Gooseberry sauce to go with mackerel or gammon

“They will jump at them in Edinburgh like a cock at a grosset”

Sir Walter Scott – ‘grosset’, meaning’ gooseberry’ comes from the French

The marriage of gooseberries with mackerel is a long and happy one. In France this berry is known as groseille à maquereau, which translates as ‘mackerel berries’, due to their use in a sauce for mackerel in old French cuisine. The first record of the two being mixed appears in a book of experiments, A New Digester or Engine For Softening Bones, written by Denis Papin. What was new here was not the pairing of mackerel with gooseberries, but rather his invention which developed into the pressure cooker.

This gooseberry sauce goes especially well with gammon and gin, having as it does the underlying juniper taste to unite the dish, a bit of gin of its own. You can substitute the gin with dry vermouth, but it doesn’t give quite the same zing.

It also goes well with other oily fish (try tuna or swordfish maybe). You can also serve it with other forms of pork, as well as duck and chicken.

Add a little extra honey and it will also go well on vanilla ice cream!

Gooseberry sauce recipe

For two


  • Slug of olive oil for frying
  • 1 banana shallot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 stem of tarragon
  • 80g gooseberries
  • 1 tbsp gin
  • 2 corns of Indonesian long pepper
  • ½ tbsp. honey – to taste
  • Lemon zest


  1. Begin to melt the shallot in the oil.
  2. Meanwhile wash, top and tail the gooseberries and halve them.
  3. Add to the shallot and continue to heat gently.
  4. In a pestle and mortar crush the peppercorns.
  5. Chop the tarragon.
  6. Add peppercorns and tarragon to the shallot and gooseberries, along with the gin and honey.
  7. You will probably need to add more honey, now is the time to taste.
  8. Serve, garnished with the lemon zest.

“These visions varied according to the adverts he happened to see, but for some reason, in every singel one, there had to be gooseberry bushes. ‘Life in the country has its comforts,’ he used to say. ‘You can sit drinking tea on your balcony, while your ducks are swimming in the pond…it all smells so good and um….there’s your gooseberries growing away!’

He drew up a plan for his estate and it turned out exactly the same every time: (a) manor house; (b) servants’ quarters; (c) kitchen garden; (d) gooseberry bushes.”

Anton Chekhov, Gooseberries

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