Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Blackberries and apples: the stars of the season

I used to take blackberry picking very seriously when I was a child. As soon as the season started, my two sisters and I would go blackberry picking with the neighbour's children and it was a matter of family honour that we would pick more than they did. We would fight our way through thorny brambles to reach the juiciest specimens, clamber down steep riverbanks to reach out-of-the-way briars and arrive home, scratched and bloodied but victorious, clutching buckets overflowing with purple berries.

I went blackberry picking for the first time this year at the weekend and was a little disappointed with my haul. It seems as though the blackberries of West Kerry are slow to ripen this year. 

Perhaps it's because we haven't had enough sunshine but the brambles aren't very heavy with fruits and had I presented my pitiful bowl of blackberries to my sisters (not to mention my neighbours) all those years ago, it would most definitely have been scoffed at.

Nevertheless, it was still enough to make a delicious blackberry and apple crumble. Blackberries and apples are two of the stars of the season and they are certainly the stars of this recipe - one you should all make before blackberry season is over for yet another year.  
This recipe feeds six generously.
250g blackberries
600g bramley apples or other cooking apple
The juice of half a lemon
80g to 120g of golden caster sugar (depending on how sweet you like your filling to be. I prefer mind slightly tart.)

125 cold, unsalted butter, cut into chunks
200g plain flour
100g golden caster sugar
A pinch of salt
75g porridge oats 

A baking dish (I used a rectangular one measuring 20cm by 28cm) 

  • Preheat the oven to 180 Celsius/350 F/Gas Mark 4.
  • Place your blackberries in a bowl of cold water for a few minutes to remove any dirt or insects. Drain in a sieve or colander.
  • Core and peel the apples and cut them into chunks. Place them in a bowl and toss them in the lemon juice, which will prevent them from discolouring and also add an extra level of flavour.
  • Add the blackberries and sugar and mix together.
  • Place in a baking dish. 
  • Place the butter, flour, sugar and salt for the crumble mixture in a large bowl and combine by rubbing the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingers. Rub, lift and drop the mixture until it has the texture of breadcrumbs. (If you're lucky enough to have a food processor, it can do this step for you.)
  • Once you've achieved the correct texture, stir in the porridge oats.
  • Sprinkle the crumble over the fruit. 
  • Cook in the oven for 35 to 45 minutes until the crumble is golden on top. 

  • Serve with cream or ice cream.  

My haul of blackberries may not have been enough to impress my competitive childhood self (or my siblings or indeed my neighbours) but what I did with it certainly was. 

Excuse the erratic lighting in these pictures. It was still light when I started making the crumble but dark by the time it had finished baking. That's autumn in Ireland for you!

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