Per­fect parcels of mel­low fruit­ful­ness

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Front Page -

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

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