Not for the birds: Keep your blueberries for these delicious oat slices
This tray bake has a true blueberry flavour and that unmistakable splash of vibrant blue
Photograph: Harry Weir
My local blackbirds have our blueberry bushes all figured out. As soon as my back is turned they swoop in, taking every single berry that is even vaguely blue. They skulk around, head on one side, eyeing up the best berries, before darting up for them, one by one. They don’t even fly away if I approach. They just retreat by a couple of metres and wait, quietly watching. When they judge I am a safe distance away again, they come straight back.
The blackbirds have the right idea; ripe blueberries are too good to miss. In the years when I get around to putting a net over the blueberry bushes and manage to harvest some for myself, they rarely make it all the way to the kitchen. The berries are eaten right there and then.
Blueberries are native to North America, although they are widely cultivated in Europe. Our native bilberries are more acidic. They can be used in a similar way to blueberries, though it is rare to be able to gather any great quantity. They have a huge range of common names: fraughans, frochans, blaeberries, whinberries, whortleberries and windberries, to name just a few. If you happen to have some, they would be wonderful mixed in with the blueberries in these blueberry oat slices.
Unlike the tart bilberries, blueberries have quite a subtle flavour, which can get lost if they are mixed with other fruits. This tray bake has a true blueberry flavour and that unmistakable splash of vibrant blue bubbling up through the oats.
I have made these oat slices with all sorts of other berry compotes. We make compote regularly at home with whatever berries we can source (or buy in the freezer section of the supermarket) and keep it as a staple to rustle together quick desserts or to add to porridge and granola.
Having become quite addicted to enjoying this simple bake, I also love to add nuts to the crumbly topping. It doubles up as a dessert crumble, served with a dollop of whipped cream.
BLUEBERRY OAT SLICES
For the blueberry compote:
300g-350g blueberries (fresh or frozen)
30g caster sugar
For the oat layer:
150g caster sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
150g plain flour
200g medium porridge oats (not jumbo)
1 First make the blueberry compote: Place the blueberries (fresh or frozen) and sugar in a saucepan. Simmer for about 15 minutes, while stirring. Once thickened remove it from the heat and set aside to cool down.
2 For the oat mixture: preheat your oven to 180 degrees (fan) or equivalent. Line a square (20cm x 20cm) baking tin with parchment paper.
3 Use an electric whisk to cream the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl, until light and pale (you can do this with a wooden spoon if the butter is soft). Stir in the vanilla extract. Continue to mix in the flour and the oats until everything is well combined (and the oats visibly moistened with butter).
4 Transfer two-thirds of the mixture into the lined baking tin and use the back of a spoon to smooth the surface. Next spread all the blueberry compote over the surface and scatter the remaining oat mixture over the blueberries as you would a crumble topping.
5 Bake on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for up to 30 minutes or until the blueberry mixture starts to bubble up through the crumble (but if the oat crumble edges start to burn, cover the top with tinfoil or reduce the oven temperature).
6 Once baked, remove from the oven and set aside to cool at room temperature. Use a large serrated knife to cut neatly into even-sized slices or squares.