Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Foraged Food: Blackberries

Rachel, Dublin
Blackberry season is upon us and I had the great foresight sheer luck to have booked some of the warmest days of the year so far off work.  I wanted to take full advantage of this foraging opportunity so I armed myself with some rubber gloves (not glamorous, but essential) and some plastic containers and set off for a suitable looking laneway between Sandyford and the Scalp in Enniskerry.  One of my favourite things about living in Dublin has to be how quickly you can be in the middle of the countryside.
Just like with my elderflower, I was a little over zealous with my foraging and the three containers above netted me a bumper haul of just over 600 grams.  I wanted to take full advantage of my bounty but many recipes I found required as little as 60 grams; I wanted something where the blackberry would be the star of the show. 
Inspired by Aoife's Rhubarb Vodka and a recipe I found in Nigella's book, Kitchen, I decided that blackberry vodka had to be experimented with, and, as I wanted to enjoy some of my berries on the day that I'd picked them I thought that a simple sponge pudding was also in order. 
Blackberry Vodka
Blackberry Vodka from Nigella Lawson's book, Kitchen
This is half the quantity of Nigella's recipe as I wanted to have enough berries left for the sponge.
250g Blackberries
100g Caster sugar
350ml Vodka    
Sterilise a suitably sized Kilner jar (I used a two pint size) by washing it in warm, soapy water and then drying it in a 100C fan oven for ten minutes.  Add all the ingredients to the jar, close it, and shake vigorously until all the sugar has dissolved.  Leave in a cool dark place and shake daily for the first two weeks, less frequently after that.  After four to six weeks strain out the berries and pour the vodka into a glass bottle.  I fully intend on following Nigella's suggestion to use the berries to make her 'drunken fool' recipe - I shall let you know how that turns out!
Blackberry Sponge from Brenda Costigan's 'From Brenda's Kitchen'
350g Blackberries
Juice of one Orange
1 heaped teaspoon Cornflour
25-50g Caster Sugar (depending on tartness of your berries)
110g Salted Butter, softened (plus a little for greasing your dish)
110g Caster Sugar
110g Self Raising Flour
2 large Eggs
A few drops of Vanilla Essence  
Whipped cream to serve
Preheat your oven to 170 degrees (fan), grease a 2 pint oven dish and place it in the oven to get hot.  Put the berries in a saucepan, mix the cornflour with the orange juice and add to the berries.  Stir over a medium-high heat until the mixture comes to the boil and begins to thicken.  Add sugar to taste and keep the berry mixture hot while you make the sponge.
Using a handheld whisk, cream the butter and sugar together.  Add the eggs one at a time and whisk after each addition.  Whisk in the vanilla essence.  Sieve the flour into the bowl and then fold into the mixture until just combined.
Take the dish out of the oven and pour your hot berry mixture into the bottom.  Dot the sponge mixture across the top using a spatula. You will not be able to spread it out evenly, this is fine, it will join up when cooked.  Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, check it is done by inserting a skewer into the sponge.  It should come out clean, without any sponge mixture sticking to it.  Serve with cream.
My sponge still looked a bit patchy when it was done but this was because my dish was too big, it was cooked through perfectly though and the blackberry mixture had turned wonderfully jammy in the oven, delicious.


Dotting my sponge mixture on to my berries

Sponge not quite joined up but looking lovely

Blackberry Sponge with Whipped Cream

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