Perfect parcels of mellow fruitfulness
Blackberries are a mainstay of one of my favourite pastimes, foraging. Right now, the hedgerows – and, near where I live, the canal towpaths of east London – are laden with sweet little purple parcels of deliciousness. I’ve always loved them. Childhood holidays in Ireland were often spent blackberrying; our quarry often ending up in my father’s mysteriously named “Bavarian apple pie”. The tart here is based on that fondly recalled dish, though I still don’t know where Dad got the name, or the recipe.
The blackberry’s traditional partner is the early, unripe windfall apple – a pairing that Rose Prince explores on the opposite page. But I have also found that blackberries combine well with a ripe, sweet, latesummer peach, and my take on a classic summer pudding exploits this. It’s not traditional by any means, but it really works, and the slight acidity of crème fraîche is a welcome change from the cloying comfort of thick cream.
I’ve been getting into retro desserts recently – black forest gâteau and peach Melba have graced these pages in recent weeks – and I’ve always been a fan of trifles. The combination of port and blackberries seems to really work. Something about the oaky richness of port and the earthy tang of blackberries makes them happy companions in this twist on a classic.
Serves 8 200g/7oz sugar 275ml/½ pint cheap port 450g/1lb blackberries, plus a few extra to decorate A squeeze of lemon juice 600ml/1 pint double cream 200ml/7fl oz whole milk 1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped 1 egg, plus 3 egg yolks 200g/7oz stale sponge cake, Madeira cake or Savoiardi biscuits A handful flaked almonds, toasted
Place half the sugar and half the port in a pan and simmer for a couple of minutes until the sugar dissolves. Drop in the blackberries, add a squeeze of lemon, stir gently once, then take off the heat. Leave to cool.
Meanwhile, prepare the custard. Over a low heat, bring half the cream and all the milk to a simmer along with the vanilla pod. Whisk the egg and yolks with the remaining sugar for a couple of minutes until they begin to look paler. As soon as the milk is about to boil, slowly pour it over the eggs, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the pan and stir slowly over a low heat with a wooden spoon until the custard thickens and coats the back of the spoon, about three minutes. Transfer to a chilled bowl and allow to cool.
Spoon the fruit into your trifle bowl and return the syrup to a low heat for two minutes to reduce; pour over the fruit and leave to cool. Slice the cake into 1cm-thick slices, or cut the Savoiardi biscuits in half.
Beat the remaining double cream into stiff peaks, then assemble the trifle by placing the cake on top of the fruit and pouring the remaining port over the cake. Follow this with the cooled custard and the whipped cream. Scatter over the almonds and dot around a few extra blackberries. Place in the fridge for a couple of hours before eating.
Serves 8-10 Pastry 140g/5oz plain flour 40g/1½oz icing sugar 90g/3½oz butter, chilled 1 egg yolk Topping 50g/2oz cold butter, chopped 40g/1½oz plain flour 25g/1oz brown sugar 50g/2oz hazelnuts, toasted, peeled and roughly chopped 50g/2oz flaked almonds Fruit 1 apple, peeled, cored and cut into small chunks 1 cinnamon stick 100g/4oz sugar 400g/14oz blackberries Mascarpone cream 2 egg yolks 2 tbsp icing sugar 250g/9oz tub mascarpone ½ vanilla pod, seeds scraped
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/ gas 4. First make the pastry. You can do this by hand or in a processor. Sift the flour and icing sugar together and add a pinch of salt. Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and mix until the mixture just comes together. If the pastry seems dry, add a splash of water. Form into a round, cover with cling film and place in the freezer for one hour.
Meanwhile, prepare everything else. Place the butter, flour and sugar in a food processor and blend until you have breadcrumbs. Add the nuts with a pinch of salt, then press the blend button a couple of times until everything is just combined, but the nuts aren’t too broken up. Spread over a piece of baking paper, place on a baking tray and put in the oven for 15 minutes until it hardens, but isn’t too coloured. Remove from the oven and break up. Leave to cool.
Coarsely grate the pastry and press it evenly around the edges and base of a 23cm tart tin, to a thickness of about ½cm/¼in. Prick the base with a fork and place in the freezer for 10 minutes.
Place the pastry in the oven and bake until golden and just cooked, about 10 minutes. Leave to cool and keep the oven on.
Place the apple, cinnamon and sugar in a pan with a splash of water and cook for five minutes until the apple begins to soften. Add two thirds of the berries, and cook for a further two to three minutes until the berries begin to break down. Use a fork to crush everything up a bit, then discard the cinnamon and stir in the remaining blackberries, and immediately take off the heat. Leave to cool slightly.
Spoon the fruit over the base of the tart, then sprinkle over the crumble. Place in the oven for 10 minutes, until the crumble is golden.
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together, then beat in the mascarpone and the vanilla pod seeds. Serve dolloped over the tart. You can replace the wine with water for a non-alcoholic version, but wine really brings out the best in the blackberries.
Brambles’ best: blackberry and port trifle, main picture; blackberry & hazelnut tart with mascarpone cream, top left, blackberry and peach summer pudding, above