Sunday, 10 August 2014

Rustic Apple & Blackberry Tart

The blackberry season is upon us again and I am one happy woman! I am extremely lucky to have a plentiful supply growing wild in the fields behind our house here in Roscommon and I will soon be out with a big bowl picking as many as I can before the birds get to them.

My very first memory of eating blackberries was in a jam made by grandmother from berries we had foraged in the Dublin Mountains when I was a child. My grandmother was a great preserve maker and we always had jars of homemade marmalades, chutneys, jellies and jams in the kitchen cupboard. She used to make the most amazing crab apple jelly with fruit gathered from the tree growing in her front garden and I keep promising myself that I must plant a crab apple tree so that I too will be able to use the fruit in the same way in years to come. The great thing about blackberries though, is that they grow abundantly in our country’s hedgerows and are free to pick.

Wild blackberries are much smaller than their cultivated cousins, but have an intensity of flavour and a perfect balance between sweet and sour. As such, they stand up to being sweetened without sacrificing their distinctive flavour.

Most years I use foraged blackberries to make jars of apple and blackberry jelly which I prefer to blackberry jam. Wild blackberries can be full of seeds and these remain in the jam unless you sieve the fruit, which is far too much of a palaver; I prefer to make a jelly which contains none.
 
But blackberries are worth so much more to the cook, than merely producing jellies and jam. They can be used in so many ways as an ingredient in both sweet and savoury dishes. I particularly love to pair blackberries with game. Duck works very well with blackberries, as do wild pigeon and venison, where the sharp but fruity sweetness complements the rich meat.

Today however, I have made what has to be the easiest fruit tart ever. The pastry stands up to a certain amount of handling and the only rile is that the butter has to be cold from the freezer before you coarsely grate it into the flour. You don’t have to worry about rubbing the pastry in – you simply grate it into the flour, agitate it a little so that the grated butter is coated in the flour and then add some cold water. There is no wastage here, no blind baking… you just thrown the fruit on top of the pastry and draw up the edges to encase the fruit. It’s a truly tasty tart!
 

Ingredients:

Pastry:
225g plain flour
135g butter, cooled in the freezer for 30 minutes
4tblsp cold water
Filling:
2 large cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced thinly
100g blackberries
50g caster sugar
Pinch of cinnamon (optional)
 

Method:

Pastry:
1. Place the flour in a large mixing bowl and using a coarse grater, grate the butter directly into the flour. Once you have done this, mix the butter gently through the flour, trying to avoid it sticking in clumps so that it is coated in the flour and evenly distributed.
2. Sprinkle over the water and using a fork, bring it together. If the mixture is a little dry add a little more water. Bring the dough together into a ball, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
To finish:
3. Preheat oven to 200C/Fan Oven 180C/Gas Mark 5. Place some baking parchment, cut to size, on a large baking tray and set aside.
4. Remove the pastry from the fridge. Lightly dust your work-surface with a little flour and using a rolling pin roll the pastry into a rough circle about 30cm in diameter and ½cm thick. Transfer to the parchment lined baking tray.
5. Mix the caster sugar and cinnamon, if using, into the fruit and pile the whole lot onto the centre of the pastry leaving a 5cm border all around. Gather up the pastry to gently encase the fruit, leaving the centre of the tart exposed. Brush the pasty border with a little of the beaten egg and bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes until the pastry is golden brown, cooked through and the juices of the fruit have been released a little and have started bubbling. Allow to cool on the baking tray for at least 10 minutes before serving.
 
Serves 6.