Foraging for Blackberries

Saturday, March 15, 2014

There is something quite addictive about foraging for food or anything for that matter.  I do believe that it could in fact be genetic as I always have an instinctive need to know what's in season and available waiting to be foraged.

This was definitely the case on a recent trip to Tasmania.  I jumped at an opportunity to join Megan Morton, Australia's leading stylist, in Tasmania for her interstate programme of The School.  It was late summer early autumn, where the days are warm and long and the weather balmy, the days linger and the variety of late summer fruit plentiful.  As Autumn beacons the autumn fruits ripen and early varieties are begging to be picked.

Driving through the countryside, I had noticed only four weeks earlier, that there were plenty of blackberry bushes lining the roadside ladened with unripe berries.  I had made a mental note and this trip I was eager to see if they were ready to pick.  Not fazed by the fact that I was travelling and didn't have anything to put my beautiful black jewels in, I headed off to the local secondhand store and bought a large jar.  I found a spot off the main road and picked and ate blackberries to my hearts content with just the sound of the buzzing bumble bees and the birds to keep me company.

I never have a problem knowing what to do with my foraged loot. I often have too many ideas though and sometimes have to narrow the choices down to one or two.  Megan had asked me to provide some refreshments for the classes being held through The School so, as the weather was still warm and balmy, I decided to serve something cool and refreshing.

My first choice was blackberries with raspberries and strawberries with a splash of rose water.  This brings out the flavour of the berries, without the need for sugar, served with mascarpone cream.  The other option was blackberry lemon verbena panna cotta.  I decided to make this instead on my return home.

Blackberry + Raspberry + Strawberry  Mascarpone Cream

250 grams blackberries
250 grams raspberries
250 grams strawberries
2 tablespoons rose water

Wash and drain the berries, then place them in a bowl and add the rose water.  Leave to infuse for an hour before serving.  Always serve berries at room temperature this allows the flavour of the berries to be at their best.

Mascarpone Cream

150 grams mascarpone
150 grams creme fraiche or a thick creamy yoghurt

Place mascarpone and creme fraiche in a bowl and stir together.  You can add some raw honey if you wish or a splash of rose water according to your taste.  I find by adding creme fraiche or yoghurt to the mascarpone makes it less rich however feel free to just use mascarpone.

To serve place berries in glass or china bowls and top with mascarpone cream.

Lemon Verbena Blackberry Panna Cotta

600 ml cream
1 cup of lemon verbena leaves
juice of a lemon
2 sheets of gelatine

Place the cream, verbena leaves and the juice of a lemon in a saucepan and slowly bring to a simmer.  Remove from the heat and allow the leaves to infuse.  Place the gelatine sheets in a bowl of water for about 3-4 minutes or until soft.  Then squeeze the water from the gelatine sheets and add to the saucepan of hot cream.  Place the saucepan back on the heat and whisk gently until the gelatine is completely dissolved, do not boil.

Pour the mixture through a sieve into a heat proof jug to remove the verbena leaves, allow to cool slightly. Pour into little glasses for serving and place in the refrigerator overnight to set.

If you can't find lemon verbena leaves use the zest of a lemon instead.

For those of you who don't follow a Paleo lifestyle feel free to add a dessert spoon of raw honey to the warm cream prior to pouring into little glasses.  The blackberry compote does add a sweetness of its own.  I have found this to be more than sweet enough without having to resort to honey.

Blackberry Compote

350 grams blackberries fresh or frozen
1 tablespoon of water

Keep a few blackberries aside for garnishing then place remaining berries and water in a saucepan and bring gently to a simmer until berries are soft and juicy.  Remove from the heat and pour through a sieve over a heat proof jug and use the back of a wooden spoon to push the berries through.  Set aside until cool then keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve.  I find the berries sweet enough without the need to add sweetener, however feel free to add if you wish.

To serve, remove from the refrigerator and pour some blackberry compote over the top of the panna cotta and sprinkle a few of the reserved berries.


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