Rachel Lambert: forager, author, guide
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Ahhh, blackberries (rubus fruticosus), our native super fruit, so full of flavour, fibre, vitamin C and K. Pretty much everyone knows blackberries, actually it is blackberries that makes many people a forager, yes, if you've picked and eaten wild blackberries you are a forager!

I love to pick and munch these wonderful fruits as I walk; staining my hands and getting the vitamin C hit that my body is often craving this time of year. Traditionally I would make a large, annual blackberry and apple crumble; feasting on the fruits of a foray with friends and filling up on autumn's bounty.

This year they've come early, I'm scattering them on my morning muesli and dreaming of hot buttered toast lathered with freshly made blackberry jam...

There are many ways to make a good blackberry jam. Myself, I like to include the pips and the substance of the fruits, and not strain all that fibre and texture out. It is a jam I'm longing for, not a jelly. This is my favourite jam recipe, tweaked over the years, and enjoyed every autumn through to winter. Here's an image of my lovely thick jam, made with whole blackberries for a great texture and feeling of sustenance.

(Blackberry jam using the whole blackberry fruit)

Here's my recipe, actually, I call it a 'Blackberry Preserve' as it preserves the blackberries whole. This recipes makes 3-4 jars, so hopefully enough to see you through winter. I use soft brown sugar to add extra depth, blackberries also contain natural pectin, making them perfect for jam making (no need to use jam sugar nor add apples). Obviously, do adjust the amounts depending on how many blackberries you pick, and remember to leave some for others and the wildlife.

 

Blackberry Preserve Recipe

Ingredients

1 kg blackberries

1 kg soft brown sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

 

In a large pan, combine the blackberries and lemon juice and over a medium heat, simmer for 10 minutes and mash the blackberries slightly with a wooden spoon to break up. Add the sugar, stirring regularly and bring to a rolling boil. Once boiling, do not stir and cook for 20 minutes, or using a jam thermometer, until the mixture has reached 105°C. Pour or spoon the jam into sterilised jars. Once opened, keep in the refrigerator. Makes about 1.6 kg of jam (approximately 3- 4 jam jars).

 

(The empty pan after cooking blackberries in it)

Homemade sloe tart

A dark, rich, and wonderfully fruity treacle tart. Hearty for the colder months with a beautifully crumbly, oatmeal pastry. I love this one as an afternoon snack or as a warm, filling dessert served with cream.

This recipe was inspired by Swedish and German friends of mine making sloe syrup. I tried it myself, tweaking the recipe with dark muscovado sugar and WOW - it reminded me of treacle tart! 

And so the experimenting began. I'm really pleased with the results of this tart. I've made it many times and this is my winning combination. 

Bottle of homemade sloe syrup

Traditionally, treacle tart is made with golden syrup (refined sugar), so I thought I'd try something different. With a bottle of freshly made sloe syrup, I got started, combining oats, fresh bread crumbs (from lovely local bread) and the sloe syrup.

The result was delicious, like a fruity version of a syrup tart, though more wholesome. Just as satisfying, and perfect for afternoon cake-hour, and very fitting for more substantial wintery desserts. Here's the recipe, though you'll first have to make the sloe syrup.

Sloe Treacle Tart recipe

A dark, rich, and wonderfully fruity treacle tart. Hearty for the colder months with a beautifully crumbly, oatmeal pastry. I love this one as an afternoon snack.

Serves 8 - 10

Ingredients

  • 90 g plain flour                      
  • 90 g wholemeal flour
  • 50 g oatmeal                          
  • 125 g butter               
  • 2-3 tbsp ice-cold water
  • 75 g fresh breadcrumbs (fresh bread, grated or food processed)      
  • 75 g oats                                
  • 400 ml sloe syrup, plus 2 tbsp 
  • 2 free-range eggs

Method:

In a large bowl mix the flours, sugar and oatmeal, and cut the butter into cubes before tossing into the bowl. Rub the flours, oatmeal and butter together using your fingertips or use a food processor, until thoroughly combined and it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add a little of the water and form into a ball of dough, adding a little more if needed. Wrap in cling film or place in a bowl tightly covered with waxed food wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C and grease a 23 cm flan tin. Take the dough out of the fridge and roll out on a lightly floured surface, large enough to fill the tin and line the sides. Mine often falls apart at this stage, don’t worry, just press it back together. Carefully lift the unbaked pastry in the tin, gently pressing into the corners and slicing off any excess pastry. Pop back in the fridge to firm up for 10 minutes or more, then line with baking beans, or equivalent and place straight in a hot oven for 15 minutes.

 

While the pastry is baking, in a small saucepan reheat the syrup to a little warmer than blood temperature and stir in the oats and breadcrumbs. After 15 minutes remove the tin from the oven and reduce the heat to 150°C/fan 130°C. Whisk the eggs and pour into the heated syrup mix, stirring until combined well. Remove the paper and baking beans and pour the filling into the pastry base. Bake for 35 minutes or until set. Take out the oven and spoon over the 2 tablespoons of sloe syrup for a sticking top and leave to cool on a cooling rack. Serve warm or cold, lasts well in the fridge for up to a week.

Homemade sloe tart

Sloes are one of the fruits I teach about on my autumn foraging courses. For my best wild food recipes, why not check out my membership options and travel with me through the seasons.

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