This weekend we went blackberry picking, or, as Harry would have it, ‘hunting and catching black strawberries’. Whereas strawberries are quite robust and able to resist the pincer-like grip of a two-year old, blackberries were something of a revelation to H, given their tendency to explode into purple mush at first grasp. Our journey along the hedgerow was thus peppered by startled exclamations & chortling from Harry and much wiping of blackberry juice from eyes, hair, clothing and the occasional unfortunate passerby. Our exertions left us suddenly hungry, causing us to eat almost all of our spoils – so we had to start again. I now understand why supermarket blackberries cost so much; it can take hours to fill a bucket..
We added an apronful of windfall apples from the garden and some homemade lavender sugar to make these individual crumbles, which seemed to disappear in the blink of an eye, though doubtless will reappear on my waistline shortly. I made up this recipe, I must confess, so feel free to adapt and experiment; we love a dash of ginger and cinnamon so you’ll see both here… and whilst purists use brown sugar in the compote, we prefer our white lavender sugar for a taste of sunshine. My quantities make 4 individual crumbles, so just flex your quantities, keeping the ratios, for the size you need.
For the fruit compote:
- 5 eating apples, or 2 cooking apples
- 2 cupfuls of blackberries
- 3 tablespoons of sugar (halve this if using eating apples, which are much sweeter and less tart). I used lavender sugar, made a few months before by stirring dried lavender sprigs into a jar of sugar and sealing tight; this gives a lovely hint of flavour and aroma to the sugar which is enhanced by cooking.
- pinch of cinnamon
Peel, core and chop the apples into bite-sized chunks, and soften on the hob with a spoonful of water and the sugar. Set the oven to 180c/350f to come to temperature whilst you prepare the crumble. After 5-10 minutes the kitchen will fill with the delicious smell of caramelising apple; take the pan off the hob and stir in the berries and cinnamon. Spoon into individual ovenproof bowls or a single dish.
For the crumble topping
- 200g / 7oz plain flour
- 100g / 3.5oz soft brown sugar
- 100g / 3.5oz butter, at room temperature
- pinch of ginger (optional)
- handful of flaked almonds or chopped nuts
Stir together the dry ingredients and then add the butter, crumbling together with your fingers till you have a lumpy, sandy consistency; don’t work it in completely as you don’t want the top to be too fine and smooth. Spoon this mixture over the fruit and sprinkle with the nuts, if using.
Finally pop in the oven for around 20 minutes; they’re done when the top browns slightly and the filling begins to bubble. Use this time constructively to decide whether you are going to accompany these with custard (the traditional British favourite), whipped cream, ice cream or – heart health be damned – all three. When cooled slightly, pile these beauties onto a tray and find a nice tree in the garden under which to eat them, because food really does taste better outdoors, especially after all that hard work in the hedgerows…