I’ve never been foraging before in Ireland. I’ve “picked-your-own” on fruit farms in England and harvested cockles and mussels on the Donegal beaches as a child with my parents, but I’ve never properly foraged roadside. So last weekend as part of Derry’s Slow Food Festival I decided to take my girls with me on a foraging walk up at Butterlope Farm under the guidance of Annie Mullan.
It was a fantastic and educational day out - feeding chickens, collecting insects and bugs from a pond and then a light trek through the gorgeous Glenelly Valley identifying leaves and berries that could be foraged and eaten. On our return to the farm Annie had an amazing spread of home cooked breads, jams, soups and tarts made from the ingredients she had foraged locally or grown herself. (Unfortunately she doesn't sell any so I’ll have to hassle her for some recipes later.)
So with a small handful of berries, and not a lot of time, I decided to make a Blackberry Clafoutis. Clafoutis is a traditional baked French dessert… think marinated fruits in a baked custard flan. I don't know if it was the simplicity of the recipe, the freshness of the fruit, or the fact we had picked the berries ourselves but it was really delicious.
Traditionally a Clafoutis should be made with cherries marinated in Kirsch but feel inspired to create your own favorite combination by substituting other fruits in season and other fruit liqueurs.
Half a Vanilla Pod, split in half lengthways to expose the seeds
150ml Whole Milk
100ml Double Cream
4 tablespoons Chambord (black raspberry liqueur)
4 large Eggs
150g Caster Sugar (preferably golden)
20g Plain Flour
Pinch of Salt
Butter for greasing
Caster sugar for sprinkling
4 x 15cm Gratin Dishes
Makes 4 individual Clafoutis
Turn on the oven to 180°C/355°F.
Put the milk and cream into a saucepan along with the vanilla pod and bring to scalding point (not boiling). Remove from the heat and leave to infuse.
Rinse the blackberries, then put them into a non-metallic bowl with the Chambord and leave to marinate.
Grease the gratin dishes with butter, then sprinkle them with some caster sugar. Place onto a cold baking sheet and set aside.
Whisk the eggs and sugar together until they are light and creamy. Add the flour and salt and whisk again until smooth.
Remove the vanilla pod from the infused milk and scrape the seeds back into the milk. Strain the milk onto the egg and sugar mixture then whisk well again to make the sweet batter.
Drain the blackberries then place 7 blackberries at the bottom of each gratin dish. (You can use more per dish if you wish). Pour equal amounts of the sweet batter into each dish.
Carefully place the baking sheet/gratin dishes in the middle of the oven and bake for 15-20 mins. The clafoutis should rise slightly and be golden brown in colour. The mixture should be set but still a little bit wobbly in the middle. They will become firmer once out of the oven.
Serve plain or with double cream, whipped cream or ice-cream.