Blackberries: Rambles in the brambles
Iconic of the British countryside and synonymous of the transition into a new season, the beautiful bramble has been a staple autumnal ingredient for thousands of years.
This neolithic berry has long been embroiled in mystery, medicine and folklore with particular mythology concerning the South West. Some have associated it to the devil, others a cure for rickets or whooping cough, but West Country legend specially depicts the first blackberry of every season to be the answer to troublesome warts! Whether you are suspicious or not, it is clear that blackberries have long been held in high regard as a nutritionally benefitting bramble packed full of natural goodness.
With well over 300 species of bramble growing in the UK alone, it is no surprise our hedgerows are brimming and branches bending this time of year with this beautiful fruit. Although its name would suggest it belonged to the berry family, blackberries are botanically aggregate fruit made up of small drupelets.
Bursting with sharp, rich, earthy flavours, blackberries are one of my favourite fruits to use in savoury cooking. Undeniably, and without shame, a blackberry and apple crumble will grace my table multiple times a year, however, blackberries in my opinion, are in their prime when paired with brazen savoury ingredients that can match their intensity and take no prisoners!
They are one fruit that stands up to the richness of red, but particularly gamey meats, that very few soft fruits can do. Their gritty, earthiness makes them the ideal pairing to venison and game birds encouraging depth of flavour but a delicate level of acidity to lighten dishes.
So this week I have developed my full-flavoured venison burgers with blackberry and red onion chutney. Topped with smoked cheese and a handful of peppery rocket this burgers take patties to another level! Maybe on your forage, pick up some field mushrooms too to add a little more magic to these burgers!
- Knob of butter
- 1 large red onion, finely sliced
- 300g Blackberries
- 2 tbsp soft brown sugar
- 2 tbsp caster sugar
- 4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp water
- Leaves of 5 thyme stalks
- 1 white onion
- 1 garlic clove
- leaves from 3 thyme stalks
- 750g minced venison
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tsp dried mixed herbs
- 1 tbsp worcester sauce
- Salt and pepper
- 1 egg
- 200g smoked cheese
- First make the chutney. Melt the butter in a pan over a medium heat, before adding the onion. Sautee the onion until soft then add the blackberries to the pan. Add all the remaining ingredients, allowing the sugar to completely dissolve before reducing the heat and simmering for 20 minutes, or until the chutney has reduced and thickened.
- Once reduced, remove from the heat, spoon into a separate bowl and allow to cool. This chutney can been kept in a sterilised jar for up to 3 weeks. Whilst the chutney is cooling, make the burgers.
- Finely dice the onion and garlic and gently fry in a little oil for 3 minutes. Add the thyme leaves and cook over a gentle heat for a further 1 minute. Tip the ingredients into a large bowl and allow to cool slightly before adding the minced venison, paprika, herbs and worcester sauce. Season well before adding a beaten egg and combine all the ingredients together using your hands.
- Divided the mixture into four before shaping into large, round patties of approximately 2 – 3cm thickness. Lay on a lined baking tray and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Once firm, remove the burgers a heat the grill.
- Cook on either side for 5 -7 minutes before topping with smoked cheese and returning to the grill to melt. Serve in a seeded roll with plenty of blackberry chutney and some peppery rocket.