruitiness of these berries. I considered adding a spice -- maybe cinnamon or cardamom -- but on second thought, I wondered if it might take away from the unique flavour of the ground cherries, and so left it out in the end. I also had some leftover coconut milk hanging around, so I threw that in. Because coconut milk is so rich, there was no need to add any oil. If you don't want to open a whole can just for this recipe, I would suggest using two tablespoons of plain milk, and two tablespoons of canola oil or melted butter.

Although I chose to go the cake route (hey .. who doesn't like cake?), I saw lots of lovely recipes on the web for ground cherry salsas, salads, compotes and jellies. You totally need to try them for yourself. Hurry to the market before they're gone -- you won't regret it!

Sugar-Topped Ground Cherry Cake
makes one small loaf

1 egg
1/4 cup of honey
1/4 cup of plain yogurt
1/4 cup of coconut milk
2 tablespoons of orange juice
1 cup of spelt flour
a pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
1 cup of ground cherries, sliced in half
1 tablespoon of raw sugar (for sprinkling)

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, honey, yogurt, coconut milk and orange juice until smooth and well-combined.

2. Sift in the flour, salt, baking powder and soda and mix gently until just combined. Pour into a prepared loaf pan.

3. Add the ground cherries on top of the cake batter, and sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until the top gets a nice golden brown crust, and a cake tester inserted comes out clean.

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