Rachel Lambert: forager, author, guide
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Sea buckthorn cheesecake with a slice on the side

This is actually a really simple cheesecake recipe, and contains no eggs or cream, just full-fat mascarpone cheese. Combining my beloved stem ginger with the tart richness of swirled sea buckthorn syrup, this dessert has been discussed over dinner many a time.

Is it a frozen cheesecake, an ice cream or a sorbet on a cheesecake base? Sensibly, my friends decided it didn’t matter as it tastes so good and is a glorious way to end a meal.

I'm a bit coy to say, but this is my favourite of all the sea buckthorn recipes I've created. I hope you enjoy it too!

Slice of sea buckthorn and ginger frozen cheesecake

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Abundant sea buckthorn berries on the plant

Sea Buckthorn berries, or Sea Berries Hippophae, Hippophae rhamnoides (Elaegnaceae)

There's nothing like foraging for your own wild berries, especially when it's combined with a walk along the coast, plus they're a nutrient rich super fruit! Even the colour of sea buckthorn berries are a vibrant pick-me-up.

Handful of hand-piked sea buckthorn berries

Where do sea buckthorn berries grow?

Here in Western Europe you can find them along the coast and on sand dunes. They also grow all along the Atlantic coasts of Europe, Central Europe and North Europe and are present and native in Asia, China, Mongolia, Siberia and Russia.

They've been introduced in Canada (Quebec, Alberta and  Saskatchewan), and exist as experimental crops planted in Arizona and Neveda. I know of several farms in the UK growing cultivated varieties, some of which are from wild seeds.

Sea buckthorn berries in a sieve, ready to be pressed

When to harvest sea buckthorn berries?

Sea buckthorn berries are ready to harvest and pick from late summer to autumn and in some areas they can still be picked through winter and after the first frost.

Harvesting times do depend on the variety, but think of spring as the pollinating season and the berries coming later in the year.

Bowl of sea buckthorn berries

Why are sea buckthorn berries good for you?

These small, bright orange sea buckthorn berries are so good for you! They mobilise high levels of vitamin C - about 12 times more than oranges and have more beta-carotene than carrots. They have a fantastic range of vitamins including A for teeth and bones, B1, B2, B6 and B12, vitamin E for red blood cells, K for blood clotting and to stop bleeding, numerous minerals and omega 3, 6, 7 and 9 oils for healthy skin.

Traditionally sea buckthorn berries, leaves and seeds have been used to prevent aging, treat skin problems and promote healthy hearts.

Sea buckthorn berries also contain antioxidants that help protect the body and strengthen the immune system as well as fibre to support healthy gut bacteria.

How to identify sea buckthorn

Sea buckthorn can grow up to 10 metres tall and can form as a dense shrubby, thickets that are hard to penetrate. Thorny, with long, untoothed silvery-green leaves, the orange berries nestle close the stem, but only on the female plants. Sea buckthorn flowers in spring with tiny, greenish male and female flowers.

What is the flavour of sea buckthorn berries?

Tangy, tart, sour, with a hint of bitterness at the end. I find it far more flavoursome than lemons and more versatile and giving in recipes. See my recipes for sea buckthorn curd cup cakes.

Orange sea buckthorn berries on the plant

How to harvest sea buckthorn berries?

These gems of tangy flavour don’t give them selves up easily. Nestled tightly to thorny branches and ready to burst forth, quite literally, from their tree. They demand respect and careful picking.

There’s an art to capturing the juice of Sea buckthorn berries, and you basically have two choices.

  1. Full of juice and a small black pip, if you pick them too late you’ll only be left with orange stains and empty, juicy fingers. If you catch them early enough, you can twist the berries off the branches, collecting them in a container that will hold any seeping juice.
  2. The second option is to use secateurs (pruning scissors) and snip off abundant berry branches and freeze them. Once frozen, it is a lot easier to remove the berries from the branches, though care still needs to be taken around the thorns.
Squares of sea buckthorn and carrot cake

How to use sea buckthorn berries?

You an use the juice diluted with water, in cocktails or numerous recipes. Some of my favourite culinary creations with sea buckthorn berries are;

References

Freshly baked sea buckthorn curd cup cakes

The wonderful tart flavour of Sea Buckthorn berries, also known as Sea berries (Hippophae, Hippophae rhamnoides) lend themselves perfectly to making a rich, creamy curd. Think lemon curd but with more richness and depth of flavour - you'll just have to try this one!

First, you'll need to extract the juice from the berries (I show you how below), then make the curd. This is delicious lathered onto toast, but I also love this baked in mini cup cakes.

Sea buckthorn berries in a sieve, ready to be pressed

How to juice sea buckthorn berries

The berries of sea buckthorn contain quite a large seed, so I choose to press them manually through a sieve or gently squeeze them through a jelly bag then discard the seeds and pulp. You could use a juicer if you wish.

Sieving fibre and pips to make sea buckthorn juice

You'll be left with a very tart juice that you can dilute for drinks or cocktails, or use in this delicious sea buckthorn curd. Every 150 grams of berries makes about 90 ml of juice.

Pure, homemade sea buckthorn juice

How to make sea buckthorn curd

Jar of wild sea buckthorn curd

Sea Buckthorn Curd Recipe

As a child, I remember the alchemy of making lemon curd and its decadent, irresistible texture. This rich, spreadable curd is just as indulgent, if not more so, with its intense flavour of sea buckthorn berries. Spread on toast or use in desserts such as cup cakes with sea buckthorn curd (see below).

Jar of homemade sea buckthorn curd

Makes 450g jar

Ingredients

  • 90 ml (6 tbsp) sea buckthorn juice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 125 g unrefined sugar
  • 65 g butter, cut into 1 cm cubes

Put the juice, sugar and butter into a heatproof bowl and sit the bowl over a small pan of gently simmering water. Make sure the bowl is suspended over and not sitting in the water. Stir occasionally until all of the butter has melted.

In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the eggs and egg yolk and stir them into the butter and sugar mixture, continue to whisk until all the ingredients are well combined. Allow to cook for a further 10-15 minutes, stirring intermittently until the mixture is thick and creamy and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and leave to cool before spooning into sterilised jars and seal.

Keep in the fridge for up to a week, or tightly cover and freeze till needed, you’ll be able to spoon it out straight from the freezer. This is perfect for the curd filled cup cakes below.

Jar of homemade sea buckthorn curd on a lace table cloth

Cup Cakes with Sea Buckthorn Curd Filling

Light and fruity cup cakes that conjure up images of orange groves and fully sunned fruit. Just the thing to enjoy sitting outside while there’s still some warmth in the sun.

Makes 12

Ingredients

  • 115 g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 100 g unrefined sugar
  • 2 medium free-range eggs
  • 150 g self-raising flour (125g plain, 25g wholemeal)
  • ½ tsp orange water
  • 4 tbsp sea buckthorn curd
Half eaten sea buckthorn cake, showing the luscious inside

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a 12-hole cupcake tin with paper cases. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then add the orange water, the eggs, little by little and 1 tablespoon flour. Whisk until thoroughly combined, before adding the remaining flour and beat together well.

Preparing cake mixture of cup cakes filled with sea buckthorn curd

Spoon half the mixture into the cases and add a teaspoon of curd on top of each, followed by the remaining mixture. Bake for 20 minutes, until risen, remove from the oven and leave to cool for a couple of minutes before transferring to a wire rack until cold.

Single, home baked sea buckthorn cup cake

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