Sweet Berry Bliss



Such a joy to have been able to feast on berries in season for the past few weeks.  If you were fortunate enough to have managed to source fruit from small producers who are growing varieties for flavour you will have had a real taste of summer.  Sadly, most commercial strawberry growers have gone over to El Santa a variety I now assiduously avoid, more often than not it disappoints particularly when heavily irrigated. I long for some growers to have the courage to grow at least a percentage of old varieties like Cambridge Favourite or Cambridge Vigour or Sovereign.
I know they are more difficult to handle, but there is a growing number of disillusioned consumers who would be prepared to pay more for a guaranteed burst of flavour.
One can of course get strawberries, raspberries and indeed red currants year round but gooseberries and blackcurrants are definitely a short seasonal treat. I adore blackcurrants and we eat them in many, many guises during the few productive weeks.  It is really worth making a few pots of jam to lather on scones or to make blackcurrant drinks to protect against colds in the winter.  Home made “Ribena” type drink is also fun and worthwhile to make as cassis.  Almost my favourite way to eat the fruit is stewed blackcurrants and cream. The fruit must be warm and the pouring cream very cold sooo divine and sooo simple.
A pear and blackcurrant compote is also very good and a blackcurrant and apple sponge pudding tends to get polished off in double quick time.
Blackcurrant Fool is may favourite fool of all and the leftovers make a delicious frozen parfait which is even better if served with blackcurrant coulis. A squeeze bottle of that is a terrific standby to have inside your fridge door to serve over vanilla ice-cream or to drizzle over a meringue roulade. 
Make haste the season is almost over so enjoy the blackcurrant harvest while you can.
Blackcurrant Coulis
8 ozs (225g) blackcurrants
1 cup syrup, 4-5 fl ozs (120-150ml) water* see below
Pour the syrup over the blackcurrants and bring to the boil, cook for 3-5 minutes until the blackcurrants burst.  Liquidise and sieve through a nylon sieve.  * Allow to cool.  Add 4-5 fl ozs (120-150ml) water.
Stock Syrup

1 lb (450g) sugar
1 pint (600ml) water
Dissolve the sugar in the water and bring to the boil.  Boil for 2 minutes then allow it to cool.  Store in the fridge until needed.
Poached Blackcurrants with Icy Cold Cream
12oz ( 340g) blackcurrants, strings removed

Stock Syrup (see recipe)

Icy cold cream

Cover the blackcurrants with stock syrup.  Bring to the boil and cook until the fruit bursts – this will take about 4 to 5 minutes.  Serve with warm shortbread biscuits and icy cold cream.

Blackcurrant Fool
Serves 6 approx.

350g (12oz) fresh blackcurrants, frozen blackcurrants may be used

Stock syrup (see recipe)

Whipped cream

Cover the blackcurrants with stock syrup. Bring to the boil and cook until the fruit bursts about 4-5 minutes. Liquidize and sieve or puree the fruit and syrup and measure. When the puree has cooled, add up to equal quantity of softly whipped cream, according to taste. Serve with Jane’s biscuits.

Note: A little stiffly beaten egg white may be added to lighten the fool. The fool should not be very stiff, more like the texture of softly whipped cream. If it is too stiff stir in a little milk rather than more cream.

Alternative presentation, chose tall sundae glasses.  Put 2 fl ozs (50ml) of blackcurrant puree into the base of the glass, top with a layer of softly whipped cream, another layer of blackcurrant puree and finally a little more cream.  Drizzle a little thin puree over the top, serve chilled with shortbread biscuits.

Blackcurrant Ice Cream

Left over blackcurrant fool may be frozen – it makes a delicious ice cream.  Serve with blackcurrant coulis made by thinning the blackcurrant puree with a little more water or stock syrup.

Frosted Blackcurrant Parfait with Blackcurrant Coulis
Serves 10 approx

Pour the blackcurrant fool into a loaf tin lined with pure cling film.  Cover and freeze.  Serve cut in slices with blackcurrant coulis drizzled over the top.

Blackcurrant Jam

Makes 8-9 lbs (3.4-4 kilo) jam

4 lbs (1.8 kgs) fresh or frozen blackcurrants

2 pints (1.1 litres) water

5 lbs (2.3 kgs) white granulated sugar

Remove the stalks from the blackcurrants, put the fruit into a greased preserving pan, add the water and cook until the fruit begins to break. Put the sugar into a stainless steel bowl and heat for almost 10 minutes in a preheated oven at 150C/300F/regulo 2. (It’s vital that the fruit is soft before the sugar is added otherwise the blackcurrants will taste hard and tough in the finished jam). Add the heated sugar and stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is dissolved.  Boil briskly for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently.  Skim, test and pot. 

Serves 4-6

1½lbs (675g) cooking apples

4-6ozs (110-175g) blackcurrants, already strung

1 tablesp. water

3-4ozs (85-110g) approx. sugar

For the topping
2ozs (55g) butter

2ozs (55g) sugar

1 beaten egg, preferably free range

3ozs (85g) self raising flour, sieved

1-2 tablesp. milk

1 pie dish 1½ pint (900ml) capacity

Set the oven to 200C/400F/regulo 6.

Peel, core and slice the apples and put them in a heavy saucepan with the water, blackcurrants and sugar, cover.  Stew them gently until just soft, then tip into a buttered pie dish.

Cream the butter until soft, add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy.  Add the beaten egg by degrees and beat well until completely incorporated. Sieve the flour and fold into the butter and egg mixture.  Add about 1 tablespoon of milk or enough to bring the mixture to dropping consistency.  Spread this mixture gently over the apple.

Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the sponge mixture is firm to the touch in the centre.  Sprinkle with castor sugar.  Serve warm with home made custard or lightly whipped cream

Serves 6

6 pears, Conference, Doyenne de Comice or William

6-8ozs (175-225g) blackcurrants

4 ozs (110g) castor sugar

10 fl ozs (300ml) cold water

Put the sugar and water into a saucepan or casserole and bring slowly to the boil.  Peel, halve and core the pears being careful to keep a good shape.  Add to the syrup.  Place a greaseproof paper lid on top of the pears and then a tight fitting lid on the casserole.  Place the casserole on a medium heat.  Cook for 15-20 minutes, adding the blackcurrants after 10 minutes.  Continue to cook until pears are tender. Serve chilled in the syrup.

Cassis Recipe
Skye Gyngell from Petersham Nurseries Café made this delicious drink when she was here with us last year as our guest chef.
650g (1 ¼lb) blackcurrants

650g (1 ¼lb) caster sugar

750ml (1 ¼ pints) (1 bottle red wine)

500ml (18fl ozs) good brandy  (Skye uses Julian Temperley’s Somerset Cider Brandy available at different ages: 5, 7 & 10 years) www.ciderbrandy.co.uk.
Place blackcurrants in a large, heavy based pan. Add the sugar, wine and brandy, stir and bring to the boil. Continue to stir until dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Use a sieve to strain. Store in a glass jar or bottle.

Home made Ribena
This concentrated blackcurrant cordial packed with vitamin C is delicious diluted with sparkling or plain water or sparkling wine – it keeps for several months in a cool place.
1.12kg (2½ lb) blackcurrants
2.6kg (5½ lb) sugar
4L (scant 7 pint) water
225ml (8fl oz) white wine vinegar
Boil the blackcurrants and water together in a stainless steel saucepan for 15 minutes. Strain and add the sugar to the liquid. Add the white vinegar. Boil for 3 minutes. Pour into sterilized bottles and seal well.

Jane’s Biscuits – Shortbread
Makes 25

170g (6oz) white flour

110g (4oz) butter

55g (2oz) castor sugar

Put the flour and sugar into a bowl, rub in the butter as for shortcrust pastry. Gather the mixture together and knead lightly. Roll out to 7mm (¼ inch)  thick.  Cut into rounds with a 6cm (2½ inch) cutter or into heart shapes.  Bake in a moderate oven 180C/350F/gas mark 4 to pale brown, 10 – 15 minutes. Remove and cool on a rack.

Serve with fruit fools, compotes and ice creams.


Ovencraftsman Hendrick Lepel presents BUILD YOUR OWN BREADOVEN.

A 2 day workshop in Breadoven Building near Kealkil (Westcork).

During the 2 day workshop you will be learning to build and Outdoor Oven.  This unique event, held during the weekend of the 23rd and 24th of August, priced at 120Eur/Person including lunch for the 2 days, is limited to only 8 participants!
For booking & further details contact
Ovencraftsman Hendrik on 086 8838400 or email to kirdnehl@hotmail.com
Gwen’s Chocolates new shop
Schull based chocolatier Gwen Lasserre has opened a new shop at 46 Main Street, Kinsale – in the centre of the old town – also a small café section serving French specialities like Croque Monsieur and Tarte aux Framboises.   Tel 087-0520796

Easy Entertaining with Rachel Allen – 15th September -due to popular demand
1 day demonstration course – two delicious 5 course menus for

Entertaining -  plus breads, petits fours, aperitifs … now booking.  Tel 021-4646785 www.cookingisfun.ie gift vouchers available. 

National Organic Week 15-21 September
www.bordbia.ie/organicform  to order point of sale material to highlight any events being organized for National Organic week.

Good Things Café, Durrus, Co Cork
Now open for the season – delicious menu of local foods – info@thegoodthingscafe.com

Tel 027-61426

About the author

Darina Allen


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