Blackberries

BlackberriesBlackberries, or Brambles if you’re Scottish, are a completely different beast in the wild to the shop bought variety and although the big fat ones from the supermarket go wonderfully with any berry mix (my personal favourite is with pancakes, maple syrup and yoghurt) I think the smaller, tarter, wild variety are by far the best for cooking.

Obviously your picking window can be small, so any that you don’t want to use straight away: rinse and drain, then spread evenly on trays and freeze, once solid, knock them off the tray with a wooden spoon and into bags and they’ll then sit happily in your freezer until you want them.

So, can’t really do a post on blackberries and not include crumble. It’s one of the easiest puddings to make for large numbers of people, not least because you can prep it well in advance and then shove it on to cook while you eat your mains.

The only downside is a good crumble topping is completely down to personal taste. I personally hate raisins in mine and Eldest child complains that I put in too many seeds, so I’m going to give you the basic guidelines and you can pimp your crumble as you see fit……

Apple and Blackberry Crumble

Apple, peeled and sliced and blackberries in an oven proof dish.

Apples can be cooked partially with a little water before hand although be warned cooking apples have a tendency to turn to mush so less is best. It’s essential t do this if you’re using frozen blackberries as they can go mushy (which is why you should use straight from the freezer without defrosting).

Sprinkle with sugar or syrup, I prefer soft brown sugar. Use more if using cooking apples and less if not, my best guess would be a teaspoon per apple.

Topping Basics:

Rub together butter and flour to get a breadcrumb like consistency, mix in sugar and porridge oats (approx 1 cup crumb to 1/2 cup sugar to 1 cup oats)

Addionals to pimp your crumble:

raisins

Seeds – sunflower, sesame, pumpkin, poppy.

chopped nuts – walnuts, pecans

flaked almonds

pinenuts

rolled grains – barely, rye, quinoa

chopped apricots

Sprinkle ontop  (depth is totally a personal thing but at least cover the fruit) and bake at 180′C for 20-30 min. You should be able to stab smoothly with a knife without hitting any hard fruit.

 

blackberry muffins

This year has been one of the best for blackberries I can remember, as well as one of the earliest, which means that I haven’t caught up with stews and crumbles and hot stodgy food on the eating front yet. Basically it’s not the type of grub that tastes right when you’re wearing shorts. So we’ve been doing some experimenting:

 

Blackberry Muffins

My daughter Niamh decided she wanted to make blackberry muffins so we tried out a recipe from a great blog called Ohmyveggies as a template and then tinkered based on what we had in the cupboard.

There is a fair amount of sugar in these, but the kitchen smelt fabulous for the rest of the afternoon and they tasted delicious, so I will be doing them again.

Makes 18 fairy-cake sized muffins (so make fewer and bigger if you’re feeding adults only)

1 Cup plain flour

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of soda

1 cup rolled oats ( I used jumbo and they literally melted away)

170g natural yoghurt

2 mashed ripe bananas (I suspect this is like banana bread and the blacker they are the better they work in the cake).

1/4 Cup coconut oil

1 egg

1/2 Cup of blackberries plus some spares to top each muffin

  1. Preheat oven 205′C
  2. Mix sugar, flour, bicarb and baking powder in a big bowl and set aside
  3. Mix oats with wet ingredients (don’t forget to melt the coconut oil first)
  4. Pop wet ingredients and blackberries into big bowl and fold-in*

*FYI if you over-mix banana based batters with flour they get really chewy and tough. I have no idea the science behind why, you’ll just have to trust me. The second everything looks like it’s just about mixed in, stop.

5. Pop in cases, adding a bonus berry onto if you like and bake for 15-20 min until you can stab them with a skewer and it comes out clean.

 

Blackberry Lemonade

This Neal’s Yard recipe isn’t what I think of as lemonade but it does taste good and, as it’s packed with antioxidants and Vit C, it’s pretty good on the health front too.

12 Fresh blackberry leaves (beware the row of spikes down the central vein in the back of the leaf)

300g Blackberries

2 lemons, juice of

3 tbs Maple syrup

  1.  Pour 300ml boiling water over the blackberry leaves and leave to cool.
  2. Blitz blackberries in a food processor until pulped and squidge through a sieve if you don’t like the seeds.
  3. mix blackberry pulp, lemon juice, maple syrup and infused water (remove leaves before adding!) and drink.

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