I’ve just spent the majority of the day dealing with this year’s blackcurrant harvest. If I could only grow one berry bush, this would be it, I love the smell when you brush past the leaves and I can’t think of a nice flavour.
Last year, I took picking time as an opportunity to also prune the bush, removing older stems to make way for newer ones. In doing so, I think I rather over-pruned and was a bit worried about how much fruit I’d get this season. I needn’t have worried, there was plenty, even with my rather rubbish attempt to net the plant that had still allowed the birds to remove half the berries. Altogether, there was at least 3 kg of very ripe fruit.
So, what to make? I’ve got more Cassis and jam than I know what to do with, so we’re back to blackcurrant ripple ice cream again, which is YUMMY so I’ve put aside 1.2kg to make two more batches. I then searched for new ideas of what to make. Ice cream always leaves me with left over egg whites, so the obvious choice was a Pavlova. I found a great recipe here, but used my normal method for the Pavlova itself, which is largely taken from Nigella and is as below.
4 egg whites
225 g caster sugar
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Blackcurrant Puree (see later in the post)
300 ml double cream
200 ml half-fat creme fraiche
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4/350ºF and line a baking tray with baking parchment.
- Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, and then beat in the sugar a spoonful at a time until it is all incorporated. Sprinkle over the vinegar and vanilla extract and whisk again. Mound onto the prepared parchment forming a fat circle approximately 20cm in diameter, with a slightly raised ridge around the edges.
- Place in the oven, then immediately turn the temperature down to 150°C/gas mark 2/300ºF and cook for about one to one and a quarter hours. You are aiming for a crisp outside but a soft, mallowy inside.
- Turn off the oven and open the door slightly, let the meringue cool completely before removing.
It’s at this stage that I departed from the recipe I linked to above. It advises gently stewing the berries with sugar and serving the mixture both marbled with whipped cream and some on top. I did stew the fruit, as advised and tasted it, it was too tart for the boys (M is away at the moment, so it’s just me and the boys for a few days) so I added more sugar then left the topping in the fridge until needed. On second tasting, I decided that they wouldn’t like the seeds either, so I actually used some of the puree I’d pre-made for ice cream instead.
- For the topping, mix 300 ml double cream, whipped and 200 ml half-fat creme fraiche (folded gently into the whipped cream) and marble through some blackcurrant puree.
60g caster sugar
dribble of water
Mix the above in a pan and gently heat until the berries are very soft. Cool a little, then push the mixture through a sieve to remove all the pips, resulting in a thick puree. Taste and add more sugar if required.
(you would only need a fraction of this for a Pavlova leaving more than enough to be mixed into a 4 egg, custard ice cream base mixture, for a ripple ice cream)
It didn’t look nearly as pretty as berries dripping over white peaks of whipped cream, but oh it was yummy, a total success and probably a new regular favourite, if I can bear the amount of sugar added to the egg whites to make meringue without my teeth aching in protest!
The rest of the berries were made into puree that has been packed in the freezer for ice cream at later dates.
What else? I made walnut and seed bread using the No Knead method. It was nice, quite a heavy loaf as I had to use wholemeal flour in place of granary and the ratio was more wholemeal than white, as opposed the normal half and half I would go for. As I was also planning pizza for tea, I found myself sifting some Wessex Mill Honey & Seed bread flour I found in the cupboard, so that I could use the plain, white flour left behind for pizza base. It was quite interesting (I thought) to see what has been added to the mix….the little squares are of honey. I felt guilty ‘wasting’ such lovely artisan flour, but there you go.
The boys were happy though as they LOVE getting to choose their own pizza toppings. C’s always looks the prettiest with its mix of vegetables, F and I both tend to pile ours high with pepperoni, and in my case, anchovies. Yum. Incidentally, I tried making the cauliflower base for M a couple of weekends ago (as he generally doesn’t do carbs, especially flour) it’s been doing the blog rounds so I’m sorry, I’m not sure who did it first but this is the version I used. It was good, really quite passable as an alternative to a regular flour base and one I’ll be doing for myself in future.
All we need now is some rain for the poor garden. Although I water the veg patch and greenhouse each day, I leave the rest to survive on its own and to be honest, it’s starting to look very parched. Roll on those thundery showers we keep being promised!