Blackberrying

August 14, 2011 § 2 Comments

Nothing to do with electronic devices but the easiest and most rewarding of wild foods for the first-time forager.

These beauties came from the grounds of the house on the North Wales coast where we holidayed last week. For us Mancunians, it’s like Cornwall but without the long car journey. Breathtaking mountain backdrops, glorious sandy beaches, quaint stone cottages – all it lacks is reliable sunshine.

The brambles love it there and there is excellent blackberrying to be had at this time of year if you can find a sunny spot against a dry stone wall where the fruit has had chance to ripen. The best blackberries are always just out of reach – but maybe the scratches and attendant cunning required to hook down the high branches are all part of the appeal, the annual repetition of childhood ritual.

What to do with your precious hard-won haul? If you’ve exhausted the repertoire of pies, crumbles and jellies, here’s an idea for an easy-to-make pudding that lets the flavour of the blackberries shine through. It’s a blackberry clafoutis, the simple French baked pudding from the Limousin region usually made with cherries. This version, which I’ve adapted from Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” replaces cherries with blackberries.

The house where we stay when we come to this part of Wales is a rambling manor house remodelled in the last century by Clough Williams-Ellis, architect of nearby Portmeirion. Cooking here is a pleasure as the house is blessed with a cool slate shelved pantry and well-equipped kitchen with cupboards packed with Portmeirion pottery. But you don’t need a well-equipped kitchen to make this pudding -it’s quick and easy and the proportions are forgiving so it’s perfect to make when your’re staying in a holiday house or cottage.

The berries are macerated in delicious Crème de Mûre, French blackberry liqueur, and the resulting juices are added to the batter mixture along with some blanched almonds which enrich the pudding and the subtle almond flavour works well with the blackberries.

The tip in the recipe for pouring a layer of batter into the baking dish and gently letting this cook to provide a base so that the fruit can’t all sink to the bottom really does work:

Adding the macerated blackberry juices to the mixture turns the batter an appealing but shade of pink:

But don’t worry, despite starting off as pink, the baked clafoutis will puff up and become crusty and golden brown just as the recipe promises.

Dust with icing sugar or sprinkle with caster sugar and serve with chilled pouring cream. Dig in and enjoy your the fruits of your blackberrying.

Recipe for clafoutis

Adapted from Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. I give first of all the basic recipe with cherries, then variants with liqueur, almonds and blackberries. The version I cooked last week combined all 3 ie I substituted blackberries for cherries, macerated the blackberries in liqueur and added almonds to the batter as well.

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

For the batter

½ pint milk
2oz granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
2 and ½ oz sifted flour

For the fruit

¾ lb stoned black cherries
2 oz granulated sugar

Place the ingredients for the batter in the jar of a liquidiser or food processor in the order listed. Cover and blend at top speed for 1 minute. If you don’t have a liquidiser, break the eggs into a well in the flour and sugar and gradually incorporate them into the batter with a whisk, adding milk as you go.

Pour a ¼ inch layer of batter into a 3 to 4 pint capacity shallow ovenproof baking dish. Place over a moderate heat or hot oven until the batter has set. Remove from the heat. Spread the cherries over the batter and sprinkle on the sugar.

Pour over the rest of the batter and smooth the surface with the back of a spoon.
Place in the middle of an oven preheated to 160 degrees C fan; 350 degrees F and bake for about an hour. The clafoutis is ready when it is puffed and brown and when a knife plunged into the centre comes out clean.

Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve hot or warm.

Variant 1 – cherries marinated in kirsch

Additional ingredients

1/8 pint kirsch
2 oz granulated sugar

Let the cherries stand in the kirsch and sugar for one hour. Substitute the liquid that results for some of the milk and all of the sugar in the master recipe.

Variant 2 – with almonds – “À la Bourdaloue”

Additional ingredients

3 oz blanched almonds

Add the almonds to the liquidizer and puree along with the other ingredients. If you don’t have access to a liquidiser, add ground almonds to the flour instead and proceed with the well mixing method as described in the master recipe above.

Variant 3 – Blackberry

Substitute 12oz stemmed and washed blackberries for the cherries.

Increase the flour from 2 and 1/2 oz to 3 and 1/2 oz as the berries are juicier than the cherries.

Just as a footnote, if you fancy having a go at the classic Limousin version of clafoutis with cherries then I can recommend the Oxo Good Grips cherry-stoning device which I picked up on Amazon.co.uk for £7.99. This gadget really is the business and the boys couldn’t get there hands on it once they realised they could fire cherry stones at one another…

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§ 2 Responses to Blackberrying

  • Looks really delicious. I love blackberries, I just posted a recipe using my hand picked berries. They grow everywhere near me – so delicious.

  • Aunty Madge says:

    Here I am, torn to pieces by brambles,stung by nettles and fingers stained purple,all because I was fired by your article to go blackberrying. I came home laden with a very satisfying harvest.
    The next step is to make a clafoutis and I am very anxious to try out your recipe. After numerous attempts I have never made a clafoutis that didn’t separate into a pasty gunge at the bottom and a light custard at the top.( I can’t remember where the fruit was!) I don’t know where I go wrong. I follow the recipe faithfully (is that the problem?) and have used various dishes all with the same sad result. Maybe the Rhubarb Fool with a little help from Julia, will put me right. Otherwise I will never ever try making a clafoutis again.

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