Recipe: Bramble jelly

At this time of year, we seem to fall into two camps: those who aren’t quite ready to let go of summer: of ice lollies, bare feet on hot sand, BBQs and picnics, Pimms in the park; and those who are longing for the soothing arrival of autumn and its promise of hot chocolate and crumpets and crumbles, cosy nights in with box sets, crunchy-leaf-walks and woolly cardigans. If pressed, I would probably have to say that I fell into the latter category (autumn is the introverts’ season, after all).
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Your guide to foraging for blackberries

WHEN TO GO BLACKBERRYING
We often think of blackberries as an autumn fruit, but in the UK, they can in fact be found from July – certainly in warmer areas like cities – until mid- or even late-September in the countryside.

WHERE TO LOOK
Blackberries can be found all over: parks, heaths, footpaths, towpaths, and even industrial wasteland – sometimes the finest bounty can be found in the most unexpected, neglected place. The excellent map on the Falling Fruit website might help you to find your local patch (select ‘Rubus’ in the filter). Or if you want to share a good foraging spot, you can add it to the map.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR
You want glossy, dark berries. The plumper they are, the sweeter and tastier they are likely to be. The fruit you want will come away from the bush easily when you give it a little tug; if the berry resists, it’s probably not ready to be picked just yet.

WHAT TO AVOID
Steer clear of blackberries that are green or red, as they are not yet ripe. If a berry is dull in colour or if the drupelets (the little round segments that a blackberry is made up of) are a bit shrivelled, it has probably gone over. Don’t pick berries from beside a busy road as they will likely be tainted by car fumes. And definitely avoid any fruit that is in the ‘dog wee’ zone! That’s usually the lowest couple of feet of the bush.

COVER UP
Brambles are spiky! It’s best to cover up your arms and legs to avoid any nasty scratches. Jeans and a hoodie are ideal. Practical, protective footwear is a must. Avoid wearing anything that might snag, like wool.

LOOK OUT FOR CREEPY CRAWLIES
Brambles are often home to spiders and other bugs. Keep an eye out for webs – reaching for a tempting berry only to find that you’ve just plunged your hand onto a huge spider is a real joy-killer.

MAKE FRIENDS WITH A TALL PERSON
The biggest, ripest blackberries are often just a little out of reach! Go foraging with your tallest friend to get the pick of the bunch 😉

AND MOST IMPORTANTLY…
Remember the golden rule for foragers: never take all of the produce from one particular spot. Take a few berries and then move on, to ensure that plenty is left for the people who come after you.

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WHAT NEXT?
When you get home, give your blackberries a gentle rinse and use them as soon as you can (we can all learn from Seamus Heaney here). They also freeze well; after washing, spread the berries out on a baking tray lined with baking parchment and pop into the freezer. Once they’re frozen solid, you can move them into a storage container until you need them.

There are so many delicious recipes for blackberries. Why not try my absolute favourite here (it won a prize!)? And keep an eye out for more blackberry recipes coming to the blog very soon.

Happy foraging!

Recipe: Sweet potato and chipotle soup

This is such a cracking soup recipe for autumn. It’s suddenly become very chilly here in London – proper hat and gloves weather! – and while real life might get in the way of an urge to hibernate completely, a good bowl of soup can really warm up body and soul. It’s gorgeously silky and smooth, and I absolutely love the rich smoky flavour given by the chipotle. The hint of spice is super warming and really complements the creaminess of the sweet potato.
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Recipe: Pear and cinnamon galette

Who doesn’t love an autumnal Sunday? I’ve spent mine pottering in the kitchen, cooking up a feast for some of my favourite people, which was topped off with this gorgeous pear galette. I generally steer away from pastry (too much of a faff, and I lack the patience!), especially if I’m also juggling lots of different components for the first course – which I was today, with a roast chicken and all the trimmings to think about – but this was so simple it almost felt like cheating. No blind baking, no messing around with a fancy fluted tin – just a method so easy, even a pastry novice like me could nail it!
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Recipe: Apple and blackberry crumble cake {an award-winner!}

This is one of my absolute favourite cakes. I’ve made it so many times – including for a Women’s Institute’s cake stall at a street festival, for various afternoon teas, and more recently for the cake table at my lovely friend Jennie’s wedding – when it actually won a prize! I’d never won a prize for my baking before, so to say I was surprised is an understatement. Thrilling!
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