Blackberries are one of the few foods for me that really are still truly seasonal; their flavour has the effect that strawberries used to – transporting me immediately back to the last few days of summer, and blackberry picking walks, collecting as many bramble scratches on my forearms as fruit in my soft-scoop carton. Their inky shine and spicy mustiness is almost too exotic for an English fruit, but English it is, and as such it is most commonly found in crumbles, puddings and pies come September, often combined with its soulmate, the Bramley apple.
The cultivated variety, sold in supermarkets look fabulous – prodigiously bursting with juice, but lack the intensity of the wild blackberries, grown at the mercy of our unpredictable weather. So, imagine if you will, my excitement last August when, while walking a golf course with my family, we spotted berries with the same magnificent looks, but hanging proudly off a large clump of bushes (beneath a heavily laden apple tree – you couldn’t make it up). In a state of slightly embarrassing excitement, I commandeered every improvised receptacle in sight to collect the bounty. Several baseball hats and gathered golf towels did the trick, and we returned the following day with Tupperware to do the job properly.
There was so much fruit that I was able to make several pots of jam (combined with cherries also found on the same walk) and a couple of blackberry and almond tarts before squirrelling the remainder away in the freezer. I have been chucking the odd handful into milkshakes ever since, but pulled the rest out last week to combine with the last of the my father’s Bramleys in an apple traybake. This is really versatile as it can be served with coffee or as a dessert with custard. This is just as well, as it can’t hang around – the sugar loses its crunch indecently early – after about a day, so although it’s still good, immediate gobbling is recommended!
INGREDIENTS – makes about 10 – 12 pieces
450g cooking apples (such as Bramley)
Two good handfuls of blackberries
juice of ½ lemon
225g butter, softened
280g golden caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
350g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp milk
demerara sugar, to sprinkle
– Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Butter and line a traybake tin (approx 27cm x 20cm) with parchment paper.
– Peel, core and thinly slice the apples and squeeze over the lemon juice.
– Remove your blackberries from the freezer if you need to – they don’t need to be completely thawed.
– Place the butter, caster sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour and baking powder into a large bowl and mix well until smooth, adding the milk as you go.
– Spread half the mixture into the prepared tin. Arrange half the apples and blackberries over the top of the mixture, then repeat the layers.
– Arrange blackberries and slices of apple on top and sprinkle over the demerara sugar.
– Bake for 45-50 mins until golden and a skewer come out clean. Leave to cool for 10 mins, then turn out of tin and remove paper. Cut into bars or squares.
If you can you get hold of blackberries where you are, let me know how you cook with them!