2013 is definitely the year for hedgerow foraging. While our temperamental and fluctuating weather might have played havoc with our post-summer wardrobe, stints of warm sunshine, followed by periods of plentiful rain, has resulted in plump and sweet hedgerow fruits.
The blackberry adorns bramble bushes along footpaths and country lanes, bursting with colour and ripened ready for picking. With such perfect weather conditions, the blackberry’s season has been long and prosperous, allowing for numerous foraging trips this autumn already. However, with this year’s yield quickly coming to the end, one final haul had to take place. With an extra special recipe in mind that celebrates this fantastic fruit in all its glory, I headed to the hedgerow, armed with my basket and wellies, once again making the most of my surrounding’s edible offerings.
Although I am definitely not one to shun a crumble or even pie, I wanted to move away from the tendency of always baking the blackberry. Having ripened well in this year’s sunny spells, I wanted to use it in a simple recipe that allowed its earthy, sweet flavours to shine through. Having said this, with quite a basket full of fruit, I divided my haul into several bags, freezing a couple of portions for the obligatory autumnal crumble!
My fresh batch would form the base of my quite sinful, yet undoubtedly delicious creamy treat of blackberry crème brulee. First making the blackberries into a tangy compote that generously lined the base of several ramekins, lashings of silky smooth brulee mixture (with a hint of lemon) was carefully poured on top, and gently cooked to make for an indulgent, autumnal dessert you simply have to try! Accompanied with buttery lemon biscuits, it won’t take you long before you fail to resist cracking through the golden caramel topping in search of your blackberry laced brulee.
In a year like the present, when experiencing such a glut of blackberries, freezing your foraged berries is a great way to enjoy them well into the winter. Alternatively, to preserve their delicious flavour, think about making a batch of rich blackberry jam, or even blackberry vodka for an innovative Christmas tipple. With such great flavour and versatility, this hardy berry is easy to cook with, and complimentary in both sweet and savoury dishes. Consider using your blackberry compote not only for my featured recipe but drizzled over ice cream or yoghurt, or even as sauce to cut through rich gamey meats such as duck and venison. It truly is an autumnal produce we should nurture and treasure.
- 200g blackberries
- Tbsp lemon juice
- Tbsp caster sugar
- Using a hand blender, blitz together 150g blackberries, lemon juice and sugar until smooth.
- Pass through a sieve to remove all the seeds – fold in the remaining blackberries.
- Set aside to use in your crème brulees, or cover and refrigerate, and use within a 2 days.
- 250ml Double Cream
- 3 egg yolks
- 50g caster sugar (extra for topping)
- Tsp Vanilla essence
- ½ lemon – juice and zest (extra zest for decoration)
- Blackberry compote
- Put the cream in a heavy bottom saucepan and bring to the boil. Allow to simmer and reduce for 5 minutes.
- Whilst the cream is boiling, separate 3 eggs placing the yolks in a large bowl (reserve the egg white for a further recipe – bag and place in the freezer. Use within 1 month). Whisk the yolks along with the vanilla and sugar until light, creamy and pale in colour.
- Take the cream off the heat and slowly add it to the yolk mixtures whilst continuing to whisk, ensuring the mixture does not scramble. Once all the ingredients are combined, stir in the lemon juice and zest. Using a blow torch, carefully and quickly run the flame across the surface of the mixture – this will remove any bubbles on the service that will disturb your mixture when cooking. Repeat once the mixture had been poured into a jug.
- Spoon in a couple of dessert spoons of compote into the bottom of each ramekin. Fill up each ramekin with the brulee mixture pouring slowly down the side to avoid disturbing the compote too much.
- Place the ramekins in a large heatproof dish before filling with enough warm water to come half way up the pots (bain-marie). Put in a preheated oven at 150ºc/Gas 2 for 40-45 minutes, or until the brulee has just set with a little wobble.
- Remove ramekins from the bain-marie and cool. Once cooled, chill until required. When ready to serve, sprinkle enough caster sugar to thinly cover the top of the dessert. Using a blow torch, carefully caramelise the sugar, leave to harden, before topping with a little cream, fresh blackberries and a little lemon zest.
- 125g unsalted butter
- 100 g caster sugar
- 1 free-range egg
- 200 g plain flour
- Zest of 2 lemons
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 pinch of salt
- Plain flour, for dusting
- Preheat the oven to 180ºc/Gas 4. Combined the butter and sugar in an for mixer until the mixture is light in colour, and creamy in texture. Add the egg and continue to mix until it appears light and fluffy.
- Add the remaining ingredients and mix until soft dough is formed. Allow to chill in the fridge for around an hour and the dough becomes firm to touch.
- With floured hands, form into balls around the size of walnuts. Place on a baking tray lined with greaseproof, before using the back of a floured spoon to flatten the balls. Leave enough space between the biscuits as they will spread whilst in the oven.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes until they appear light brown in colour. Cool and serve with your delicious brulees!