Archive for September, 2016


The kitchen garden is surrendering it last offerings and my hedge row foraging is coming to an end. This year the blackberries have been the best ever, fat, juicy and plentiful.  My secret location of blackberry bushes hasn’t failed me, and I have picked and picked. My clothing  having been caught and torn from blackberry thorns and hands and fingers stained from the dark purple blackberry juice not to mention the scratches on both my arms and legs. With jars full of blackberry jelly and the freezer drawers jammed with frozen berries to be used later in wines and pies I still can’t resist a final look to see if there are any berries left to be picked.  I noticed that there are still a small number that are in easy reach and would do very nicely for this recipe.

If there was a prize for a recipe for the simplest of cakes – then this recipe wins. All the ingredients apart from the blackberries are literally tossed into a mixing bowl and beaten for a few minutes until light and fluffy. The soft sweet mixture is then split into two. The first half placed in a lined loaf tin and evenly spread and then layered with blackberries. The remaining half mixture covers these and is smoothed over. The cake is then adorned with a generous scattering of flaked almonds and put into a low oven to cook.

The result, is a soft golden flaked almond toasted cake. The smell is heavenly, it hangs in the air, the almonds giving off a luxurious heavy scent with a note of sweetness from the blackberries.    It is best to wait until the cake cools completely before cutting into it, allowing the fruit to cool, but I have to warn you its hard going.  I tend to hover over it. prodding, willing it to cool quicker.  Whilst I wait the odd toasted almond is peeled from the top of the cake, if only to reassure me of what is to come and that patience will pay off.

Once cooled the cake is easy to slice into, the almonds not only make for a moist cake they give it some stability. The blackberries add colour, texture and a soft fruity taste. I have added around 150g of blackberries but more or less can be added.  The basic almond cake itself is good enough to stand on its own so if you only had a handful of blackberries this recipe would still work.  I added a few more as I didn’t want to waste them. I always wash the blackberries in cold water and then pick over them for any bits of vegetation. After which I leave them to drain and dry.  You need to have them completely dry before adding to the cake mixture.

Blackberry Studded Almond Cake


150g self raising flour

100g ground almonds

175g butter softened

150g caster sugar

2  eggs beaten

A few drops almond essence

4 tbs milk

25g flaked almonds (to decorate)

2lb loaf tin


Turn the oven on to gas mark 3/160C

Grease with butter and line a 2lb loaf tin with grease proof paper.

In a bowl place the flour, butter, sugar, eggs, almond essence, milk and ground almonds.

Beat for a few minutes until the mixture is completely combined and has become light and fluffy.

Carefully spoon half the mixture into the tin and with the back of a spoon, smooth out so that the mixture is level and even.  Sprinkle on the blackberries.  Cover with the remaining cake mixture.

With a skewer or knife swirl the mixture around, this will dislodge the blackberries slightly so that they are spread around a little. Smooth again with the back of a spoon.

Scatter the flaked almonds and place in the middle of the oven for 1hour 15minutes or there about, depending on your oven.

The top of the cake should be firm to the touch when done and a beautiful golden colour.

Leave to cool in the tin for about 20 minutes. Then transfer to a wire rack and leave until completely cold.

Store in an airtight container. Will last a couple of days.











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Blueberry Muffins

Muffins.  What can I say about them, except – carefully peel away their paper cases to reveal the soft fluffy sponge of the muffin, and eat, let the sponge melt in the mouth and enjoy the sensation of juicy fruity hits of blueberries.  To me that is just about the right balance for the perfect muffin.  Homemade muffins are a world, an entire world, away from ones bought in supermarkets.

Muffins are not something I have ever had a yearning to bake.  I have only eaten them from coffee shops or when I have been tempted at the supermarket, only to regret it as soon as they have been packed into my shopping bag.  I have found them to be a heavy, dense sponge, unsubtly flavoured with either fruit, chocolate or cheese.

Until I had a small crop of homegrown blueberries to use I hadn’t given the muffin any thought.  This year my kitchen garden list was extended to include a few of what I call exotics.  One of these being blueberry bushes.  I followed the growing instructions to the letter, mixing up a cocktail of soils and making sure they were comfortably bedded and watered.  I had visions of endless crops of  super little blue berries and concerns of what I was going to do with this endless supply.

As the months passed, I would wander up the garden to check on them.  Eventually, I saw progress with the appearance of tiny little buds of promise.  I realise now that I wasn’t the only one who had noticed this, and like me were waiting with excitement for their ripening.

Early one morning as I looked down the garden while standing at the kitchen sink, I could see in the far distance that my blueberries where ready to eat. How?  because someone else was busy helping themselves, gobbling down those ripe blue berries as fast as they could. I flew out of the door and down the garden.  The blackbirds who have been keen to keep an eye on my garden had realised that the berries were now ripe for the picking.

They had been busy in my garden all summer helping out by getting rid of anything fruity and edible, but this time they were not going to get their beaks on my berries, not this time.  They had already stripped me of the redcurrants and the strawberries, not to mention the figs.

It upsets me to say that they  feasted on not only on a couple of my figs but a whole tree full (not a single one was left). To add insult to injury the number of figs was too great for my resident two, so they felt the need to invite a cloud of friends to help finish off the fruit.  At times the tree would shake and tremble as they fought over a particularly juicy fig. Whilst all the while all I could do was watch from the kitchen sink, vowing that next year the tree would be netted.

I wasn’t letting them have the blueberries.  A netted structure was set up. I watched from the kitchen sink as they bounced up and down on my netted enclosure,  whilst holding on tight to the netting with their beaks trying as hard as they could to free a small hole, but nothing budged. Those remaining blueberries were mine, all mine.  Admittedly, my reward was only a small crop of 150g of blueberries not counting the amount the blackbirds had already had, but it was enough for something.

As I looked through my cookery books for a recipe worthy of my little haul I kept finding that I was constantly just coming up short on the quantity that was needed.  Eventually I reluctantly resolved that the only answer would be blueberry muffins.  I consoled myself that it would be better a muffin than wasting my little crop.  Thanks to the blackbirds I am now a huge fan of muffins.

Notes on the recipe

Muffin cases are not essential when making these, you can grease and flour a muffin/cupcake tray but it does make life so much easier.

I have added to the recipe demerara sugar but haven’t given any quantities, this is because you can either leave it out completely or put as much as you like over the tops before baking.  It’s down to personal choice.  I love the crunchy texture it creates and I feel the muffins get an added dimension.


Blueberry Muffins (makes 12 large muffins)

12 paper muffin cases

115g butter

200g granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

260g plain flour

120ml milk

150g blueberries (give or take)

Topping (Optional)

Demerara sugar


Turn oven on to gas mark 5/190/375.

Line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper muffin cases.

Put into a mixing bowl the butter and sugar, beat until light and fluffy.

Next add a whole egg and beat until it is well blended into the mixture. Then repeat with the second egg.

Add the vanilla extract, salt and baking powder.

Fold in half of the flour and then half of the milk and repeat.

Gently fold in blueberries.

Spoon the mixture into muffin cases and sprinkle over the top the demerara sugar if liked, the quantity is up to you.

Bake in the centre of the oven for about 20-25 mins, it might take a little longer depending on your oven.  They are ready when they have reached a beautiful golden colour.Cool completely and then store in an airtight container.


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