Have a good sum­mer

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Diy Fod -

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.

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