The Brilliance of Blackcurrants…
…The True Superfood
One great thing about writing a food blog is, I have come to learn a lot not only about seasonality, sustainability and brilliant producers, but the history and science behind everyday ingredients.
Terms such as ‘super foods’ and ‘whole foods’ are so readily brandished around in the food industry, as we ride wave after wave of new food trends. But have we ever taken the time to stop and consider whether it might all be a very clever marketing ploy, and what it really good is right in front of us?!
The prime example comes when you consider the battle of the berries! It has long been considered that blueberries are ‘superfood’ kings. These little sweet North American berries are packed full of vitamin K, C, fibre and antioxidants – supposedly unrivalled nutritional credentials. But what if we looked a little closer to home, at the fruits that grace our hedgerows, gardens and allotments, to maybe find an even finer fruit!
It has recently been brought to light the British Blackcurrant yields 6 to 8 times the concentration of antioxidants blueberries do, making it one of, if not the, most nutritionally beneficial fruits (even blowing many veggies out the water too!).
Without trying to blind you (or me more to the point!) with science, blackcurrants contain the most amount of anthocyanin of any fruit – an antioxidant that increases blood to our muscles, helping with both physical performance and recovery, similar to claims made recently of beetroot. But the best bit is, your fruity health fix comes without the colossal air miles, simply foraged on a brisk walk around the British countryside – what could be better for the heart and the sole!
But enough about science, lets talk flavour!…
Highly versatile and beautifully brilliant in both sweet and savoury dishes, blackcurrants are have a subtle floral flavouring that pairs them perfectly with citrus and herby ingredients.
I like blackcurrants with rich meaty game, but it can sometimes be a little heavy for this time of year. The great thing is, blackcurrants are in abundance, so enjoy fresh whilst you can, and preserve what you can’t possible consume! Preserved jams, sauces and jellies will be perfect for when the game season arrives later on in the year.
For now, I have taken the sweet root, making a Blackcurrant, thyme and lemon jam using fresh currants. The thyme enhances the blackcurrants floral palate that alludes so vividly to summer vibes, and the lemon maintains its characteristic tartness which I so love! This simple recipe makes for a delicious compote that can be simply spooned over yoghurt, poured over pancakes or spread generously on buttery toast.
I have gone on to make a decadent yet zesty Lemon and Blackcurrant Tart using my blackcurrant jam, but there is no reason you can’t stop at the buttery pastry and reap the blackcurrant’s superfood benefits without the calories! Simply swap the sugar for raw honey and you’re well on your way to a super healthy hedgerow haul!
- 350g Blackcurrants
- 180g caster sugar
- 6 lemons
- 5 thyme stalks
- Shortcrust pastry (500g ready-made)
- 5 eggs
- 150ml cream
- Thoroughly wash the blackcurrants before removing all the stalks. Place 300g of the blackcurrants in a saucepan, along with 30g sugar (2 tbsp), zest and juice of 1 lemon, the leaves from 5 thyme stalks and a tbsp water.
- Set over a medium heat and allow the fruit to simmer and stew. Leave on the hob to reduce for approximately 20 minutes or until a jammy consistency is achieved. Check the consistency by coating a spoon with the jam and running your finger down the back of the spoon – if a line holds the jam is ready. Pour into a cold bowl and chill in fridge until completely cool.
- In the meantime, roll out the pastry – on a floured surface – large enough to line a deep, 9inch cake tin. Carefully lift the rolled pastry into the greased and lined tin, gently pressing the pastry into the base. Overhang the pastry at the top of the tin to avoid shrinkage in the oven. Prick all over using a fork, and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, and pre-heat the oven to 160°C/Gas Mark 3
- Once chilled, line the pastry with greaseproof paper and baking beans. Place in the oven and cook for 15 minutes. Take out of the oven and remove the paper and beans. Brush the pastry with a little milk, turn the oven down to 140°C/Gas Mark 2 and return the pastry case to the oven for 15 minutes or until light golden brown all over.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Spoon the jam into the base of pastry case and place in the fridge to completely chill and set slightly, whilst you make the lemon custard.
- Whisk together the eggs, remaining sugar and the zest and juice of 4 – 5 lemons. Pour in the cream and combine all the ingredients before pouring into a saucepan. Gently warm the mixture on a low heat – by this time your pastry case and jam should be completely cooled. Remove from the fridge and tip you lemon custard into a jug.
- Carefully and slowly pour the lemon custard over the jam – the two will mix slightly, but try not to disrupt the jam too much. Scatter in the remaining blackcurrants before carefully placing the oven. Turn the oven back up to 160°C/Gas Mark 3 and bake for 25 – 30 minutes, until the custard as just set, and the tart still has a wobble. Remove from the oven and allow to fully cool (this will ensure your tart is set before you serve).
- Sprinkle generously with icing sugar and serve with a scoop of ice cream or a generous dollop of clotted cream!