We set out on a walk late on Sunday morning, and arrived back home with the tell-tale stained fingers of a good blackberry haul.
The September hedgerows are adorned with autumn’s treasures, and a walk at this time of year is punctuated with plenty of things to stop and look at – garlands of hops, deep red haws and glossy rosehips – as well as the odd keepsake – a fallen pinecone or polished conker – to take home.
My favourite hedgerow decoration, the trailing berries of the bryony, have dulled from strings of bright fairylights to rubber balls, while the deadly nightshade has changed in traffic light succession from green to amber and now to glowing red.
But the edible treasures are the best, not least the shiny dark jewels of the blackberry bush.
Out across the clay field, dotted with devil’s toenails, and on to a line of creaking conifers, trunks covered with a tangle of brambles, we found the most promising looking fruit.
As the wind danced around us up on the hill, whispering tales of winter’s approach, we remarked at our luck in finding these berries just in time – before, as legend would have it, the (toenail-less) devil pees on them.
Below us, sails, filled with the cold air, sped across the reservoir. Our bag filled, but still leaving plenty to spare for the birds, we turned to head back.
On the way home the blackberries were matched by a couple of windfall apples and, back in the kitchen, the addition of a few store-cupboard ingredients made for a comforting autumnal pudding.
Blackberry and apple batter pudding
60g melted butter (cooled)
85g caster sugar
2 small cooking apples, chopped
75g self-raising flour
60 ml milk
½ tsp vanilla essence
½ tsp cornflour
pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C / gas 4, then grease a shallow ovenproof dish (approx. half litre) with butter.
Add 30g of sugar, the cornflour and 50ml of water to a pan and stir to combine.
Add the apple and simmer on a medium heat for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then take the pan off the heat and add the blackberries.
In a bowl mix together the flour, salt and remaining sugar.
Whisk the egg, milk, vanilla and butter, then add to the dry ingredients and stir until smooth.
Spoon most of the fruit mix over the base of the dish and pour the batter over.
Spoon the remaining fruit and any left over juices on top.
Place in the oven and bake for around 30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
Serve with crème fraiche, Greek yoghurt or custard.