#3 Thape Pie

Scroll through the gallery and click on pics to enlarge them

A humble fruit pie served with custard on Whit Sunday, Thape Pie is the Suffolk recipe I have most recently been experimenting with, while methodically working through the traditional recipes of the county in a self-imposed challenge. Known locally as “thapes” or “goosegogs”, gooseberries are one of the first soft fruits to ripen mid-June, a few weeks behind the brief elderflower season whose tiny cream flowers and fragrant aroma compliment these pale green jewels in both looks and flavour. Currently studying patisserie at Suffolk New College, I welcomed the opportunity to put my pastry skills into practice. Sweet and sour fruit, shortcrust pastry and a custard moat; this was the recipe to satisfy my cravings for pie.

 

Acquiring two large bags of gooseberries from High House Fruit Farm near Sudbourne, I set myself a challenge within a challenge to see how many gooseberry recipes I could try before running out.  With Whit Sunday falling on the same weekend as the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, I determined to bring this often overlooked fruit into the limelight to be the star of any social gathering this summer. Aside from the original recipe which I have made changes to resulting in the below, I was also able to make four other gooseberry desserts, all of which I am very proud! But first, I present my version of the traditional Thape Pie....

Difficulty: Medium if you make your own shortcrust pastry, Easy if you buy it ready-made.

Time taken: 10 mins to make your own pastry, which needs chilling for 1 hour. 15 mins to make the pie filling, which needs chilling for an hour also. 5-10 mins to assemble the pie depending on whether you go for a lattice top or not. 20 mins to bake. 

Serves 6

 

Ingredients:

  • 700g gooseberries, fresh or frozen, topped and tailed

  • 100g caster sugar, extra for dredging the top of the pie

  • 1 tbsp elderflower syrup, or 1 tsp vanilla essence

  • 175g shortcrust pastry, shop bought or homemade

  • 20cm shallow pie dish

  • 1ltr carton of custard

Pastry Ingredients - if you're making your own

  • 125g plain flour

  • Pinch of salt

  • 65g unsalted butter or margarine

  • Water to mix - 20ml - 30ml

Pastry Method - If you're making your own

1. Sieve the flour and salt

Do this into a big bowl.

2. Rub in the butter or marg to achieve a sandy texture

Cut the fat into small cubes and rub in as quickly as you can, handling as little as possible.

 

3. Add the water

 

Make a well in the centre then add sufficient water to make a fairly firm paste. The amount of water you will need can vary depending on the flour you use - the finer it is, the more water you will need. 

4. Refrigerate until needed

Wrap it in clingfilm and put it in the fridge. It is best to make it into a flat round disc as it chills more evenly and will be easier to roll into the shape you need later.

Method - The Filling

1. Break down the berries

Put 650g of the gooseberries into a saucepan with the sugar, elderflower syrup and a splash of water, reserving the other 50g back for later. Heat gently until they begin to burst.

2. Drain the berry pulp, reduce the liquids

 

Remove the berries with a slotted spoon, placing them into a sieve over a bowl to drain off the liquid. Return this liquid to what remains in the saucepan, simmering until reduced by half. It will go a pinky colour and become a thicker syrup - this is what you want.

3. Chill the filling

Mix the drained berry pulp, syrup reduction and remaining uncooked berries (halved) together and put into a shallow 20cm pie dish. Chill in the fridge until completely cold.

4. Roll out your pastry, put it on top

Lightly flour your surface and rolling pin, then roll out the pastry slightly larger than the dish. You may need to turn it a few times to get a big enough circle. Cut thin strips from the outer edges to line the rim, then dampen this ridge with a little water. Either drape your pastry lid over the dish, or cut out strips of pastry and create a lattice pattern on top. You can see how to do a lattice top by scrolling through the picture gallery above and watching the video of me doing it there. Trim away the excess and press the edges firmly together. 

5. Bake it

 

Brush with egg white if you want shiny pastry, or milk if you want it browned. Put into a pre-heated oven, 190°c with no fan for 20 minutes, until the pastry is golden. Serve hot or cold with custard, cream, ice-cream or Goosegog Fool (recipe on Instagram).

And that's it, a simple fruit pie traditional to Suffolk, using the humble gooseberry which grows in abundance in East Anglia. I did deviate from the original recipe slightly, as I decided to break the berries down in a saucepan a bit first then reduce the liquids for a more syrupy jammy filling, whereas the original traditional recipe puts the berries straight into the pie uncooked, with sugar and water added then the pie then covered in pastry and cooked. Traditionally it was also served with baked custards, but I had a go at making them and did not manage to get it right first time, so that is something I will revisit in the future. For now though, I can highly recommend ready-made custard from the shops!

The other recipes I then created using this traditional Thape Pie as the inspiration, are all available on my Instagram page and are as follows:

  • Gooseberry Queens

  • Goosegog Fool

  • Goosegog Mess

  • The Crown Jewels

Now that I have spent a considerable amount time in the company of this often overlooked beauty of a fruit, I am now fully in love with gooseberries and plan to create some other delights with them, perhaps a fancy tartlet, or a parfait, or coulis......