As this year's blackberries appear in the hedgerows it's time to find some alternatives to the ubiquitous crumble. A delicious ripe blackberry should be shiny, plump and black. Remember to avoid picking blackberries on main roads and those close to the ground. Wash them well, just before using.
Blackberry and halloumi salad
The salty sharpness of the halloumi pairs beautifully with the musty spiciness of the blackberries. This is a lovely starter for late summer dinner party or a light supper after a day out brambling.
Serves 4 as a starter
Handful of mixed salad leaves
200g beetroot, cooked and diced
Handful of mint leaves
Halloumi, sliced into 8 pieces
1 tbsp olive oil for frying
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp salt
1 small garlic clove
1 tsp honey
2 tbsp good quality olive oil
Lightly toast the hazelnuts, crush them quickly with a pestle and mortar and set aside.
Now toast the cumin seeds in the same pan. When they are aromatic, remove to the heat and lightly crush with the pestle and mortar with the salt. Add the garlic clove and crush to a paste. Add the honey, and finally the olive oil. Depending on the sweetness of the blackberries you may want to add a squirt of lemon juice to balance the acidity.
Arrange all the salad ingredients in your serving dishes.
Heat the oil in a nice big frying pan. Season the flour. Pat dry the halloumi slices and coat in the seasoned flour. When the oil is very hot, but not smoking, add the slices of halloumi and fry on each side for around 2 minutes, until they are golden and crispy.
Place the halloumi slices on top of your salad and then drizzle over the dressing.
Blackberry and lavender sorbet
This sorbet is an extraordinary colour and has a delicate floral flavour. Don't be afraid of the lavender. It accentuates the flavour of the blackberries and won't taste like soap. A refreshing but dramatic conclusion to an autumnal dinner party or a sophisticated accompaniment to a hot apple crumble.
160g caster sugar
1 lemon, juice and zest
350g blackberries (frozen or fresh are fine)
1 head of English lavender flowers
1 egg white
Create a thick sugar syrup by dissolving the sugar in 450ml water. Bring to the boil and continue to boil until it reaches 108ºC - use a chef's thermometer to check. This should leave the syrup at the 'short thread' stage. Let it cool briefly before adding the lemon juice, zest and lavender flowers. Leave to steep for another 5 minutes.
Put the blackberries in a food processor, add the sugar syrup and blitz until you have a smooth puree. Strain the liquid through a fine sieve and leave to cool completely.
Ice cream maker method
Beat the egg white until frothy. Add your fruit mixture to the ice cream maker. Once the mixture has begun to thicken add the egg white a spoonful at a time, waiting for the each spoonful to be amalgamated before adding the next.
Without an ice cream maker
Freeze the fruit mixture until almost solid. Remove from the freezer and break into chunks and return to the processor. Blitz the frozen chunks and add the beaten egg white spoon by spoon into the mix. Return to the freezer once it's all combined.
Transfer the sorbet to the fridge about 20 minutes before serving. Garnish with a few more blackberries, a few lavender flowers and an optional slug of Crème De Mûre.
Hortus Bramble Bellini
Combining two of our favourite cocktails - the Bramble and the Bellini - this simple cocktail is a wonderful aperitif. Replace the sparkling wine with soda water for a less alcoholic drink or just add the blackberry puree (minus the limoncello) to a good quality lemonade for a delicious mocktail.
750ml sparkling white wine
250g fresh or frozen blackberries
Lemon rind to garnish
Puree the blackberries with the limoncello in a processor or juicer. Strain the pulp well through a clean (but not too precious - it will stain) tea towel placed in a sieve. Resist the temptation to force the pulp through as you want as smooth a liquid as possible.
Pour the wine into a coupe or cocktail glass. Let the bubbles settle for a minute and carefully add around a tablespoon of the blackberry puree. Be patient because if you add it too fast it is likely to bubble up and leave a film around the top of the glass.
Garnish with lemon.