Sunday, 9 September 2007

Little Foodie Foraging

Yesterday we left the house on foot, armed with plastic bowls inside bags in search of some free food. We weren't disappointed. We came back laden with blackberries and a note of where the best sloes are this year. Funnily enough before we went off on our Summer holiday I thought we wouldn't be in for a good harvest. How wrong I was. In the few weeks we were away the trees and bushes are suddenly full to bursting with fruit.

I love, love, love walking in the countryside near where we live. I look up at Box Hill and instantly remember being a child, swimming in the River Mole near the Stepping Stones on one of our many adventures (no grown ups). I do hope that we will allow the children to have that much freedom. Of course, I'll probably be hiding (in full camouflage, so I can remain undetected), just to keep an eye on them. I can't understand how we were allowed so much freedom as children and didn't come to any harm... Note to self: Get neurosis under control! They are still very young I'm sure as we see them grow we'll allow them a bit more freedom. Until then I'm going to relish every single adventure they allow us to have together.

Blackberry and Apple Crumble (could serve 8)
4 cups of blackberries
2-3 cups of peeled, chopped cooking apples
2 cups of fruit juice
200g/7oz plain flour
125g/4.5oz butter cut into cubes (I use whatever we have, salted or unsalted)
75g/3oz caster sugar (we use unrefined)
2 dessertspoons of brown sugar (whatever we have to hand)
(Extra sugar if you like your fruit to be sweet too. We prefer it to be slightly tart and therefore do not add sugar to the fruit).

Preheat oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 5
We used 4 separate oven proof bowls, each one would feed 2 people. You could use one large ovenproof bowl.
To each bowl we added 1 cup of washed blackberries, approx half a cup of chopped apple and half a cup of fruit juice (we used orange juice yesterday as it's all we had).
If you like your fruit to be sweet then sprinkle some sugar over the top of the fruit.
In a separate, large mixing bowl add the flour and cubes of butter and with your hands rub them together until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the caster sugar and give it a quick mix with your hands. Add the brown sugar and quick mix. Sprinkle this over the fruit and then cook in the oven for approximately 30 minutes until the top is just starting to colour.

There are so many books than can explain in a more technical way how to make crumble but it's not rocket science. Little for some reason makes the best crumble I've ever had and has done since he was very little.

A tip I remember from my childhood, I don't know if it works. Cold hands help - wash in cold water before you start mixing the butter and flour.

(I read a Nigel Slater recipe a while back that said he makes his crumble mix in the food processor but I've never tried it. I'm always half way through before I remember...)

Some pics from our walk yesterday...
Picking blackberries

A mouldy puffball mushroom, probably all the rain and one which had obviously been trampled on.
We found two huge ones last year. I didn't really rate the taste,
but it was still fascinating to find them and then come home and cook them..


Asha said...

Beautiful Blackberries.In India, they grow like weeds,we used spend hrs picking and eating them!:))
Crumble is yummy.

Cynthia said...

That's the spirit, enjoy them while you can but at the same time learn to let go a little. The thing is there will always be a time when they'll come back to you as grown adults needing to be close to you again, to nuzzle up, for reassurance, for your company...

Deborah said...

This looks so wonderful! I wish blackberries were easily found here. I'm thinking of trying to plant a bush next year...

David Hall said...

Amanda, you are a lady after my own heart - crumbles, especially bramble and apple, are foodstuffs from heaven. i can smell this all the way up here in Geordieland!


Kelly-Jane said...

I sometimes ponder the freedom we had as children and the lack of freedom now, but still I'm buying camoflague gear as well, just to be on the safe side!

It's a great feeling to come home from a wander with food! and your fruit looks beautiful.


Margaret said...

I've got some wild blackberries too. Unfortunately I can't bring myself to use them yet!

veron said...

I just love blackberries, they make the best cobbler and looks like they make a great blackberry apple crumble too!

Kelly Mahoney said...

My grandmother has a blackberry tree and we used to love picking them in the summer. We came back inside with buckets of berries and black-stained feet!

Peabody said...

I love the combination of apples and blackberries!

Marie said...

One look at the lovely picture at the top and I knew what was coming! Lovely Bramble and Apple crumble! Don't you just love this time of year!

Anonymous said...

looks fantastic. Blackberry picking was always one of my favourite passtimes and blackberry and apple crumble is the best comfort food - even cold from the fridge, a spoonful every time you go past. i'm surprised there was any left when you got home, you must have changed. Mxxxxx

Pat said...

Amanda it is so cool you are teaching the boys about foraging for blackberries! YUM!!!

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Hi Asha, sounds like fun!

Hi Cynthia, I know, it's just hard when we live in a world where bad things happen. We'll get there.

Hi Deborah, it might take a while to establish but once it does it will grow as Asha said, like weeds.

Hi David, thank you!

Hi Kelly-Jane, should we design our own range?

Hi Margaret, interested now to know what you'll do with yours.

Hi Veron, I don't think I've ever tried a cobbler - should change that really.

Hi Kelly, we were pretty stained from the blackberries too. Not our feet though, heavy duty shoe wear is a must for the nettles, etc.

Hi Peabody, me too and topped with crumble I love it even more.

Hi Marie, we do too!

Hi Mum, changed? me? Nah!

Hi Pat, we love it! The thing is teaching them not to pick every berry and that some are poisonous. The older one is fine with that. The younger one you have to watch like a hawk.

Thank you all for your comments.
Amanda x

Nora B. said...

Beautiful! How wonderful that you can do this with your kids. The camouflage comment brought a smile to my face, I understand where you are coming from. It doesn't help that when I am with my nephew, complete strangers would come up to us and pinch his cheeks and say "So cute!". That's Singaporeans for you...I'm the one who needs to be less paranoid! ;-)

I live in the suburbs, so no free fruits for me, but I do live near the bay, so I can get free fish. There's a good fishing spot just 10 feet away.

Truffle said...

Amanda- I can't tell you how heavenly this sounds. Your boys must have had tremendous fun. Sounds lovely.

Kevin said...

Blackberries and apples sounds like a great combination for a crumble.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Every morning we walk by the blackberry bushes along Lake Washington and I think I should bring a bucket but really somebody else is picking because I'd have to hunt to find enough to fill much of a container.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful bounty! Love the photos of puffballs, my MIL and FIL are mushroom-nuts and spend every weekend in the forest unearthing something or other and taking spore samples! the only type I'd dare eat are puffballs and shaggy ink caps (but the latter not with alcohol, if the memory serves!).

We have had a bigger harvest than last year (wetter conditions this year) but still not the best ever - I'm waiting for the brambles we have "trained" to start producing again after a copious trimming!

tash said...

P.s. last comment was me, pressed the wrong button!

Elle said...

It's so great that you do these kinds of things with your children. The memories you are making are priceless. Love the blackberry & apple crumble. Our recent heat brought on more blackberries so this is a must try.

Cottage Smallholder said...

Those blackberries look so delicious, Amanda. To go forging as a family is such a wonderful way of connecting with nature, especially if you can come home and cook the berries immediately.

Sounds like you had a great afternoon.

Aimée said...

What great memories you are creating for your children. I loved berry picking as a kid and still do!
This looks wonderful and I know just how good those fresh berries can taste.

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Hi Nora, lucky you being so near to the bay. Free fish - the boys would be over the moon with that.

Hi Truffle, we all love tramping through the local countryside.

Hi Kevin, thank you for visiting my blog. It's a classic and certainly does make a good crumble.

Hi Tanna, Yep, you have to get to them before everybody else does. We also have a few blackberry bushes in the garden so we get a few off them when we're not up for a tramp through the fields.

Hi Elle, I hope so. I want their heads to be full of good memories.

Hi Fiona, we did have a great time. It is wonderful to be with them outside like that, connecting with nature and you're right to come home and cook with out bounty straight away is just lovely.

Hi Aimee, I have memories of blackberry picking too, though as my mum says there were very few left to take back as I'd eat them all on the way home.

Thank you all for your lovely comments.
Amanda x

Jen said...

It looks lovely and it's inspiring me to grab a bucket and go bramble picking (if I can find any!).

I think I know the Nigel Slater crumble you mean as I made one from The Kitchen Diaries the other day, which recommended a food processor. It's true that it's a snap to put together this way but that really just means more washing up later on...

Fruit species said...

Those blackberries look yummy. Soft and sweet. Great combination. It is difficult to find it and expensive at where I am now. Cheers from Fruity


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