An ode to the humble blackberry
Celebrate blackberry season with focaccia, sausage bake and a Burgundy jam
Blackberry and rosemary focaccia.
I’m a big Seamus Heaney fan, and Blackberry Picking is one of my all-time favourite poems. The last line, “Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not,” hits me every time.
It pretty much sums up how I feel about cooking in season. The anticipation of waiting for asparagus or tomatoes, the first corn and the wild mushrooms. Then come the pumpkins and blackberries, the wild game and root vegetables, then back to the wild garlic and nettles of early spring again – life’s never-ending fruit and root cycle.
Here, I’ve included a focaccia recipe that you can adapt to any berries, or even grapes if you find yourself with a glut. It’s the perfect bread to serve with cheese, whipped mascarpone or just a dollop of thick cream.
The next of my seasonal blackberry recipes is a jam with a dash of Burgundy wine in it – it’s a deluxe jam and, to be honest, if I was given a jar of this I’d be pretty delighted. You can also use any light, red wine.
To help with clarifying your jam, a little tip I use is to add 20g of butter to the pan, wait for it to melt and then skim the foam from the top. You will be left with a delicious crystal clear jam.
As for the sausage casserole, this is another one-pan wonder that’s not overly complicated, so you can whip it up pre-Great British Bake Off or post-Reeling in the Years.
BLACKBERRY AND ROSEMARY FOCACCIA
500g plain flour
5g dried yeast
4g caster sugar
40ml olive oil, plus extra for greasing
4 sprigs of rosemary
Flaky sea salt
1 Combine the flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl or mixer.
2 Add the oil and water and, once fully combined into the dry mix, move the mixture to a clean work surface. Knead by hand for at least 10 minutes or use a mixer and a dough hook for the same amount of time. The mix should change elasticity and come together to form a smooth dough.
3 Lightly coat a large bowl in olive oil and place the dough carefully into the bowl. Cover with cling film or a damp tea towel and allow to prove for one hour, preferably somewhere warm.
4 The dough should have now tripled in size. Carefully remove it from the bowl on to an oiled work surface and roll the dough out to two-inch thickness.
5 Add a good bit of oil to a parchment-lined baking tray, then place the dough on the tray.
6 Scatter the blackberries and rosemary sprigs around the top of the dough and sprinkle with sea salt.
7 Using the tips of your fingers, press into the dough, making small little wells.
8 Allow the dough to prove again for one hour.
9 Bake the dough in a preheated oven at 200 degrees Celsius, or equivalent, for 25-30 minutes, until the focaccia is golden in colour and firm to touch.
10 Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Serve with butter or cream cheese.
ONE-TRAY ITALIAN SAUSAGE BAKE
500g Italian-style sausages
2 red onions, quartered
200g red cabbage, shredded
3 cloves garlic, smashed
2tsp wholegrain mustard
2tbsp cider vinegar
2 cinnamon sticks
2tsp dried oregano
2tsp cracked black pepper
1 punnet blackberries
3tbsp olive oil
1 Preheat an oven to 180 degrees Celsius, or equivalent.
2 Put all ingredients in a large sheet pan or roasting dish.
3 Coat generously in the olive oil, cover with tin foil and roast for 15 minutes.
4 Remove the foil and give the tray a quick mix. Return to the oven uncovered and roast for a further 10 minutes.
5 Place in a large dish and serve with mashed potatoes and braised kale.
BLACKBERRY BURGUNDY JAM
35ml Burgundy wine, or similar
250g caster sugar
1 star anise
1 Add all of the ingredients into a large, heavy-based saucepan and set over a high heat.
2 When the jam starts to bubble, turn it down to a medium heat and stir often to make sure the fruit doesn’t stick.
3 Cook for 40-45 minutes during which time the jam should have reduced in volume and become thick and glossy.
4 Remove from the heat and carefully pour into a jar or an airtight container.