What to do with blackberries and cream? Simple: bramble, fool.
We had a house full of friends at the weekend for our annual September partridge shoot. Red-legged partridges are lovely little birds, a little smaller than a chicken, neat and pretty with beautiful plumage.
They are also absolutely delicious, sadly for them. Still, a partridge on the hill has a better life than a supermarket chicken, so I eat them with a clear conscience. Our partridges are raised on the highland part of the estate, up on the heather. You can see some of the guns and beaters on the hill in this photo, but no partridges – they fly far too fast to be caught on my camera.
These hills are right on the Highland Line, the natural geological boundary that divides Scotland’s thin-soiled, sparsely wooded highlands from the fertile lowlands. Turning my back on the hill, I could see miles across the rolling farmland to the south-east.
After half an hour or so, though, I had to head back home to light the fire and get the kettle on for tea, in anticipation of the hungry hunters’ return. A weekend like this is very sociable, but also a lot of hard work: I spent far more time cooking, washing up, re-laying tables and so on than actually enjoying the company of my guests, even with their kind help. At least, that’s what it felt like. I suppose these sort of old-fashioned house parties hark back to the days when a castle had more servants than guests. These days, we try to do it all ourselves and consequently can feel spread a bit too thin sometimes.
However, the bonus of a house party is…wait for it…LEFTOVERS. The fridge and larder are stuffed full of the sort of indulgent food I make only for a dinner party: rich venison stew, chocolate roulade, summer pudding, cheeses of all varieties and lots and lots of cream. On top of all that, there is still plenty of garden produce demanding attention. My husband is doing a sterling job of eating up the remaining cheese and puddings; I have frozen the leftover stew and made the uneaten cooked garden peas into a lovely thick, green soup; but I still had a huge pot of double cream to deal with before it went off, plus a large punnet of blackberries and blueberries from the garden. How to deal with both without wastage? Simple: bramble fool.
This is too simple to be called a recipe, but for anyone in need of easy inspiration for blackberries, here’s what I did:
1. Wash the blackberries and blueberries and tip them into a saucepan. You don’t need to trim off the stalks as you’ll be sieving them out later. Sprinkle them generously with sugar and set them to simmer gently until the fruit is soft but not pulpy. I gave them an hour in the low Aga oven.
2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whip the cream until it’s thick. Good exercise for the arm muscles!
3. When the fruit is cooked and cooled, sieve it into a bowl, mashing the pulp with a wooden spoon.
4. Gradually stir the fruit puree into the bowl of cream, and spoon the mixture into a serving bowl.
5. Erm, that’s it. Not exactly a gourmet cook, am I? But it is very tasty (if you like dairy, obviously) and of course the brambles and blueberries are terribly good for you, so we can forget about the artery-clogging properties of the double cream, can’t we. For an even more calorific experience, it would be good served with shortbread or lemon langues du chat. Which I would buy, as life’s too short to faff about making biscuits. Anyway, I have wrapped up the fool and put it in the freezer – for the next dinner party, maybe. Bargain!