There are blackberry bushes – and there is OUR blackberry bush!
When I was little, I used to go blackberry picking with my mum – and I, in turn, took my own children with my friends, Claire and Beryl, and their children. Our babies have got babies of their own now and we hope to all go picking again this week – trying to persuade little fingers to put as many of the berries they put in their mouths into their baskets! Our garden is partly an old orchard where the apple trees have fallen down (we have also planted new ones!) and become a secret hiding place for rabbits, squirrels and mice and the trunks homes for woodpeckers and robins. And over it all, has grown the most wonderful blackberry bush, its huge, thorny branches weighed down with all the glistening, purple gorgeousness of fruit!
There are so many things you can do with blackberries – jams, cordials, puddings and savoury sauces – and, of course, you can just freeze them for later and eat every morning with porridge (me) and yogurt (the husband) for a dose of vitamin C throughout the winter. They are free, picking gets you out in the fresh air and it’s a time to spend with friends, chatting away as you do, as we have done for years behind years!
Overnight Oats and Blackberries
- 1 cup fresh ripe blackberries (plus a few for topping)
- 1/2 banana (save the remainder for the topping)
- 200 mls milk
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- ½ cup oats (I like the organic jumbo ones best)
- Topping: slices of banana and extra blackberries
Put the blackberries, banana, milk and vanilla in a blender and blend until completely smooth. Pour into a bowl or glass jar and stir in the oats. Cover the bowl or jar and place in the refrigerator overnight to allow the oats to soak and soften. In the morning add some fresh blackberries and the other half of the banana (sliced) on top (for those with a sweet tooth, add a drizzle of honey or maple syrup.
- baby spinach/ watercress/ rocket leaves (or a mixture if you have it!)
- fresh blackberries
- crumbled gorgonzola or blue cheese
- walnut pieces (optional)
- citrus vinaigrette (recipe below)
- 1/3 cup good-quality olive oil
- 1/4 cup freshly-squeezed orange, lemon, or lime juice
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Whisk together all the vinaigrette ingredients. Toss the leaves and blackberries together with the vinaigrette and serve topped with crumbled cheese. It will look so beautiful with the light green leaves and purple blackberries, you will be loathe to eat it – but do!
Blackberry Fridge Jam (as the name implies, you keep this in the fridge once made. It has half the amount of sugar normally used so better for you. I put it into small jars so that I am opening and using quickly)
Weigh however many blackberries you have and put in a bowl. Weigh out half that weight in preserving sugar and add to the bowl. Mash the fruit up slightly and leave aside for no less than an hour. Put into a saucepan (you can at this point add a tablespoon of cassis if you like/have), bring to the boil and stir a rolling boil for exactly 5 minutes. Allow to cool and put into sterilised jars.
Savoury sauce for pork/lamb/venison chops or medallions
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 150ml beef stock
- 2 tbsp redcurrant jelly
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 85g fresh or frozen blackberries
Add the balsamic vinegar to the pan, then pour in the stock, redcurrant jelly and garlic. Stir over quite a high heat to blend everything together, then add the blackberries and carry on cooking until they soften.
Blackberry, Elderflower and Mint Fool
- 200g ripe blackberries
- 1 – 2 tbsp elderflower cordial
- 60g caster sugar
- a few fresh mint sprigs
- 150ml double cream
- 125ml full-fat Greek yogurt
Put the blackberries in a saucepan with the elderflower cordial, caster sugar and fresh mint sprigs. Set the pan over a medium heat and gently bubble the mixture for 10-15 minutes until the berries soften and release their juices, then reduce to a thick coulis. Remove from the heat and let it cool a little, then taste, adding more sugar or a dash more cordial if needed. Remove the mint sprigs. Allow the mixture to cool completely (it will become more like jam in consistency). Pour the double cream into a large bowl then, using an electric mixer, whisk to soft-medium peaks. Stir in the Greek yogurt, then fold in the cooled blackberry coulis, creating a swirled effect. Spoon the fool into a dish and serve straightaway, or cover and chill for up to 6 hours.
ps this will make more than one serving – but be good to yourself and have one two days running – or invite a friend over!