Blackberry Picking


Seamus Heaney is one of my favourite Irish poets, possibly because when I read his poetry they always give me a great sense of place, of feeling like I’m there, they reflect experiences that most Irish people can relate to.  None so more than ‘Blackberry Picking’:

Last Saturday the lust for picking became too much for us all and we ventured out, in glorious sunshine, Halloween buckets in hand to scour the hedgerows at the back of the island to find some juicy ripe ones.  Mary Berry’s Winter Tart Recipe was my driving force and we were on a mission.

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for

Of course blackberry picking with the Carlos Clan could not be just a walk in a field or along a quiet lane; no weekend adventures are much more exciting than that, our hunt for berries coincided with a quest to find a hidden castle and we hit the jackpot on both accounts.   Spurred on by beautiful autumnal sunshine, rolling fields, blue skies and the discovery of the above mentioned hidden castle, the boys quest for berries was a true adventure with rather tasty rewards, although we may have lost a white T-shirt to the juice Gods along the way.

Mary Berry’s recipes are some of my favourites as they are always easy to follow and never have those awkward ingredients that you don’t have in the cupboard and can’t get in your local shop.  There is really is nothing worse than deciding on a recipe and finding you can’t get an ingredient.  The ‘Winter Crumble Tart’ is from her ‘Absolute Favourites’ book and while it’s a ‘winter’ tart I very much think it works right now.


This is a good freezer too (I have the bones of another two tarts in the freezer as you read this!)




225g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

125g cold butter, cut into cubes

30g caster sugar

1 large egg

For the Filling

4 large Bramley Apples (about 1.2kg) peeled and cored and cut into small chunks

150g caster sugar

275g fresh blackberries

For the Topping

175g plain flour

100g butter at room temperature cut into cubes

50 g rolled oats

100g demerara sugar

50g hazelnuts roasted and chopped

  1. You will need a 28cm (11in), round, loose bottomed fluted tart tin, 3-4cm deep, baking paper and some baking beans.  Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°Cfan/Gas 6
  2. To make the pastry, measure the flour and the butter into a food processor and whizz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs or place in a mixing bowl and rub the butter into the flour with your finger tips).  Add the sugar and 1-2 tablespoons of cold water and the egg and mix until it forms a smooth dough.  (I’ll admit here that I purchased the short crust pastry from Aldi to save me this step as we had a busy Sunday 🙂 )
  3. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and roll out into a circle large enough to line the tart tin/dish and about 3mm thick.  Press into the base and sides of the tin and male a small lip around the top.  Prick the base all over with a fork and place in the fridge for 15 mins to chill.
  4. Line the chilled pastry case with baking paper and baking beans and cook in the oven for about 15 mins.  Remove the beans and paper and then lower the oven to 160°C/140°C fan/ Gas 3 and bake for a further 10 mins until crisp and golden.  Set the tin aside to cool, leaving the oven on.
  5. To make the filling, place the apples and sugar in a large, deep saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water over a medium heat and cook, stirring gently, for about 5 minutes.  Cover with a lid and simmer, without stirring, for about 5-10 mins until the apples begin to soften while keeping their shape.  Add the blackberries, carefully stirring them into the apples, and cook for a further 5-10 mins until both fruits are just tender.  Set to the side to cool.
  6. Meanwhile make the crumble topping by measuring the flour and butter into a bowl and rubbing them together with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the remaining ingredients and rub until the mixture has formed small clumps.  Alternatively whizz it all up in the food processor.
  7. Pour the cooked fruits into a colander set over a bowl to collect the juices.  (This juice is fab in porridge or with granola and yogurt) Spoon the fruits into the cooked pastry case.  Left over fruit can be frozen.  Sprinkle the crumble mixture over the top and bake in the oven (at the same temperature as earlier) for 20-25 mins or until the crumble is golden.


We had this as dessert on Sunday with warm custard and ice-cream and it was YUM.  Mr C may or may not have had seconds and thirds!  The boys loved the fact that we had picked the berries ourselves, which meant they had technically made it and the added bonus is we have frozen apple and berries in the fridge for another day.

Hope you enjoy it and don’t let that grey fur form on your loot!

Have a great weekend.

Trish x

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