Have a good summer
I'm crazy about berries. Perhaps I was a bear in a past life? I came to this conclusion after spending three summers in Canada where some of my favourite memories are about eating wild berries: huckleberries, salmon berries, thimble berries, blueberries, all growing abundantly and ripe for the picking. All you had to do was look out for bears.
But one day, I missed one. I spent two weeks of my first visit to Canada picking raspberries near Kelowna (a few hours east of Vancouver). Unfortunately, my employer failed to alert me to the possibility of coming across bears helping themselves to the same sweet fruit.
I'm not sure who got the biggest fright. I turned into a row and there was a little black bear sitting on its haunches having a good old munch, stripping pawfuls off with practised ease. He (or she) lumbered off with a great deal of snorting when it saw me, and I tore back to the packhouse feeling like my heart was about to leap right out of my chest.
My employer must have had a good old chuckle, and his 'fix' was to give me a tin can with pebbles in it to shake every now and then to warn the bears. I'm sure the incident affected my picking rate as I never really stopped feeling nervous of another encounter. However, I never saw another bear in or near a berry patch again, although my husband assured me on our last visit to Canada that in his experience from growing up there, they would definitely be lurking somewhere nearby, gorging themselves on 'bear-ries'.
Fortunately for me, bear-free New Zealand is a good place to grow berries and one of the latest to begin colonising our roadsides is the wineberry. I first saw wineberries growing in a friend's garden in the Bay of Plenty 12 years ago but didn't come across them again until recently. A friend up the road has a gigantic patch, frequented by weka and laden each summer with the most delicate jewel-like berries I have ever seen. It takes a great deal of patience to pick enough for cooking with, but I persevere just so I can make this delicious berry cobbler in winter. I freeze as many berries as I can so that we can have winter smoothies to boost our immune systems, plus to make berry pancakes and puddings to warm the cockles of our sweettooth hearts.
The good thing about berries is that they are already quite sweet so the amount of sugar required when cooking drops significantly or to zilch. We're lucky to have a supply of frozen blueberries nearby, big boxes of seconds for great rates, and also mulberries; Mum picked and froze so many mulberries that
we are still using them, three years after her passing.
Puddings were very much a part of my childhood. We always had a prepared pudding of one sort or another and I assumed that everyone else ate it too. I remember going to stay at a school friend's place one weekend when I was quite young; after the main course, I stayed at the table when everyone else scraped back their chairs and headed for the TV room. My friend's mother asked me why I was still sitting there and I innocently inquired about the whereabouts of pudding. The whole family thought it was a great joke but I went to bed feeling somehow devoid of what up until then I had considered a universal constant.
My favourite was Mum's fresh peach cobbler and I still keep a sharp lookout for windfall peaches that go great in a cobbler with blueberries. Fortunately, there’s no need to check for bears. METHOD Mix the coconut sugar and cinnamon together and set aside. Whisk eggs together with the milk and lemon zest, then add the flour and whisk until you have a smooth batter. Fry the fruit slices in the coconut oil or butter for 5 minutes, turning gently so as to keep them whole. Place immediately into a greased oven-proof dish and toss through gently with the berries. Pour the batter over the fruit and bake for 20 minutes at 180°C. Remove the dish from the oven and drizzle the melted butter/ coconut oil onto the cobbler. Sprinkle over the sugar/cinnamon mix and bake for a further 10 minutes until the sugar is brown and/or bubbling. METHOD Cream the butter and sugar, then fold in the egg, followed by the flour, baking powder and nuts. Mix thoroughly until you have a workable but fairly sticky dough. Alternatively, you can put all the base ingredients into a food processor and pulse until well combined. Press with your fingers into a well-buttered, ovenproof 22cm dish and bake for 15 minutes at 180°C. METHOD While the base is baking, blend eggs, sweetener and yogurt until smooth. Remove the dish from the oven and sprinkle the berries over the base. Pour the liquid mixture evenly over the berries, then bake for 35 minutes until the custard has set. Cool completely in the dish before serving.