Cape Gooseberry Pavlova
Crunchy meringue, creamy whipped cream, and sweet-tart gooseberries make for a spectacular dessert: Cape Gooseberry Pavlova!
The Dangerously Good Superfood
Superfoods? Yawn. I already know about them.
What about one that might kill you?
Wait. What? Why the heck would I eat that?
Um, because it’s delicious. Oh, and it combats cancer, slashes bad cholesterol, and knocks down inflammation.
But, is it actually yummy?
They are Scary Delicious
The fruit display brought me to a full stop. I had only seen Cape gooseberry in my copy of an Ottolenghi cookbook. When I spotted the fruit at my local grocery store last week, I stood in front of the display open-mouthed. Wow.
The taste? Imagine if candy Sweetarts were a fruit. That’s what these taste like. Slightly sweet, slightly tangy, yet hard to describe. They are unlike anything else I’ve tasted. Why yes, I bought a small box of them from that grocery store display.
Cape gooseberry is a beautiful, yellow-orange fruit about the size of a marble. It goes by many names: aguaymanto, Aztec berry, goldenberry, harankash, husk cherry, Inca berry, Peruvian groundcherry, pichuberry, poha berry, topotopo, and uchuva. Seriously, SO MANY NAMES. For my gardening geek friends: the binomial nomenclature, or Latin name, is Physalis peruviana (yo, thanks Carl Linnaeus!).
Originally native to Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador, Cape gooseberry is now grown all over the world in tropical and subtropical climates like Hawaii, where it is called poha berry. The fruit is enclosed in a papery husk, like that of tomatillos. Once the fruit is ripe, that papery husk, or calyx, can be opened to show off the yellowy orange orbs.
By the way, they might kill you.
Leopard Seals of the Fruit World
Cape gooseberries are the leopard seals of the fruit world. Leopard seals are so dang cute! But wow, don’t tick them off, especially if they are eating. They can be dangerous.
Because Cape gooseberries (also so dang cute!) belong to the nightshade family, they contain a toxin called solanine. It is present in green, unripe berries. When consumed, solanine causes cramping, diarrhea, vomiting, slowed pulse, and labored breathing which can be fatal.
Not a pretty way to die.
Easy solution: only eat them once they turn orange. This shouldn’t be a problem because grocers only carry the ripened fruit. Whew!
Cape Gooseberries have Superfood Status
How superfood-y are these yellow orange berries? In a word, very. According to registered dieticians, they contain several vitamins, nutrients, antioxidants, and withanolides (I didn’t make up this word, although it sounds like it).
Cape gooseberries contain:
- Vitamin A: important for immunity, vision, reproduction
- Vitamins B1, B2, B3: needed for brain health, energy production, breaking down of fats and drugs in the body
- Vitamin C: bolsters immune system and wound healing
- Vitamin E: antioxidant that supports blood vessels, immune system, brain
- Vitamin K: regulates blood clotting to prevent excessive bleeding
- Iron: helps the body produce blood, mostly in the form of hemoglobin. The red blood cells help oxygen to be carried to all parts of the body
- Phosphorus: assists the bones and teeth in staying strong, but also helps filter waste from the kidneys
- Antioxidants: protect against destructive free radicals and certain types of cancer.
- Phytosterols: help reduce the bad type of cholesterol, LDL
- Withanolides: anti-inflammatory steroids that assist in lessening inflammation
How to Eat Cape Gooseberries
How are they eaten? In salads, salsas, sauces, and other savory dishes. They are also used for sweets like jams, cakes, ice creams, and tarts. Cape gooseberries can go into just about any category of food. They’re category fluid.
I’ve been eyeing a recipe in Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh’s cookbook, Sweet, ever since I bought the book a few years ago. Their Cape Gooseberry Pavlova consists of crisp meringue, yogurt cream, and toffeed Cape gooseberries. Gorgeous! My version of their recipe takes a few shortcuts but is definitely inspired by the original.
- Do not walk away from the sugar as it melts in the saucepan. It melts and scorches fast, leaving you with a kitchen that smells like a tire fire. Monitor the sugar at all times!
- Do not open the oven door when the baking time is done. Your meringues, and heart, will break. Leave them undisturbed to cool in the oven for several hours.
- Read the instructions twice. I misread the circle tracing instructions and made 8 giant pavlovas instead of 16 little ones. So, not to brag, but my pavlovas were huge. It made them harder to eat once they were assembled.
Many thanks go to Ottolenghi and Helen Goh for their recipe! Leopard seal photo credit to goes to Bob Brewer on Unsplash.Print
- 4 ½ oz. egg whites (from 3 large eggs)
- ⅛ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. cream of tartar
- 1 ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 14 oz Cape gooseberries, divided use
- 1 cup whipping cream, whipped into soft peaks
To make the meringues:
- Preheat the oven to 275°F/140°C. Place oven racks on the two middle shelves of the oven. Trace 8 circles, about 3 inches/8 cm wide, on a sheet of parchment paper. Repeat on a second sheet of parchment paper. Place parchment papers on two baking sheets.
- Whisk the egg whites and salt together with a mixer, either stand or hand-held, until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks are formed. Spoon in the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until all the sugar is added. The mixture should be thick and shiny.
- Dollop a large spoonful of the mixture onto each of the drawn circles on the parchment paper, dividing equally. Smooth the tops with the back of a spoon. Each meringue should be ⅓ inch/1 cm thick.
- Place both baking sheets in the oven. Bake for 2 hours. Turn off the oven but do not open the door! Opening the oven door will let in cooler air and cause the meringues to crack and collapse. Let the meringues cool, undisturbed, for at least 2 to 3 hours.
To make the toffee:
- Select 8 Cape gooseberries and carefully peel back the papery husk but leave it attached to the berry. Set aside.
- Place the sugar in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat. Do not stir. Tilt the pan from side to side as the sugar melts and caramelizes.
- Once the sugar is a caramel color, remove it from the heat.
- Working quickly, tilt the pan so that the toffee collects to one side. Holding onto the husk, dip gooseberry (just the fruit, not the husk) into the toffee. Let the excess toffee drip back into the pan and place the fruit on a plate or sheet of parchment.
- Repeat with the remaining 7 gooseberries.
- Remove the papery husk from the remaining gooseberries and cut them in halves.
- Top one meringue with whipped cream and a few berry halves. Place another meringue on top. Spoon on more whipped cream and top with a toffee-coated Cape gooseberry as a garnish.