I am a city boy, through and through. Having started life in Croydon (London for my American friends) and lived in many other large smoke-filled urban environments, I’m not all that knowledgeable about country life.
Holidays as a kid used to involve travelling to a sunny beach somewhere, maybe with a small trip round the local towns. Country trips were very few and far between.
I start by saying this so you can get an idea of how out-of-my-depth I am when it comes to foraging for free food. Until fairly recently, my idea of foraging would have involved scrumping for apples in my neighbors back garden.
Still, a love for food and baking encourages one to be more adventurous when it comes to hauling ass through brambles, hedgerows and bushes this time of year. Scrapped knees and thorny fingers are no match for me when it comes to trying to reach the plumpest of blackberries hiding at the back of a long abandoned car park!
When asked by my BBC mate Alan Clifford to come up with a couple of recipes for a foraging special on the radio today (Friday 25th @ 2pm on BBC Radio Nottingham) I suddenly became aware of how small my internal baking encyclopedia is when it comes to the fruits of our British countryside.
Tarts and crumbles. Every year, tarts and crumbles. Not to say there is anything wrong with either but, really, there must be something a bit more interesting to be made.
So, without further ado (and to stop me rambling on any longer) I present my British hedgerow special recipes. Ginger, Apple, Blackberry Ice Cream to be served alongside my Apple & Blackberry cobbler.
The Ice Cream starts with a creamy and rich vanilla base which then has a sweetened ginger, apple and blackberry compote stirred through it to create an amazing afternoon treat.
Pair it with the Cobbler (fruity, biscuity, buttery delight) to create a pudding worthy of any late summer dinner table!
For the ice-cream base
300ml creamy milk, blue top at the very minimum
two vanilla pods
300ml thick double cream
5 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
For the fruit crumble compote
250g foraged crab apples (although you can cheat and buy some from a shop)
60g caster sugar
100g foraged blackberries – thoroughly washed
1 Thumb sized piece of ginger – finely grated
First make the ice cream: put the milk into a saucepan, split the vanilla pods lengthways with a sharp knife and scrape the seeds into the milk with the point of the knife, then add the pods as well. Bring the milk to the boil and simmer very gently for a couple of minutes, stirring a couple of times, then remove from the heat.
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together then pour the milk on and whisk throughly. Return to the pan on a low heat and cook for about five minutes, stirring constantly, but don’t let it boil. Remove from the heat, whisk in the cream and remove the vanilla pods.
Leave to cool before placing into your ice cream machine to freeze. If you don’t have an ice cream machine, you can pour it into a covered tuppaware dish then place into the freezer making sure to take it out and whisk it every half hour to prevent it from forming into a large block of frozen ice. It will take around three hours to set this way.
Meanwhile put the apples in a saucepan with the sugar & ginger and cook on a low heat with a lid on for 6-7 minutes, stirring every so often until the apples are soft but not disintegrated. Stir in the blackberries, remove from the heat and leave to cool.
When the ice cream has almost set, stir in the apple & blackberry compote. If you like a ripple effect then don’t stir too much. Personally I like to fully combine it to make a lovely blackberry purple ice cream! Place it back in the freezer until ready to eat.
FOR THE COBBLER
1kg cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into 2cm pieces
100g (4oz) soft dark brown sugar
icing sugar, for dusting
150g (5oz) self-raising flour
50g (2oz) cold butter, cubed, plus extra for greasing
50g (2oz) caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
4 tbsp milk
You will need a 20cm (8in) round ovenproof dish. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6 and grease the dish with butter.
Place the chopped apples, blackberries and soft brown sugar in the prepared dish and mix together.
To make the cobbler topping, measure the flour and butter and place in a mixing bowl and rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until it looks like rough breadcrumbs. Add the caster sugar, egg and milk and mix again until combined. It should be like a wet scone mix.
Spoon blobs of the cobbler mixture over the fruit in the dish then bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown on top and the fruit is soft and bubbling.
Dust with icing sugar and serve warm with your ice cream.