I’ve said it before, and will say it again and again – blackberries aren’t much fun to pick.
The thorns are horrible and can dig in for days, there’s always the thought of a nest of snakes right beneath the juiciest bunch of berries and because it’s February, it’s always hot and dusty. But…and it’s a big but…the flavour of a foraged blackberry is absolutely worth the pain and anxiety of picking them. And they are much more delicious than the thornless variety picked and sold in the shops (but maybe I’m just saying that to justify the extra effort?). Either way, blackberries are one of the few good things about February in the country, and even though we only have a few bushes on the farm (nice weed management Tim), every year we pick as many as we can.
And so, couple of afternoons ago we went out after school to fill a bucket with berries. Many were eaten on the way home, the rest were appropriated by our new friend Helen, who turned into a beautiful loaf cake and ice cream (recipes below). Actually that’s not true, I saved a few to make this double chocolate and blackberry cake when I remember to buy more butter in town.
Helen Johnson emailed me before Christmas, she’s 19, about to head off to university in Sydney and was wondering about work experience. This isn’t something anyone has ever asked before so I said yep lets do it. And she’s been such fun to hang out with all week. So thank you Helen! Thank you also for contributing the below recipes to Local is Lovely. Both are absolutely delicious and all hers.
Blackberry and rosemary loaf
This recipe is one of my family’s favourites – we usually make it as a dense ricotta lemon cake, but this time it’s more of a nutty, crisp loaf. To make it an extra decadent treat, add a dollop of greek yogurt and honey. Helen x
200g hazelnut meal
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
250g Greek yogurt
200g unsalted butter, soften
150g castor sugar
3 sprigs rosemary
1 generous handful of blackberries
Preheat oven to 180C and grease and line a loaf tin. In a large bowl, without stirring (I know it’s hard, but resist the urge for another 5 minutes), place the semolina, honey, hazelnut meal, baking powder, sea salt and greek yogurt. Sit bowl aside.
With electric beaters, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy and pale, this will take roughly 1 minute. Add eggs one at a time and ensure each egg is completely combined before the next addition. Quick addition of egg causes separation of batter.
Gently fold, with a spatula or metal spoon, egg mixture into semolina mixture and pour into prepared loaf tin. Arrange rosemary and blackberries on top of mixture how you please and bake for an hour or until crisp and golden or, insert a skewer and if the skewer comes out clean your loaf is cooked. Rest until cool as this will make it easy to cut. Serve with yogurt, honey and more blackberries if you wish.
For the ice cream we simply made a thick vanilla custard then pounded up a cup or so of blackberries with a mortar and pestle and added them to the ice cream machine in the last five minutes of churning. So so so so good!
1 3/4 cups (420ml) pouring cream
2/3 cup (160ml) full cream milk
1 vanilla pod
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup (110g) caster sugar
Pour cream and milk into a heavy-based saucepan over low heat. Split the vanilla pod and scrape seeds into the milk and cream mixture, throw in the empty pod too. Bring this mixture almost to the boil, remove from heat and leave to infuse for 15 mins. Meanwhile, beat yolks and sugar together until you have a thick, pale yellow paste. Gently bring the milk and cream mixture back to a steaming heat and gradually pour this over the eggs and sugar, whisking all the time.
Pour the custard back into your saucepan and place over low heat. Pull up a stool and stir for about 6 mins or until the custard becomes thick and coat’s the back of your wooden spoon. Keep the heat low and don’t rush the process or you’ll end up with a pan of sweetened scrambled eggs! Pour into a jug and keep warm until serving.