Blackberry, rosemary, elderflower cordial and white chocolate chunks
The only thing better than food is free food. That’s why there’s no time of year quite like blackberry season. All along the banks of the river and at the borders of every park, hedgerows burst into fruit, and any walk is liable to leave me with crimson-stained fingers until I get home.
This dish was inspired by the bounty that this season offers up for free: blackberries from Shotover park and Mesopotamia walk; elderflower cordial made from Warnford Meadow; apples from our garden and rosemary purloined from someone else’s
It’s also a little bit of a twist on the gastropub stalwart of blackberry and apple crumble with vanilla ice cream. I’ve never liked putting blackberries in apple crumble. The blackberry flavour diminishes in the cooking and you’re left picking seeds out from between your teeth.
This ice cream, with the rich, fresh blackberry flavour, is great on its own, but it goes perfectly with apple crumble. I’ve included a recipe for that as well, but there’s nothing new about it – I’ve cooked it the same way since I had to stand on a chair to reach the table.
400g (or more) of blackberries, washed and drained
In a blender or food processor, blend blackberries for at least two full minutes, 30 seconds at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl when you need to. If it doesn’t seem to be turning into liquid, add some water a tablespoon at a time.
Set a sieve over a bowl. Put a couple of spoonfuls of the blended blackberries into the sieve and use a metal spoon to try to force as much through as possible. Discard the seeds and pulp from the sieve once you’ve got at much through the sieve as possible – you won’t be able to get all the fruit through, but this is unavoidable. Keep going until you’ve separated the whole batch out into smooth purée and seedy pulp. You’ll probably lose about 1/3 of the weight of the blackberries.
Hedgerow ice cream
(adapted from David Lebovitz’s vanilla ice cream)
Makes about 1L
150g or ml whole milk
1 small sprig of rosemary
300g or ml cream
250g or ml of blackberry puree, fridge cold
15g (3tbsp) elderflower cordial
75g white chocolate, broken into 0.5-1cm pieces
Put milk, salt and sugar in a small pan. Heat over a low flame until the milk just starts to steam. Add the rosemary, cover with a lid and let it infuse for about an hour.
Set up a double boiler – put a bowl over a saucepan with a little water in it. Make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Take the bowl off for now and bring the water to a low boil. Reduce the heat to low.
Beat the egg yolks in that bowl. Remove the rosemary and reheat the milk until its steaming again. Temper the eggs by slowly pouring the milk into them while whisking constantly
Put the bowl back over the saucepan. Keep at a low heat and stir constantly with a heatproof spatula – continuously scraping down the sides of the bowl. The custard is done when its thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.
Remove the bowl from the heat and mix in the cream, cold blackberry purée and elderflower cordial. Reserve this mixture in the fridge until cold, or preferably overnight.
Add the white chocolate to the mix and freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker as per the manufacturer’s instructions. When it’s done, do a quick check for even distribution of chocolate chips and put the ice cream in the freezer to firm up a bit.
Separately, both the crumble and the stewed apples keep for several days in the fridge. On the other hand, cold apple crumble does not survive the midnight snacking hour in my house.
Makes a 12″ by 9″ crumble, probably good for 8-12 portions at a dinner party.
For the crumble:
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Generous pinch grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
Pinch of salt
110g Butter, very cold from the fridge and cut into 1/2cm cubes
100g light soft brown sugar
For the apples:
Around 1kg of apples (I use the ones from my garden, which look and taste similar to Bramleys)
2-6 tbsp light brown sugar
Combine the flour and spices in the bowl of a food processor. Add the cubes of butter and pulse until the texture resembles breadcrumbs. Its quite nice to have a range of sizes here. Add the sugar and pulse again to combine.
Peel and core the apples. Drain, and transfer to a large saucepan with a couple of tablespoons of water (they’ll release more water as they cook). Sprinkle 2 tbsp of sugar on top and toss lightly. Cook over a low heat, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until the apples are al dente, with a bit of apple mush to go round. Add more sugar to taste.
Preheat the oven to 180 C/Gas mark 4
Spread a layer of apples out in a medium-sized roasting dish. Cover generously with crumble, raking it out with a fork. Put in the oven in a bain marie (a large tray filled with hot water.) Bake for 30-50 minutes, until golden brown on top.
Serve cold ice cream on top of hot apple crumble.
TIPS FOR GEEKS
You should be able to cook this recipe fine without reading anything below this line. But if you want to understand why I do things the way I do, read on.
Herbs like rosemary and lemon thyme go really well with blackberries – floral and fruity. I can’t remember where I got the idea though. I thought it was from The Flavour Thesaurus (if you buy the e-book edition for your smart phone – you’ll have it searchable and always to hand), but I looked again and blackberry and rosemary isn’t mentioned. It’s possible that I found inspiration under the sink.
I’ve separated off the blackberry purée recipe because a) a given quantity of blackberries makes a variable amount depending on how hard you try to push it through the damn sieve and b) I just go out and pick LOADS of blackberries, make a huge batch of puree and freeze it in portions.
Limit how much water you add to the purée because it does dilute the flavour.
The base recipe I use for all my ice creams is David Lebovitz’s vanilla ice cream. I’ve scaled his recipe to to 3/5ths, which is one batch in my ice cream machine. However, I usually make double the custard base (without infusing the rosemary) and make another flavour with the second half. This is convenient because cream comes in 600ml tubs and eggs in cartons of 6.
I hate measuring liquids by volume. It’s inaccurate, it makes more washing up and if its something thick like cream, you have to scrape it out of the measuring jug. If you go by weight, you can put the saucepan or mixing bowl on top of a pair of digital scales and pour it straight in. For most liquids, 1g is close enough to 1ml that it won’t make a difference.
Instead of infusing the rosemary in the milk, you could blend it with the blackberry purée.
If you pour all of the hot milk directly onto the eggs, the heat will cook them too quickly and they’ll scramble, going lumpy. Tempering, pouring the hot liquid in slowly and mixing constantly, avoids this. Its also the way you avoid making a lumpy roux or pancake batter – put the flour in a bowl and add the liquid slowly while stirring.
A double boiler is a really great way to cook a custard. It works on the same principle as tempering – distribute the heat over the whole mixture, preventing the eggs from scrambling.
A photo explanation of “until it coats the back of the spoon” can be seen on Simply Recipies’ Mint Choc Chip ice cream.
A big part of what I like about this ice cream is the gorgeous shade of purple that it goes. When I mix the blackberry purée into the ice cream mix, I mostly just keep adding until I’m happy with the colour.
If you’re in the market, this is my ice cream machine. It works very nicely, but I haven’t compared it to any other ones.
Crumble is basically pastry that hasn’t been brought together with liquid. If you break a tart case while you’re cooking it, you can turn it into crumble in a food processor.
Making pastry or crumble by hand is perfectly possible, but its best to start with even colder butter – put it it the freezer for half an hour. Rubbing fat into flour with your fingertips needs you to work quickly and with a light touch, or the heat of your hands will melt the pastry and it won’t be as flaky and crumbly as it could be. For this reason, I much prefer using a food processor.
To avoid the apples oxidising and going brown, put them into a bowl of water with a squeeze of lemon juice in it as soon as you cut them.
Depending on the variety, you may want to adjust the amount of sugar and the cooking time. Bramleys are very sharp and quite hard, so they want a lot of cooking with plenty of sugar.
Ovens vary hugely in how long they take to bake things. If you have a gas oven (like I do), a baking recipe can easily take 50% longer than a fan oven. Its also much more likely to brown on the outside and be undercooked in the middle, due to the difference between convection heat (fan ovens) and radiant heat. I’ll address this in more detail in a later post.
- Apple crumble and autumn days (mummysays.net)
- No-churn Apple Crumble Ice Cream (colonialcravings.wordpress.com)
- apple picking at Taves Family Farm (ashlyandmonkey.wordpress.com)
- From Garden to Table: Apple and Blackberry Crumble (spiceinthecity.wordpress.com)